AG Body Builds Any Size Drawers for Van Interiors
Jun 1, 1999 12:00 PM, Mark Nutter
ONCE a builder of custom truck bodies, AG Body Inc is concentrating production on specialized drawer systems for service body sidepacks and compartmentalized van interiors. Truck body sidepacks, toolboxes, and universal drawer systems for service bodies and van interiors are built by AG Body at its 16,000-sq-ft shop and offices in Salt Lake City, Utah, says Angelo Gianelo, president and co-owner of AG Body Inc. Most of the truck body production at AG is sidepack and transverse compartments for truck chassis. "We don't compete with truck body manufacturers," Gianelo says. "We specialize in producing universal drawer systems for sidepack compartments and van interiors." When AG Body was started in 1946 by Gianelo's father and uncle, the company specialized in sheet metal work, Gianelo says. Most of this was rebuilding truck cabs and hotrods. Since then, the company was divided into a retail truck equipment division and a fabrication division. The primary products built by AG are the universal drawer system, the Clean Case for storing electronic equipment operated in shop environments, and custom body fabrications. "Our customers don't want standard accessories or service bodies," says Valerie Briggs, marketing coordinator at AG Body. "We're not competing with the major service body manufacturers." Sidepack Compartments AG's largest sidepack compartment customer is Pacific Utility Equipment Company in Salt Lake City, he says. Pacific Utility mounts large aerial devices such as booms and digger derricks on chassis and finishes the truck with sidepack compartments and toolboxes from AG. A few sidepack compartments are built occasionally for other customers. Building sidepack compartments and other truck body components is about one-third of AG's business. Another third of AG's business is manufacturing metal cabinets for electronic equipment such as computers. Openings on the Clean Case have rubber seals and an air filtration system that creates positive pressure inside the cabinet. AG developed the Clean Case to protect the computers and other electronic components it was installing in its manufacturing areas. "We began using the Clean Case cabinets when we started automating manufacturing three or four years ago," Gianelo says. "We're selling Clean Cases faster than we can build them." The last third but growing part of AG's business are custom drawer systems for van interiors and service bodies, Gianelo says. The drawer systems that AG started manufacturing in 1990 are built to customer specifications. The drawers can be small enough for holding grommets, electrical connectors, and screws, while larger drawers are used as platforms for mounting generators. Universal Drawer System "Custom drawer systems were an untapped market and we found a winner with ours," Gianelo says. "We build our drawers to fit your body." For longer life, each drawer system is powder-coated, he says. The drawer systems and other products manufactured by AG are made of galvanneal. Orders for custom drawers can be shipped in three or four weeks from the date of receipt, Gianelo says. The company has an efficient drawer fabrication system that uses a personal computer and software written by AG Body. The software operates a machine-gauging system on a Strippit single-station punch. The machine gauge positions drawer system parts on the punch press. AG's software program has a simple interface for entering the X, Y, and Z coordinates for the machine-gauging system, Gianelo says. Because of this, the production of AG's drawer systems is fast and inexpensive. "We spent a couple years developing our software and getting it to work right," says Matt Briggs, manager of AG Body. "Many manufacturers can fabricate similar products, but they start from scratch with a manual setup and have to do all the math and drawings." Mechanical Desktop and AutoCAD 14 are also used for design work. AG is marketing its software to other fabricating companies. "The dimensions for the customer's drawers are entered into the PC and the software creates the machine code and CAD drawings for the drawer system," Gianelo says. Proprietary Fabrication Software The software enables AG to build every drawer system differently depending on what the customer orders, he says. Besides custom orders for drawer systems, AG builds stock drawer systems for van interiors. Similar software is available from machine tool manufacturers, but it can only be purchased in a package with a punch, computer, and gauging, Gianelo says. So AG wrote the software program for its machine gauges and began using it 12 months ago. "We decided to retrofit equipment in the shop rather than buy new tooling and machinery," he says. "We wanted to integrate our whole system from our AutoCAD software to the Strippit's machine gauge." By designing its own gauges, AG made its production system less labor-intensive. The X axis on the machine gauge is twice as long as a commercially available gauge; so the machine operator moves material fewer times during fabrication. A 72-inch gauge on the Strippit punch fabricates end panels and trays for the universal drawer system and truck body parts that require punching. The gauge on the Y axis was limited only because of the throat of the punch. Besides aiding in fabrication, the computer system at AG Body keeps track of hours worked by employees on each step of the assembly process. Before work begins at each assembly station, a pen-type handheld scanner reads a barcode on the work order. Close-Tolerance Manufacturing The other equipment in AG's machine shop must fabricate parts to the same close tolerance as its punch press, Gianelo says. Bends must be within a fraction of a degree to ensure drawers fit correctly. To make these precise bends, AG uses a 60-ton Cincinnati pressbrake. A larger, 135-ton Cincinnati pressbrake can bend a 10-ft piece of 10-gauge steel. Other fabrication equipment includes a Cincinnati 10-ft shear that can cut 10-gauge steel. After fabrication, Clean Cases and drawer systems are sent out for powder coating. Before shipment, the products are packaged with cardboard, Styrofoam, and plastic shrink rap. "Packaging is an extremely important part of ensuring the customer receives a quality product," Gianelo says. AG's largest customers collectively are the distributors for its Clean Case. The company has over 100 distributors in all 50 states and Canada. AG purchases components such as flange-mounted rubber bulb seals for compartment doors, maintenance-free plastic slides for drawers, and Eberhard paddle latches on doors. Purchasing Quality Components "Using quality components really pays off," Gianelo says. "We pick the best materials and methods to build a product." The Eberhard paddle latches cost about $2 more per lock. But Gianelo says the Eberhard paddle-latch locks operate more reliably and are more durable than some other locks. AG expects the same quality construction in its own products. The compartments and toolboxes built by AG are made with the fewest number of weld seams. This enables AG to manufacture these products as close as possible to one-piece construction. "It's cheaper in the long-run to build and use higher quality components because there's less warranty work and fewer irate customers," Gianelo says. The truck bodies, compartments, Clean Case, and drawer systems built by AG's 10 shop employees generate sales of about $80,000 per month, he says. In 1998, the company made almost $1 million. "We're just about ready to break through $1 million in annual revenue," Gianelo says.
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