1,000,000 MILES A YEAR ELI VERING WOODWORK
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A Midland Concern Which 1,200 Miles Per Week : Relating to a H
27 Vu/cans, Each Running Service and Cost Data 'led of Vehicles
TT is seldom that an interview with an !operator of commercial vehicles is
productive of such a wealth of useful and helpful information as that which1 bad not long ago with Mr. C. Clark, who is a director of the Midland Woodworking Co., Ltd., of Melton Mowbray, and is responsible for the transport of the company a products. the measure of his responsibility may be gauged from the fact that, in the last pre-war year of operation, the company's turnover was £320,000, and from the size of the fleet, which comprises 27 Vulcans, two Austins, a Fordson and a Morris-Com mercial.
The company manufactures window frames, door frames, doors, gates, etc., for the building trade, and claims to be the second largest in the kingdom engaged in that class of. work In view of the present
situation as regards the demand for houses, it seems that Mr. Clark's responsibilities, which are already onerous, are likely to increase.
The average weekly mileage of the Vulcan lorries in pre-war days was no less than 1,200. Deliveries are made anywhere in the Midlands to the South of England, including London, Southampton, Bath and Bristol, and as far north as Sheffield. The machines are loaded overnight, and are timed to set out on their journeys at 8 a.m, each day. fn the majority of cases they are expected to return the same day. It is, perhaps, needless to say that two drivers are employed on each vehicle.
One of the most difficult jobs in connection with the operation of this fleet is the loading up; two factors prevail which tend to complicate this process. In the first place, the builder never requires delivery until ,he is quite ready to fit the woodwork into the building; he does not ask for it until the last moment, and when he does order it he wants ii at once.
In the second, the quantity required by any individual customer varies within wide limits and is rarely, if ever, a full bad for a lorry. Sometimes it may be merely one window frame, the pre-war value of which would be no more than Ss or 6s. Further, the delivery of that one item may involve a detour by a 5-ton lorry of 40 miles Or so. Nevertheless, the company, as a matter of principle, will always keep faith and deliver that window frame on time.
As a result, it is a common occurrence for a vehicle to be called upon to run 200 miles in a day, in the course of which it triay have to make 10, or more, individual deliveries or " drops." It is, in fact, usual `for as many as 200 consignments fa be loaded each evening. It will readily be understood, therefore, that great care is needed in routing the vehicles and in packing the load so that the goods can conveniently be unloaded in the Order of their delivery. Moreover, the goods are fragile, and that, too, must be borne in mind when loading them.
Loading and Routing Vehicles
The man who attends to this work is a specialist. He starts his evening's work with a set of copies of the orders, for material to be delivered. He has before him a data sheet on which is recorded the computed weight of every article the company manufactures, so that he knows to within a few pounds the weight each vehicle carries. It is Mr. Clark's belief that this employee knows the whereabouts of every street in every town•to which deliveries are made, so that his routing of the vehicles and the order of the deliveries has mathematical precision. .
Incidentally, each Vulcan is equipped with two fuel tanks carrying in all 32 gallons, so that there is never any need for the driver to stop and purchase fuel.
-• Other points to hear in mind in connection with the operation of this fleet, which have an important bearing on what I am about to say concerning the selection of the
vehicles and the design of the bodywork, are: (1) the goods are light in proportion to their bulk; (2) they are liable to be damaged or, at least, scratched by any grit or dirt On the floor of the vehicle; (3) nearly all deliveries are to new building sites, involving the negotiating of bad, unmade roads: the sites are often difficult of access and this necessitates complicated manceuvring into position when making deliveries.
With the foregoing operational data in mind, it is possible to appreciate the way in which the fleet has developed, and especially the initial reasons for the selection of the particular make of chassis now standardized, and the design and construction of the bodywork..
Hauliers Could Not Meet Special Needs Early in its history, and up to the end of 1931 add the beginning of 1932, the company relied upon the services of
hauliers for its transport. Unfortunately, these services were not satisfactory, either in respect of types of vehicle available, or as to punctuality in collection and delivery. The cost, in proportion to the loads carried, was excessive.
It was seldom, Mr. Clark told me, that the vehicles offered by the haulier were the same on two successive occasions; the body capacity was insufficient in relation t.) the tonnage rating of the machine. Sometimes a 12-tonder had to be utilized to carry a 3-ton load of the light yet bulky woodwork. As the haulier, quite naturally, based his rates on vehicle capacity, the cost was-a:most invariably high in proportion to the services actually rendered, • Promptitude in delivery failed to come up to the company's standard. That provided for delivery without fail within 24 hours of the receipt of any order--and those orders, more often than not, were " rush " ones received by telephone. The haulier, in the company's experience, was more liable to let it down in this requirement than he was to comply with it.
Actually, this habit of prompt response to customers' requirements is of vital importance. The concern claims to have built up its busivss on the twin bases of quality and punctuality. Although it has never made use of advertising, it is, as has been stated, the second largest concern in the country engaged in this type of operation, and the business has grown
to such dimensions as the direct result of rigid adherence to these principles. It was, therefore, out of the question for hauliers to be further employed. The alternative was for the company to operate its own vehicles, and this was decided upon in 1931.
