Thomas Built Buses' new press is used for making parts, including roof and floor sheets as well as exterior panels and structural supports, such as roof bows.
HIGH POINT, N.C. — After more than a year of planning, training and negotiations, Thomas Built Buses is churning out its own parts and blanks on a new 1,500-ton press.
Thomas Built officials said that the press, located in the company’s High Point plant, is a key milestone in its manufacturing and corporate growth. The new press is used for making parts, including roof and floor sheets for the new C2 as well as exterior panels and structural supports, such as roof bows.
“Quite a step up from our older 250-ton press, this new piece of machinery has a bed size of 84 inches by 159 inches and carries around 1,800 gallons of hydraulic fluid,” explained Tim Turner, manufacturing engineer for Thomas Built. “It sits 12 feet beneath the ground and extends an additional 22 feet above the manufacturing floor. It is definitely something that you have to see.”
The press purchase from Pacific Press in Mt. Carmel, Ill., originated in March 2012 for around $2 million. After installation, it began operating at Thomas Built in January 2013. It is now operating full days and will soon begin production in the evenings as well.
The press was purchased to decrease standby and delivery time, increase material quality, increase manufacturing flexibility and better control manufacturing costs. Company officials said that the press has exceeded all expectations and is even bringing Thomas Built employees together.
“The process for procurement was very people-driven,” said Mark Ward, fabrications manager. “We didn’t just want to increase quality and productivity; we also wanted to create new jobs and make the overall manufacturing process more efficient for everyone.”
A team of on-the-floor operators, along with management, worked on the acquisition from the beginning. As a team, they decided what to purchase and where it would be placed to enable greatest workflow efficiencies and safety.
“It was always a team effort with employees involved every step of the way,” President and CEO Kelley Platt said. “We at Thomas Built Buses are moving from a command-and-control culture to one where we harness our people’s thoughts to really elevate Thomas Built Buses. We strive for continuous improvement, and the acquisition of this press was just another example of how our employees share decision-making, innovations and new techniques with leadership.”
The 1,500-ton press enabled Thomas Built to hire four direct staff positions in addition to supplemental staff to assist with incoming and outgoing processes.
In other news, Thomas Built Buses recognized its top dealers of 2012 at its annual dealer meeting in Orlando, Fla., on April 15.
Platt presented the 2012 Dealer of the Year award to Tim Bearchell, general manager of The Bus Centre in Acheson, Alberta. The Bus Centre is a full-service dealer, offering sales, parts and vehicle service.
“At Thomas Built Buses, we believe that a team effort is critical to the success of any business,” Platt said. “The same holds true for this year’s Dealer of the Year, The Bus Centre. Everyone at The Bus Centre is committed to customer satisfaction and goes to great lengths to do the right thing for their customers.”
The Dealer of the Year award winner is selected from five regional winners that demonstrate outstanding performance in customer satisfaction, customer service and support, financial performance and overall relationship with Thomas Built.
At the same event, gold, silver and bronze awards for dealership excellence were presented to selected dealers in recognition of outstanding performance in service, parts support and bus sales.
Here is the full list of winners:
• Autobus Thomas Inc. — Drummondville, Quebec (Northeast Region)
• Carolina Thomas LLC — Greensboro, N.C. (Southeast Region)
• Hoekstra Transportation Inc. — Grand Rapids, Mich. (Midwest Region)
• Omaha Truck Center Inc. — Omaha, Neb. (Central Region)
• The Bus Centre — Acheson, Alberta (Western Region)
• American Bus Sales and Service Inc. — Annapolis, Md.
• Autobus Thomas Inc. — Drummondville, Quebec
• Carolina Thomas LLC — Greensboro, N.C.
• Hoekstra Transportation Inc. — Grand Rapids, Mich.
• Kerlin Bus Sales and Leasing Inc. — Silver Lake, Ind.
• Mid-South Bus Center Inc. — Murfreesboro, Tenn.
• Midwest Bus Sales Inc. KS/MO — Bonner Springs, Kan.
• Nelson's Bus Service Inc. — Whitewater, Wis.
• Nesco Bus and Truck Sales Inc. — Bay Shore, N.Y.
• New England Transit Sales Inc. — Tyngsboro, Mass.
• Omaha Truck Center Inc. — Omaha, Neb.
• Perry Rand Transportation Group Ltd. — Watersville, Nova Scotia
• Rohrer Bus Sales — Duncannon, Pa.
• Sonny Merryman Inc. — Evington, Va.
• The Bus Centre — Acheson, Alberta
• W.C. Cressey and Son Inc. — Kennebunk, Maine
• Western Mountain Bus Sales Inc. — Nampa, Idaho
• Whayne Supply Co. — Louisville, Ky.
• BusWest — Carson, Calif.
• H.A. Dehart & Son Inc. — Thorofare, N.J.
• Interstate Transportation Equipment Inc. — Hopkins, S.C.
• Lewis Bus Group — Salt Lake City
• Matthews Buses Inc. — Dansville, N.Y.
• Matthews Buses Inc. FL — Orlando, Fla.
• Midwest Bus Sales Inc. OK — El Reno, Okla.
• Thomas Bus Gulf Coast GP Inc. — Houston
• Transportation South Inc. — Pelham, Ala.
• Transwest Trucks, Inc. — Grand Junction, Colo.
• IState Truck Center — Billings, Mont.
• Matheny Motor Truck Co. — Parkersburg, W.Va.
• Midwest Bus Sales Inc. IL — Princeton, Ill.
• Thomas Bus Sales Inc. — Des Moines, Iowa
• Trucks of Bismarck Inc. — Bismarck, N.D.
• Warner Industries — Regina, Saskatchewan