Weberlane Manufacturing Inc.
We go where you tow
Business View Magazine interviews Darren Frey, Sales & Marketing Director at Weberlane Manufacturing Inc., as part of our focus on best manufacturing practices.
Weberlane Manufacturing Inc. is a family-owned, Canadian company that has been building quality, heavy duty trailers for farm, home, and industry for over 30 years. The business started in a small shop in Elmira, Ontario, and its first products were sturdy farm dump trailers, as the business was entirely geared toward agricultural products. With a basic, no nonsense style, coupled with quality workmanship, these trailers soon became a booming success all over the province. For years, these six and eight-ton Weberlane Supertilts were the trailer of choice for farmers needing an all-purpose dump trailer around the farm. In fact they were so popular, these same models are still available today, with very little design change, and interchangeable parts.
“In 1990, the current owner, Ed Reist, bought the trailer business from Weberlane Manufacturing, and moved production of the farm dump trailers to an on-farm manufacturing shop near Listowel,” recounts Sales & Marketing Director, Darren Frey. “At that time, current production was around 200 trailers a year, with a product line of six different models. Edwards’ four sons joined in, until 1997 when a split between farming and manufacturing operations was made; one son took on the family dairy farm, while three of the sons became involved with the trailer manufacturing, moving production off site into a Listowel area manufacturing facility.”
Business grew steadily, with more agricultural models added to the Supertilt dump trailer lineup, as well as industrial and construction trailers, highway and utility trailers, and some specialty, stainless steel products manufactured specifically for the ice wine production market. Today, Weberlane fabricates a full line of agricultural trailers, including dumpers, livestock trailers, grain and forage trailers, and fertilizer spreaders; home and contractor trailers, including covered trailers, flatdeck trailers, equipment trailers, and landscaping trailers; industrial trailers and aggregate haulers; as well as a broad selection of specialized trailers like the Weberlane Roll-Off system, the drop deck EZE-Lift, and the grape dumpers, and other vineyard products.
With the addition of new product lines in 2014, Frey reports that the company had maxed out its current property capacity, so more real estate was purchased, and by the end of this year, Plant #2 will open – a 100,000-sq.-ft. production line-style factory which will triple Weberlane’s current manufacturing capabilities. “We’ll be up to 3,500 trailers a year, with a capacity in that new facility for up to 5,000,” he states. “We’ve been operating five years without increasing space, but this growth here is essential. This 100,000-sq.-ft. facility is a dramatic jump, a leap of faith – not only a leap in faith that the marketplace will handle that production, but also that we have the employee power to make it happen.”
Frey says that with the jump in production capacity, the company will be increasing its staff levels from the current count of 60. “We’ll have significant employee hiring,” he says. “The good part about this area is that we’ve been very fortunate with employee staffing and we already have people lined up to fill positions that have not opened up yet. We aim for a low stress workplace, promote family and friend connections, and pay competitive wages with full health benefit packages. Occasional advertising for new employees is required, but a high percentage of the time, openings are filled by word-of-mouth, or friends and family members of other current employees. And we have always put our basis into training the people that we have, in-house, so we have not had a difficulty in staffing.”
Weberlane sells about 70 percent of its trailers in Ontario; 15 percent in the rest of Eastern Canada, mostly along the seaboard provinces and Quebec; with the balance scattered throughout the U.S. and western Canada. About 25 percent of its output is farm equipment, but because they are more expensive units, they make up about 55 percent of the company’s revenue. Frey explains, “A large grain and forage, or silage dumper will retail from $50-60 thousand, whereas a number of trailers in the highway line, utility trailers, you’re looking at $2,000.”
Regarding the competition, Frey says that many of Weberlane’s competitors in the farm equipment line are smaller, mom-and-pop shops, like his company was 30 years ago. “They have a competitive edge because of lower overhead costs,” he admits. “However, often they just don’t have the manufacturing capabilities and the market power to get out there to the dealers. Farmers want to deal with their farm equipment dealer and see what they’re getting. We have a vast North American dealer network, with dealers who recognize our quality products and appreciate the personal interaction. Also, we have the advantage of being able to manufacture more efficiently, with larger newer facilities. And we have the ability, with our 3-D modeling, to prove our trailers’ new designs and create new products that work on the computer screen before we spend the time and materials to prototype them.”
Going forward, Frey says that once the new production facility is up and running and the Canadian market is well-inventoried, Weberlane will try to further penetrate the U.S. market. “With this new facility, we feel that we have a good chance to do that,” he asserts. “If we successfully penetrate, at least the northern states in the U.S. market, we will definitely be looking at a dramatic increase and we’ll need to build, accordingly.”
With a broad range of trailers from utility to 30-ton rock dumpers, Weberlane has a product for every use. Whether one is looking for a light duty trailer, a heavy duty dumper, or a trailer to use off-road on a farm or home property, the company’s motto is: “We go where you tow!”
AT A GLANCE
WHO: Weberlane Manufacturing Inc.
WHAT: A manufacturer of heavy duty trailers and farm equipment
WHERE: Listowel, Ontario