Wielton Group CEO Mariusz Golec commands a strong OEM presence in Poland, Germany, France, Italy and the UK. Following ongoing success with strategic acquisitions and geographical diversification, the top-10 producer of trailing equipment in the world is poised to tackle new markets.
It takes more than a focus on developing infrastructure and increasing production capacity to lead an enduring operation that is set for organic growth and financial security. Polish OEM, Wielton Group, followed through with its development plans to double the business’ revenue and sales volume. In light of a weaker economic situation, Mariusz Golec in his role as CEO, has ensured that foreign acquisitions not only strengthen the Group’s position in Europe and the world, but mostly supplement its portfolio of new products.
“This gives customers access to a wide range of products and makes the Group’s offer even more competitive on European markets,” he said. “Customers can choose from 12 vehicle groups, available in over 800 configurations. As a result of the acquisition of the German company Langendorf, the Group’s range of products has been expanded to include specialist vehicles for transporting glass and precast concrete products. Whereas, thanks to the British company Lawrence David, Wielton Group enriched its portfolio with last mile line unique products which are used in FMCG sector. Lawrence David pillar-less courtainsiders allow for an efficient service of loading and faster transport. It is also worth noting that as part of the synergy, 700 chassis types were delivered to the British company from Wieluń.”
Investment in research and development is also important for the Wielton Group according to Golec, which is why the Research and Development Centre was launched in 2016. “It has the only station in Poland and the second one in Europe for full truckload testing of trailers,” he said. “High quality of our products is also very important. That is why the Group invests in organic development and innovation, developing its machinery towards robotisation and automation of the production process. The high quality of materials, a wide range of offers and extensive product customisation enables Wielton Group reaching a wide range of customers and ensuring that their needs are fully met. Our mission is to create and deliver the best transport solutions for business.”
This commitment to delivering the best transport solutions is further realised by Wielton’s unqiue business model ‘multibrand power, which Golec explained is based on global reach built by strong local brands.
“We form a Group comprising European companies: Wielton, being a consolidation company, Fruehauf, Lawrence David, Langendorf and Viberti,” he said. “Wielton 2020 strategy adopted by us is based on the organic growth and acquisitions. When entering new markets, we carefully analyse their sales potential and investment climate. Diversification of business in terms of both geography and product is extremely important to us.”
Golec considers acquired companies as partners which is why looking for mutual synergies is crucial for the Group to ensure the business’ autonomy and ‘real’ development.
“To this end, we implement new investments together,” Golec said.
“We conquer new markets and build competitive advantage based on new technologies, while fully exploiting the potential of consolidated companies. For us, the success of our acquisitions is also guaranteed by our drive for integration within the Group.
“We see this process from four perspectives – process, purchase, production and sales. The synergies obtained in these areas not only significantly increase the negotiating position of the entire Group, but also have a positive impact on cost optimization and efficiency of each of its entities.
“Due to geographical diversification and the multibrand model we better understand the characteristics of individual markets and customers. Our brand portfolio includes entities with an established position in the local market. Their potential and product offerings enrich the entire Group culturally and as regards offerings. This is what brings us closer to our customers and makes us understand their needs. And due to a wide range of products and their high level of customisation, we are able to satisfy even the most demanding customers.”
On the productivity and vehicle output front, Wielton is doing well amid a slowdown in the European market.
“The possibility of geographical diversification allows Wielton Group to maintain growth, and in Wielton’s plants the production is kept on a stable and high level,” Golec said. “Replacement of the previous co-operator with Lawrence David and the growing demand from this company for Wielton’s finished chassis, create good prospects for the future. Last year, more than 700 chassis were delivered to Lawrence David from Wieluń. The cooperation will be continued in 2020 yet on a much higher level. Wielton will deliver more than 2,000 finished chassis to Great Britain.”
In November and December, according to Golec, Wielton increased its share in the Polish market. A Polish Automotive Industry Association reported in December 2019 that Wielton became the leader in registration of new trailers and semi-trailers with a permissible Gross Vehicle Weight (GVWR) above 3.5 tonnes. In a difficult, declining market, Wielton recorded an increase in its shareholding to 16.7 per cent in December.
Golec said 2019 was also important for Lawrence David – a period of intense change and reorganisation. “Joining Wielton Group, the British company commenced the integration process of procedures, purchases, production and sales. The synergies achieved in these areas have not only significantly increased the negotiating position of Lawrence David, but also have had a positive impact on cost optimisation and the possibility of processing larger orders. The results obtained by Lawrence David in 2019 provide a solid foundation for achieving the sales targets that the UK company has set for 2020.”
Looking at the near future, Golec has observed that transport is under intense pressure due to the need to reduce external costs, including congestion, fuel cost reduction or decarbonisation, hence the growing demand for semi-trailers with reduced empty weight to reduce fuel consumption.
