Truck body manufacturer dives into snow-and-ice equipment, and so far, it's scary how good it's been going, VP says
Sep 1, 2011 12:00 PM, BY RICK WEBER
FOR 20 years, Godwin Manufacturing had considered producing snow plows and salt spreaders, but the idea was always rejected because the company was pleased with the Good Roads equipment it was distributing.
Even when Good Roads owner RD Manning mentioned to Godwin vice-president Pat Godwin Jr in the spring of 2010 that he was interested in selling Good Roads, Godwin didn't take him seriously.
“I thought he was joking, quite honestly,” Godwin says. “I kind of blew it off. I kind of put it on the back burner. After he had mentioned it two or three times, I really determined that he was serious.”
And that's when Godwin determined that it could be a match made in heaven between the Dunn, North Carolina-based Godwin Manufacturing and the Williamsport, Indiana-based Good Roads.
“We've actually been one of the major Good Roads distributors for a number of years now,” he says. “When I looked at the numbers, I found out that, we were five times larger than the next distributor they had. He was looking for a buyer, and we were the most logical because we were by far the largest distributor.
“There were so many ironic things — pieces of the puzzle that fit together. About 70% of his sales are on the East Coast — you wouldn't think that from being an Indiana company — and the vast majority of Good Roads' sales were within a 250-mile radius of North Carolina. It was just a very good fit. It's one of the things that are almost too good to be true.”
Godwin and Manning negotiated for about a year before hammering out a deal to transfer the assets, parts, inventory, records, and intellectual property, with Godwin picking up a signed copy of the contract from Manning in Indiana on April 26 on his way to a DICKEY-john distributor meeting in Illinois.
“This was kind of a fluke,” Godwin says. “We were satisfied with the Good Roads product. We had a good deal going, being their distributor. And all of a sudden this literally falls in our lap. It's great for us. It makes us stronger because we are more vertically integrated now and this gives us a more complete product line in the municipal market segment. We do a lot of municipal work for cities, counties, and state governments, where they supply us the chassis and we do a complete upfit to include the hoist, bed, plow, and spreader, along with hydraulics that goes with it.”
Godwin has moved Good Roads in its entirety to the Godwin Manufacturing location in Dunn. The Good Roads product will be incorporated into Godwin's current manufacturing facilities and product mix.
Fortunately for Godwin, it won't require a major investment in a new facility. Godwin has a 22,400-square-foot building that was being used as a long-term storage warehouse with castings and other items that were being dispersed to sister companies. Godwin notified them that they needed to find replacement space, then started emptying out the warehouse and shipping the parts to other locations. That freed up 14,000 square feet for the Good Roads product line. The remainder of the building will become available as needed.
Enhancing the transition is the presence of all the necessary electrical connections. The building previously had been used for manufacturing in a business owned by Godwin's brother-in-law, PJ's Truck Bodies and Equipment, which moved down the street.
“We are in the process of getting started with the tooling and fixtures from the plant in Indiana but are already updating and or replacing them to suit our needs and manner of production,” Godwin says. “We were fortunate that the building already was pre-wired, so there was no capital investment to upfit it and get it ready. All we needed to do was move in welding machines and fixtures from Indiana to Dunn. We have one truckload to go. We didn't need a lot of his fabrication equipment other than a Metal Muncher, a specialty machine that punches holes. We are using his fixtures to manufacture the product, but we already have plans in place and have come up with our own fixtures.
“In the interest of time and trying to get up and running in production as quickly as possible, we took the Good Roads product line and split it into two groups: the spreader side and the plow side. The plow side is using this building. It is manufactured and assembled there. The spreaders will be manufactured in another part of our facilities where we used to manufacture hoists. Before we came up with the Champion hoist line, all the hoists were manufactured on this particular line. It's been somewhat idle since we had the Champion plant across town. We moved the spreader line into this area because of the overhead cranes and large sheet metal to make box spreaders. It's more for material handling reasons than anything else. At a later date, our intent is to move the spreader line and plow into the same building, which is one we cleaned out.
