Trailer blazing

Posted on 10 Dec 2009 by The Manufacturer

With its origins in a Belmont garage, 2009 finds Indespension Ltd as a best in class manufacturer of tow bars and trailer systems. TM associate editor Edward Machin hitches his wagon…

Since its inception in the garage of founder Barrie Badland, Bolton-based Indespension Ltd has undergone a remarkable progression in little over four decades.

The company is now the second biggest trailer manufacturer in the UK, winning a prestigious £2m order with the government to produce a specialised trailer as a resource for its law enforcing agencies.

As the first company in the UK to manufacture suspension units, Indespension has continually diversified into the production of affiliated trailer components and, ultimately trailers themselves. Such a portfolio consists of both commercial and leisure trailers — the former including vehicle, plant, and goods transportation systems; flatbeds; tippers; and box van trailers. With regard to its retail output, Indespension manufacturers marine and box van trailers, and are resellers of marine, daxara, motorcycle, and car transportation trailers, roofboxes, and roof bars.

Uniquely, the company is backed by a network of twenty distribution and retail depots. These are, says Indespension marketing manager, Neil Singleton: “In contrast to our competitors, who use stockists and dealers alone.

We believe that such penetration has been central to Indespension’s success, in that we can ensure the optimum realisation of our products — from cradle to distribution, sale, and servicing inclusive.”

Recent years have seen Indespension make significant investments in an assorted range of process machinery.

Initially the company purchased three lean lifts — designed as a selfcontained shelf stacking system in the company’s warehouse facility. Says Singleton: “As with each of our recent acquisitions, implementing the lean lifts was critical to the company’s space efficiency drive, as well as it being a cost effective way of storing a large number of parts.” Similarly, in 2009 the company purchased laser cutting and CNC folding machines, to the tune of £1m.

Explains Singleton: “Every piece of sheet metal is utilised as much as practically possible, ensuring that any offcut is not simply discarded. While the machines have vastly streamlined our operations, we estimate that they will pay themselves off in three years — saving the company approximately £300,000 per annum.” In 2000, Indespension’s production and office headquarters moved to its current 160,000 sq ft facility in Bolton, Lancashire. However, such was the company’s growth that an additional manufacturing factory was required for finished trailer assembly. “As with our primary site, we have invested heavily in cutting-edge technology to ensure that the business remains world class in its manufacturing processes,” says Singleton. “By way of example, hydraulic lifts and railings were installed for the trailer builders — at a cost of £500,000. These machines largely eliminate the need for assemblers to move within the shop floor, as each operative has his or her own manufacturing bay within which to work. As such, our operations can be described as cellular, ensuring optimum efficiency in all that we do.”

The brand experience
Together with its numerous machining advances, Indespension simultaneously undertook a complete company rebranding, beginning in 2006. Having considered the original brand at length — from trailer decals to brochures, staff uniforms, and signage — a number of issues became immediately apparent.

Says Singleton: “There were too many disparate components of our branding, and we thus drew it together under a single, uniform banner.” He continues: “While we are delighted with the company branding in its current form, we’re never going to stand still; to do so would be in complete opposition the ethos that has enabled our manufacturing successes.”

For example, the company’s website is only three years old, but has been changed once already — with phase two of its most recent facelift currently being implemented.” “We are not resting on our laurels by any means,” says Singleton. “Especially given the current climate, Indespension is considering every opportunity and avenue to further the business — however ‘trivial’ or unrelated to manufacturing it may seem.”

A family affair

With its rise from garage project to best of breed trailer manufacturer, it should come as no surprise to learn that Indespension continues to both update and diversify its product range in order to remain ahead of the chasing pack.

For example, the company has recently developed a new car transporter, the unveiling of which will be at the Autosport International motor show — held in January 2010 at the NEC.

Coupled with its production of a diverse range of trailers and related products, Indespension is also the largest tow bar fitting company in Britain. Given that it doesn’t manufacture such devices, however, the company has opened depots in Carlisle and Penrith as scale versions of its existing store model — designed to increase area coverage for the motoring population. Due to their success, Singleton reports that the business is currently looking at several more sites within the UK, thus enabling complete geographical exposure.

In spite of economic conditions that have left many despondent in the face of shrinking order books, these remain, says Singleton, exciting times for Indespension.

“The company understands that there is no one secret to our achievements. Consequently, we consider each aspect of our business as central to any continuing progress — product range; price; service experience; reliability; and organisational attitude. It is our unwavering attention to each of the above that ensures we retain a loyal customer base; one we would be foolish to take for granted.” Ultimately, he says, Indespension is, and has been since its inception, a traditional family firm — and one that has realised considerable success.

Says Singleton: “As such, there is very much a collegiate feel to our business, and employees remain with us precisely because they feel part of a family. Taken with the company’s continually refining our operational processes, it is this dedication to employee engagement which has positioned Indespension as an undisputed leader in our sector.”