“We are responding to this demand by introducing new models of semi-trailers with a lighter design and improved aerodynamics,” he said. “We also anticipate that the trend of product personalisation will continue in the coming years. Customers expect full adaptation of semi-trailers to their needs. Additionally, we can observe a certain specialisation of manufacturers in specific solutions. Manufacturers that fit into this trend are growing fastest. Another visible trend is the development of other forms of ownership and financing of transport equipment, such as long-term rental or leasing. An increasingly significant problem, especially on the European market, is the shortage of drivers and rising labour costs in this industry. In recent years, the importance of reliability of tractors and semi-trailers has increased and will continue to increase, as well as the importance of their ease and speed of operation to minimise unnecessary downtime.”
Wielton showcased its latest Curtain Master models late last year. For Golec, customer requirements are growing, so it is necessary to adapt and cater to their needs. “In our unique multibrand model we operate in many markets,” he said.
“Individual markets as well as local consumers are different and have different requirements. In order to care for the needs of our customers Wielton Group is constantly working to expand its offer and introduce new models to European, Asian and African markets.
“Having a second European and a third world-wide Research and Development Centre with a unique full truck testing station for trailers makes this task easier for us.
“Last year, we presented a full family of Curtain Master trailers and other models of tipper semi-trailers, dedicated to agriculture and for the African market. We are constantly expanding the offer of our products customisation. For this reason, we have developed an innovative docking system for forklift trucks inside the body of spatial sets and trailers. These solutions have been developed together with our customers and are fully adapted to their needs. We also develop our tippers, equipping them with solutions to facilitate transport and unloading, i.e. a teflon insert, adaptation to the installation of compressors for feed blowers. Let’s also work on developing our offer of container semi-trailers with vehicles for transporting 20’,23’ and 25’ containers with liquid materials.
“Let’s return to Curtain Master. During the development of the Curtain Master, special emphasis was placed on durability, tightness and functionality. The modern frame constructions and bodies ensure the trailer’s high durability, which has been confirmed by numerous tests carried out in the Research and Development Centre of Wielton. At the same time, the trailer’s empty weight was kept low, which significantly reduced the costs of operating it on long journeys. The chassis is protected against corrosion by means of a cataphoretic painting technique, which guarantees an optimal coating thickness and higher quality and an even longer lifetime of the semi-trailer. The new designs also demonstrate emphasis on safety and ergonomics of use, which facilitates and accelerates the handling of the semi-trailer during loading and unloading.
“Our customers expect durable and modern products that are at the same time comfortable to use and safe. Having them in mind, we present five models designed for various transport tasks. The company listens to the needs of the market and tests new solutions before they reach customers. Wielton’s semi-trailers are subjected to endurance tests, in which the condition of the vehicles is checked after half a million kilometres, i.e. the distance covered usually during 5 years of operation. This gives users a proven semi-trailer that will be in operation for many years.”
Most transport in Europe, according to Golec, is carried using curtainsiders.
“This is mainly due to the international character of the transport, which must meet certain standards, requirements,” he said. “In addition, customers appreciate the solutions in these type of bodies, which are often extremely ergonomic. This translates into the structure of the trailer manufacturers’ orders book. In Wielton Group, curtainsiders in various versions have been gaining the greatest interest of customers, and thus interests in sales, unalterably for many years. This is the product group that definitely dominates our sales. For this reason, we try to introduce new products and solutions that are tailored to the specifics of a given market and customer needs. Last year we presented a complete family of Curtain Master trailers on the Polish market.”
Tipper semi-trailers take second place, Golec said, with increasing share in the product portfolio structure. “Wielton has been the sales leader of this product group in Poland for many years,” he said. “In this product group we are also successively developing and implementing new models tailored to the requirements of specific markets such as Africa for example. We are also introducing further customised solutions for our customers. Tipper bodies on chassis supplied by leading manufacturers such as Scania, Volvo, Renault and Mercedes are of great interest as well. Such solutions are most popular in Russia and Poland. Our vans and last mile bodies are also becoming more and more popular, which is related to the development of the e-commerce market, especially on the British market.”
Wielton topped a Corporate Climate Crisis Awareness study based on audit information between 2017-18. It Is clear that sustainability is an important consideration for the Group.
“We are very proud to have the highest rating in the climate awareness survey of public companies,” Golec said. “Sustainability is extremely important. Business must approach its activities responsibly. Our CSR strategy enables us to build a strong international Group while respecting people, nature and ethics. Recently, we have conducted an in-depth study on the relevance of non-financial data. This allows us to improve our production processes to minimise environmental impact. We see this award as an incentive for further action in many dimensions, both in optimising the production process and in developing new solutions to reduce the carbon footprint of trailer operations. We focus on reducing the weight of our vehicles and thus the fuel consumption and exhaust emissions. We are also working on developing aerodynamic packages available in our offer.”
In addition to supporting a more sustainable manufacturing future, Wielton Group is also encouraging young people to work and study in an industry that appears to be shrinking in terms of the number of skilled workers active in the market.
“It is therefore extremely important to stimulate this area,” Golec said.
