Setting the Standard for Customization

Summit Truck Bodies

Summit Truck Bodies has a tradition of design and manufacturing excellence. The company, a division of Transwest, is an amalgam of several companies that have operated out of Wathena, Kansas since 2007. From a 132,000-square-foot facility strategically located near the geographic center of the continent, it can reach customers across the United States and Canada, as well as in South and Central America and the Caribbean.
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When it comes to truck service bodies with rugged strength, exceptional quality, outstanding safety features and superior customization, market leaders from many industries look no further than Summit Truck Bodies.

“We recently expanded our facility and invested in new fiber lasers and brake presses and automated welders, and that’s increased our capacity and our ability to build more trucks in a shorter amount of time,” noted Sondra Kirby, vice president of sales and marketing. “We’re able to do on average about forty trucks a month.”

Summit Truck Bodies uses advanced equipment and proven manufacturing processes to build each truck body to customer specifications. Some customers even transfer a Summit body from chassis to chassis which is a testament to the strength and durability of the product.

The company uses a proven body mount system and vertically integrated manufacturing with tightly controlled assembly and painting to guarantee short lead times and keep customers satisfied. It keeps anywhere from sixty to eighty turnkey stock units ready to be used and has ‘the nation’s leading inventory of work-ready trucks on the ground,’ according to the company.

The pre-build process, complete with three-dimensional design software and finite element analysis (FEA), guarantees quality before production even begins. Quality in the fabrication stage is maintained by using computer-controlled laser cutting equipment and brake presses, rotary turret punches for design accuracy and robotic welding stations. The company is currently in the process of becoming certified to industry standards.

Some of the main advantages of working with Summit Truck Bodies to customize service vehicles is that it offers financing in-house and provides service and support from service technicians who are the same people who manufactured the truck.

“If you’re going to buy a truck, you’re going to buy it factory direct, so you don’t have the middle man – the dealers. You can go through the salesmen to get the truck design to fit your needs. Each build can be customized, so that’s definitely a differentiator for us,” explained Kirby. The company is supported by its nationwide network of trusted and vetted service provider partners.

Its trained team understands that service vehicles are a critical tool in the success of its customers’ performance and are dedicated to the highest standards of quality.

Summit Truck Bodies has more than 110 employees who are responsible for the quality and safety in the products it offers. Its workforce is comprised of skilled welders, specialized service and lubrication technicians, quality assurance inspectors and sales professionals.

“In our plant in Wathena, we have the engineering staff, the laser fabrication, welding, assembly, paint for the bodies. We also manufacture cranes and man buckets. We bring in the raw materials and a complete truck leaves the building, starting from the design process all the way to the finished product,” said Kirby.

The company is trusted by many construction, utilities, forestry and logging, landscaping, military and government, municipalities, waste and recycling, railroad, oil and gas and mining customers.

It offers varied models and trailers with options including hydraulic systems, air compressor systems, tool bodies, light and electrical packages, a wide selection of paint and body features, service cranes, man buckets, drawer systems, as well as Advanced Safety Electronics (ASE) and control panel choices, including wireless remote controls.

“One of our biggest features is our Advanced Safety Electronics systems. For a lot of our customers, of course, safety is important, but it’s really been at the forefront of driving the technology in our trucks, just to make sure the tech is using them or avoiding or preventing a hazardous work environment, and that really comes from the demand from our customers mainly,” Kirby explained.

A perfect example of the innovation that takes place here is adding man buckets to its manufacturing repertoire, which was done to satisfy the needs of one of its biggest customers. It took a great deal of dedication to meet the stringent safety regulations regarding height and use.

Safety not only drives innovation, but it is also at the heart of operations. Employees participate in weekly safety training, as well as professional development and skills training. This reinforces the culture that has been crucial to the company’s continued success.

“The area around us has a really low unemployment rate; it’s like 2.3 percent,” Kirby noted. “So, when we hire somebody, they really have to work hard to give them opportunities for professional development and growth so that way we can keep them from going to another manufacturing company because there are a lot in our area.”

Kirby sees an opportunity for growth ahead. “We’ve probably doubled our production since 2007, and we’re still aiming higher. It’s kind of a niche market. There’s not a lot of competitors out there that offer the same quality that we do and the same product line that our customers need.”

Summit Truck Bodies is committed to staying on the cutting edge of advanced technology while being nimble enough to respond to its customers’ diverse and changing needs.

“We’re working on our brand awareness, and that’s one of our biggest goals, being a younger company, compared to the handful of competitors out there. Those guys are well known. Although we are increasing our market share, we need to remind people that we are here and what we have to offer,” said Kirby.

Summit Truck Bodies has increased its presence at trade shows like World of Concrete, ConExpo and smaller regional shows to increase awareness of the brand and the potential of the truck bodies it manufactures. Appearing at these venues allows it to showcase its safe, technologically advanced features and products to a wider stage.

The family culture and ability to consistently provide quality products, flexible service and timely delivery makes this a reputable partner for a customer’s service truck body manufacturing and service needs.

Working Smarter

A key goal of any successful manufacturing operation is a continual drive toward improving the efficiency of the manufacturing process. Traditionally, this has been accomplished through the adoption of lean production principles, waste reduction using the Six Sigma approach, and similar productivity solutions. These systems have been widely incorporated throughout the manufacturing industry and have significantly improved product quality, production speeds, and perhaps most importantly, the safety of those working in manufacturing plants.

Past Issues

October 15, 2019, 6:53 AM EDT