“The only thing I wish to have done differently at this point is to start the move 60 days earlier, but this would have interrupted a large plow order Good Roads was producing for us at the time.”
Godwin believes there will be several immediate and inherent product improvements with the acquisition, such as:
Godwin has larger metal-working equipment, so piecing long materials will not be necessary.
“We did not purchase his water jet machine because we have a plasma cutter that is considerably faster in cutting materials. His fabrication equipment was also limited to components up to 10 feet long. He had to do anything over 10 feet in multiple pieces, and he had to weld them together. It was time-consuming because of the limitations. That's where we excel, because we have fabrication equipment that goes up to 20 feet, which is nowhere close to the cap that we would need for spreaders or plows. Our fabrication equipment is much larger. It will help us not only boost our production capacity, but also cut costs because we can do it completely in one piece, where he had to weld them together.”
Most of this metalworking equipment is CNC, so fit and finish will be better.
No immediate price increase, even though Good Roads has not had one in three years.
Powder-coated zinc epoxy primer and top coat to dramatically improve the finish and durability.
“Good Roads had been using a water-based paint for its operation because of emissions standards. Down here, we have our zinc epoxy primer and a top coat that is far superior to what he had. We've incorporated it into this product line at no additional charge. That is another dramatic product improvement that will be experienced by distributors and end users. The paint system we have generates no VOCs (volatile organic compounds), no HAPs (hazardous air pollutants), and no hazardous waste. It's about as dreamy as a dream can get.”
Immediate capability of expanding the distributor territories in certain areas due to the Godwin Group's current distributor base. There are only four geographic areas Godwin will need to rationalize product lines and distributors.
Godwin says there has been a learning curve in terms of the individual parts and pieces that it takes to put the plows and spreaders together. He said he is working very closely in a “crash course” with Manning, who visits Godwin's facility every other week and spends the entire week.
“The relations we have with RD in production and sales have been phenomenal,” Godwin says. “It's almost like he looks forward to coming to North Carolina to see us take it on and move forward from here. He's been very helpful.”
Godwin says he has 200 units on backlog — a combination of spreaders and plows.
“So far, it's scary how good it's been going,” he says. “Unfortunately, as of August 9, I told the sales team, ‘We've got to back off a bit. We're beginning to get overwhelmed with orders.’ I don't want to promise a customer something and not be able to deliver. I'd rather not take an order than for them to be disappointed with delivery. But once we get into full production, we should be able to do much better.
“We had the first pilot model inspection for a plow for North Carolina DOT August 5, which went very well. They were very pleased, seeing someone in North Carolina being able to manufacture snow plows and spreaders.”
He says he anticipates full production by September 26. Then it's just a matter of tweaking everything and maximizing output.
“In the best of times, about four or five years ago, Good Roads produced over 750 units one year,” he says. “That number is not currently realistic, but we do have a 200-unit backlog from May, which is the time Indiana stopped production. Ironically, 95% of the backlog Good Roads currently has is for Godwin's customers.”
Godwin has been utilizing existing employees, with a lot of the ramp-up work being done on Saturdays and after hours. He said the workforce is flexible enough that he can borrow welders or assemblers from another department at any given time. Once the company reaches a higher level of performance on the Good Roads line, more employees will be added.
Godwin made a minor change in the Good Roads logo, adding the Good Roads founding date (1878) in the bottom right corner to recognize that it was one of the originators in the snow plow industry. Godwin is in the process of getting the trademark registered.
“We're not renaming Good Roads,” he says. “As far as business, Good Roads will not be a separate company. When you buy a snow plow, the billing will not be from Good Roads — it will be from Godwin. The Good Roads product line is a product line from Godwin Manufacturing. In other words, it still stands alone to the point that it has its own name recognition with the Good Roads name, but it's manufactured by Godwin Manufacturing.”
RD sent a letter to the major Good Roads distributors announcing the acquisition, and Godwin has just begun a distributor letter and advertising.
What's next for the company?
“I guess that remains to be seen,” Pat Jr says. “Opportunities present themselves from time to time. You have to take advantage of it when you know it's an advantage.”
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