“The company sees great potential in this type of activities due to the possibility to educate professionals for their needs according to its own program. At the same time, we help young people in creating their professional path and we support the local labour market.
“Locally in Wieluń we have been cooperating with selected educational institutions for many years. The effect of joint activities was, among others, the launch of a patronage class with the specialisation of a mechanic engineer of machines and equipment. Another example is opening of a new polytechnic class. This is another patronage class of Wielton, this tile led jointly with the Technical University of Lodz.
“Cooperation with academic centres is also a very important area of the educational activity of the company. So far, as part of its cooperation with universities, Wielton has launched a specialisation in mechatronics at the Silesian University of Technology, provides students with its research infrastructure at the Research and Development Centre in Wieluń and provides an internship and training programmes. To this end, Wielton also strengthens cooperation with the Technical University of Lodz.”
Wielton Group’s cooperation with the University led to the development of the Wielton GO app.
“Combining business and education – especially academic education – is extremely important to us,” Golec said.
“An example of this is the cooperation with the Technical University of Lodz which we commenced in 2018. A joint initiative of Wielton and the Technical University of Lodz is the patronage over the technical class at the Secondary School in Wieluń. We would like to encourage young people to study at the university of technology, and then to return to Wieluń and join our staff.
“Wielton GO competition is a joint initiative with the Technical University of Lodz. Our interactive game, which is the first stage of the competition, was addressed to students of many secondary schools in Wieluń, whom we wanted to show what the work in Wielton is like and encourage further development in engineering faculties at the Technical University of Lodz. The works over Wielton Go competition have been in progress for several months. The competition itself began in November and the final of the competition took place on 3 December at the Technical University of Lodz. Wielton GO was the answer to Wielton’s growing demand for educated specialists every year. The project was a modern, but most importantly an effective way of reaching young people, as evidenced by the number of participants and finalists in the competition.”
Wielton Group has exhibited at events all around the world, including the Comtrans trade fair in Moscow and Bauma in Munich. For Golec, international transport fairs present excellent opportunities to present the latest Wielton products and developments to customers both new and current.
“For many years, the Group has been present at the largest events of this type in Europe, presenting products tailored to a given market,” he said. “The strength of the Group is the global reach built up by strong local brands. For this reason, we present mainly products of companies that have been present there for years. It is also important for us to diversify our business both geographically and in terms of products. Last year at Bauma we presented both German products of Langendorf and Polish products of Wielton brand in Munich. Next, on Comtrans fairs in Moscow we demonstrated strengthened products of Wielton and Langendorf vehicles which we are launching in eastern markets.
Acquired companies are partners for us and as an equal brand of Wielton Group we stand arm to arm at fairs. When deciding to participate in a particular event, we always take into account the specificity of the market and customer preferences. A trade fair is an excellent opportunity to exchange experiences with our customers, strengthen awareness of their needs and expectations, which allows us to better adapt our offer to a given market.”
Wielton Group is set to present at the Commercial Vehicle Show in Birmingham, UK, this April.
“We will present the Lawrence David’s offer at our stand,” he said. “We will also appear in Hannover at the IAA Commercial Vehicles Show where we will demonstrate Wielton’s and Langendorf’s products. We have already started preparations for this event to present the best possible offer of Wielton and Langendorf. We want to create a safe and friendly space to talk about the needs during meetings with potential customers. The formula of the fair has changed. We have observed that such events are not only used to view products by customers. It is a place to talk to clients about needs, improvements but also about business. In this spirit, we are preparing for IAA.”
Fruehauf success story
Meanwhile, In France, Fruehauf smashed the competition according to CEO, Richard Rihouet. “A French company Fruehauf, registered on the domestic market 5.72 thousand new units last year, i.e. almost 12 per cent more than a year before,” he said. “A total of 28.4 thousand trailers and semi-trailers were registered in France last year, which is 1.5 per cent more than the year before.
“In this situation, the company’s market share increased from 18.3 per cent at the end of 2018 to 20.1 per cent currently and the company has strengthened its position as the leader in the French market.
“In December alone, Fruehauf registered more than twice as many trailers and semi-trailers as the second manufacturer on the market, and more than 1.5 thousand more in 2019.
“Fruehauf is only major player on the French market that has improved sales.
“Given the difficult situation on the European transport market and the decline in new truck registrations, we have achieved very good results in France. These results are proof that the investments in Fruehauf bring measurable results.
In April 2019, we completed the modernisation of the production line in Auxerre. Thanks to this, the costs of welding curtain and box semi-trailers have been improved by introducing an automated welding line. The implemented project translated into better balancing of operations at positions, consolidated the quality and repeatability of welding.
“Fruehauf is integrated in the Wielton group. The investments the Wielton group has carried out in the past two years have increased the quality and the capacity of our Auxerre plant. This has allowed us to deliver and service our customer in a better way and to gain market shares. We want to stay number one in France. We will constantly increase customer satisfaction. That is our big plan.”