The first purchases were two Dennis chassis. No fault was found with these as regards performance: the service they rendered was excellent, The difficulty was that, at that time, at any rate, there was no chassis available with a wheelbase sufficiently long for the purpose. When equipped with a body of the dimensions requisite for the purpose in view, the overhang was excessive and troubles arose from this cause.
Eventually, at one of the Commercial Motor Exhihitiorv., Mr. Clark was able to persuade the Vulcan company to let him have a chassis adapted to his needs. It was a special one, with forward control; of 14-ft. 6-in, wheelbase, and capable of accommodating a body 23 ft. long. With a platform of that size it is just practicable to load three tons of joinery.
The company has standardized on Vulcans from that day —the latest purchase, which is shown in one of the accompanying illustrations, has been made since I took the. notes for this article, At the time of my visit, the Vulcan first acquired by the operator had completed 700,000 miles. Some of them are N-tonners and others 5-tonners; all have high-ratio axles and are of 14-ft. 6-in. wheelbase.
The idea of using oil engines first occurred to Mr. Clark in 1937, when, as an experiment, a Perkins Leopard was fitted to one of the Vulcans. That vehicle is still being used, although not by its original owner; it is now engaged on agricultural haulage.
A second oil engine, this time a Perkins P6, was fitted
the following year. The latest Vulcan is Perkins-oilengined and it is intended, eventually, to standardize on oq engines for the whole fleet.
The chassis, complete with cab, are bought from the manufacturers: the operating company makes the bodies, which are built up of aircraft spruce. The design is somewhat unusual as there are no sills or rails. The floorboards, which are quite flat, are laid lengthwise, with Fin. spaces between each: The purpose of these gaps and the reason lor the absence of sills and rails is the need for cleanliness and absolute absence of grit and dirt. With the bodies so constructed, they can very easily be swept quite clean. Incidentally, during the discussion of this important matter c, f body design, especially in regard to size, I asked why it had not been considered advisable to experiment with t he asticulated vehicle which, on the face of it, would seem to be admirable for the purpose.
I was toldthat it was not suitable for the job, as had already been discovered during the period in which hauliers were employed. As a type, it is dinsidered too difficult to manoeuvre into and out of building sites.
Maintenance Beneflis from Standardization
Mr. Clark has got rit,'.t down to brass tacks on the matter of maintenance. He has a well-equipped maintenance depot, with lathes, drilling machines, grinding machines, saws, and a Van Norman cylinder-boring outfit, all conveniently disposed in one corner of a spacious repair shop.
Standardization on one make of vehicle is a help. A complete set of service units is kept in stock, so that replacements can be effected with a minimum loss of time. In this connection, the design of the Vulcan engine is, to Mr. Clark's mind, particularly commendable, in that the' cylinder block, besides being linered—that is a good point in itself—is also detachable. By keeping spare blocks in stock, he is able to deal with such reboring or relining as is necessary with a minimum of delay.
The procedure as regards the use of engine oil is that a low-priced lubricant is used, the crankcase being drained and refilled at more frequent intervals than would he the case were a nigh-grade_brand employed. Mr. Clark's view is that if oil be left in the crankcase for any lengthy period, it is hound to become contaminated with abrasive material to the detriment of all the frictional surfaces of the engine.
As a result of this practice I am informed that cylinder bore wear is small, one example showing .016 to .017 in. alter 52,000 'road miles.
A careful record is kept of all maintenance work. Fach vehicle has its card. or series of cards, on which is recorded
its complete history. Here are some extracts from the history cards relating to vehicle No. 14:—
At 26,500 miles, oil changed; at 27,700 miles, oil changed: at 30,600 miles, oil changed No topping up. This particular vehicle was put into service in September, 1934. By September, 1935, it had run 57,000 'miles. At 101,000 miles the cylinder block wit removed from the engine and replaced by a service unit Examination of a later card, relating to this same vehic!e, showed that in four years it hail run 190,000 miles Value u. he Gard-indx Sysrent
Mr. Clark attaches a. good deal of importance to this .•ard-index method of red-ording the case history of every vehicle. It is particularly helpful to the maintenance engineer, especially in this way. It often happens that some peculiar fault recurs in the same -vehicle, a circumstance that, in the absence of such records, would not -become apparent, as it might not be recalled that it was
always the same vehicle which bad suffered. Accurate knowledge is an aid to the requisite investigation asc1 subsequent location of what might otherwise have -to he passed out as an obscure fault.' • Incidentally, the drivers are forbidden to touch any important part of the chassis. Tinkering, above all things, is not permitted. Another point is that the vehicles are always garaged with their radiators near a rangeof hot-water pipes. Every evening in the winter they are covered and difficalt starting, even in the coldest weather, is unknown.
As a statement of fact, Mr. Clark says the company has had very little trouble with the Vulcans and that he, himself. is satisfied with the choice he made some 15 years ago.
Maintenance costs, it has been found,' are governed to a large extent by the capabilities of the drivers employed. In the operator's experience, this item of expense came down considerably when, after a period of trial, the drivers had been sorted out, the unreliable ones disiniseed. and a crew of good, responsible fellows got together.
Orre little trouble in this connection took a good. deal of eradication. It used to be a regular habit on the part of most of the men to spend some time in wayside coffee stalls, as the result of which they had to race their vehicles in order to make up for lost time. Three different types of mechanical recorder were tried out, but success came in the .end with the Servis instrument,