In 1995, Hendrickson launched INTRAAX, a paradigm-shifting system that changed how the industry viewed trailer suspensions and asserted Hendrickson as a leader in air suspension technology.
Billed as the industry’s first integrated system because of its revolutionary axle-to-beam connection, INTRAAX represented much more than the physical attachment of the axle to the beam; it embodied Hendrickson’s commitment for creating seamless integration from customer quote to product manufacturing to after-the-sale support – a business philosophy the company has elevated to an art form. While prominently known for innovations in axle and suspension technology, Hendrickson is also a leading supplier of trailer brakes and wheel-end systems.
It is the synergy of commitment to quality, precision, and most importantly, safety that results in Hendrickson’s line-up of optimised suspension, brake and wheel-end products.
Crafting Customisation and Optimisation
The concepts of specialisation and optimisation seem contradictory. On one hand, specialisation conjures terms like ‘narrow’, ‘niche’, ‘concentrated’, ‘unique’. On the other hand, optimisation invokes adjectives like ‘efficient’, ‘consistent’, ‘mass-produced’, ‘no choice’.
Hendrickson moulds these two opposing concepts by marrying engineering expertise, world-class validation capabilities and manufacturing proficiency to supply customised products that are built in a highly controlled, repeatable and reliable manner for the utmost quality and durability.
Hendrickson’s configuration process embraces the concept of customisation. Before any system is manufactured, a set of specifications must be created. This is achieved with the ‘configurator’, a custom software program that allows Hendrickson to instantaneously create unique sets of specifications to cater to individual customers’ needs and quickly respond to complicated specification requests.
The ‘configurator’ is used across Hendrickson’s core product lines like INTRAAX, VANTRAAX and ULTRAA-K and is updated instantaneously with engineering changes to reflect the most current offerings available.
True works of art sprout from an artist’s compulsion for expression after thoughtful exploration and reflection on his surroundings. The vision for ULTRAA-K, Hendrickson’s air slider system, flourished after careful examination of the evolving North American trailer market, which continues to demand innovative solutions that are stronger, lighter and require less maintenance.
One hundred pounds lighter than comparable air slider systems in the North American market, ULTRAA- boasts supreme durability and integrates exclusive ZMD Zero-Maintenance Damping technology.
ZMD addresses the need for reduced maintenance by eliminating shock absorbers from the maintenance equation altogether. This patented design integrates the suspension damping function within the suspension air spring by exchanging pressurised air between the bellows and piston of the air spring. Unlike a shock absorber, which has finite damping capacity and deteriorates with age, ZMD air springs are designed to provide continuous damping rates over the life of the air spring for improved ride quality, reduced suspension maintenance and enhanced cargo protection.
ULTRAA-K was a labour of love that allied Hendrickson’s world-class engineering, testing, validation and manufacturing engineering teams. Collaboration during ULTRAA-K’s development created a continuous communication loop whereby manufacturing engineers worked alongside product designers to develop an optimised design that could be manufactured in a repeatable and efficient fashion.
The strategic integration of these key functions throughout the product development process provides an open forum for creativity and idea growth, which encourages an atmosphere of continuous improvement and innovation. ULTRAA-K epitomises Hendrickson’s proclivity for bringing cutting-edge solutions to the marketplace and is a testament to the company’s commitment to creating a seamless experience from internal development to commercial launch.
Art is expressed in many ways – a string of chords, a series of steps, a combination of brushstrokes. Hendrickson’s brilliance is manifested through a colourful palette of fabrication technology, including laser cutting, forming, machining, welding, automation and assembly. Vertically integrated manufacturing processes allow the company to maintain complete control of its designs, which ultimately lends itself to quality and durability.
During the manufacturing process for INTRAAX, key parts like frame brackets are laser cut and formed before being assembled to the suspension beams. Proficiency in these areas is essential for supplying dimensionally critical parts to welding cells for the utmost assembly precision and accuracy.
Parallel to cutting and forming is Hendrickson’s mastery in machining. The launch of INTRAAX marked the introduction of a revolutionary process whereby the spindle, axle wrap and spider mounting surfaces are machined in one step to ensure precise brake geometry and wheel positioning. This process, combined with an advanced friction weld process, remains the heart and soul of every INTRAAX suspension system; it allows Hendrickson to supply the industry’s straightest and most concentric axles for maximised system durability, tire life and fuel mileage.
Hendrickson’s body of work would not be complete without mentioning its competency in robotic welding and automation, concepts best showcased with ULTRAA-K. During the manufacturing process, seven meticulously programmed robots move simultaneously around the slider box. Whirling here, twirling there, the robots perform a disciplined dance that precisely fuses ULTRAA-K’s key components for optimised structural integrity.
Across all Hendrickson’s product lines, automation is used wherever possible to ensure consistency, repeatability, traceability and quality control – and this practice is not limited to robotic welding. It also includes material handling to enhance productivity and safety throughout the entire manufacturing operation.
Hendrickson’s commitment to manufacturing excellence can also be seen in the patented assembly processes of Hendrickson RTR Ready-To-Roll wheel-end packages. Slacks, chambers, hubs, drums, seals, bearings, spindle nuts, hubcaps – lots of components means lots of opportunity for investment in error-proofing and traceability. Every custom bill of material that specifies a wheel-end package features a set of ‘rules’ that control the sequence and flow of components during assembly. Bar coding stations guide the associate to ensure the correct combination of components are selected and assembled in the correct order.
A Company’s Vision
Hendrickson’s knowledge of and investment in manufacturing technology is a testament to how it designs, validates, manufactures, supports, and continues to deliver cutting-edge products in the evolving commercial vehicle market. Its philosophy on continuous improvement and innovation breeds a culture where groundbreaking designs, durable products and unparalleled customer support are not only possible but set the industry standard. This mindset has allowed Hendrickson to elevate the notion of a seamless, integrated customer experience to an art form.