The National Association of Trailer Manufacturers recognized the unparalleled role U-Haul® has played in the industry’s history with the very first NATM Innovation Award, which honors trailer companies leading the way in technological advancement.
“As we finish up our eighth decade as a company, I’m fully confident that Team U-Haul will continue to revolutionize the trailer-manufacturing industry through our pioneering products and services,” said Marco Garcia, U-Haul Engineering Services Director. “And, by doing so, we will remain a force for positive long-lasting change.”
Before the NATM chose U-Haul to receive the Innovation Award, NATM board members had the opportunity to tour U-Haul-owned facilities in Arizona, including Glendale Manufacturing Company. Garcia showed the board members how U-Haul designs the trailer technologies of the future.
“We demonstrated how U-Haul uses automation to speed up the trailer-building process, even with a limited number of workers,” Garcia said. “Some of the machines that impressed the board members the most were our ‘smart’ fiber lasers, which perform computerized laser cutting and automatically order raw materials whenever stock runs low.
“Glendale Manufacturing also has six robotic units that handle most of our basic welding workload, while our Team Members perform more advanced welding assignments. By letting the board take a firsthand look at some of the innovative technological strides we’ve made over the years, we showcased why U-Haul is a manufacturing leader.”
After touring in Glendale, the board visited the U-Haul Technical Center in Tempe, where they saw the research and development (R&D) lab and manufacturing floor.
From Humble Beginnings
“During the tour, we retraced U-Haul Company’s 77 years of trailer-manufacturing history, from its humble beginnings in 1945 to the present day,” Garcia said. “I told the board how U-Haul co-founders L.S. ‘Sam’ Shoen and Anna Mary Carty Shoen originally purchased trailers from welding shops and secondhand private owners.
“However, when they learned how unreliable many of these trailers were, and how difficult it would be to uniformly repair and maintain them, they decided to start manufacturing their own trailers. That process continues to this day.”
The U-Haul Tech Center also showcases top-of-the-line technology, including laser equipment that Team Members use to measure object coordinates and produce digital drafts. A 3-D printer works with different software to create prototypes, redesigns and part fitments. Team Members were on hand to answer questions about the machines and trailer-manufacturing process.
The highlight of the visit was a demonstration of how U-Haul hitch balls and trailer couplers easily meet the “force” standards set by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). Board members watched as a machine attempted to pull a two-inch hitch ball from a two-inch trailer coupling for one minute, with the combination still holding beyond the SAE-recommended benchmark of 10,000 pounds.
The board was clearly impressed with all they saw. Lastly, Garcia was excited to see U-Haul pioneering efforts recognized with the first-ever NATM Innovation Award.
“As the inaugural Innovation Award winner, U-Haul stands apart in its commitment to continuous improvement and high-quality service,” Garcia said. “U-Haul strives to learn, grow and do better so that we can more effectively meet our customers’ needs. Innovation is what drives us. We’re honored to receive this thoughtful recognition from the NATM.”