When every kilo counts

Reading time approx. 5 minutes
Text: Oliver Schönfeld
Photos: Stefan Bungert

With silo vehicles, every kilogram of empty weight that can be saved is important: The supposedly small advantage adds up to tangible economic and ecological effects with numerous tours per day, for example in construction site logistics. Among other things, the silo vehicle manufacturer Feldbinder relies on lightweight components from BPW to successfully slim down its trailers.

The highest possible payload with the lowest possible unladen weight: this is the maxim with which the designers at Feldbinder Spezialfahrzeugwerke GmbH approach every new order. This goal can only be achieved with a great deal of experience and a high level of manufacturing and materials expertise. Founded in 1975, the company was one of the first vehicle manufacturers to focus specifically on aluminium decades ago. “Our two founders Otto Feldbinder and Jan-Dirk Beckmann already pursued this idea. With the light metal as an innovative material for vehicle construction, the company grew quickly and successfully. Stainless steel containers were only added later,” reports Dr. Nina Lorea Kley. Together with Dirk Feldbinder, Olaf Feldbinder and Wolf-Dietrich Kley, she has been the second generation of management of the internationally active family company since 2018.

Silo vehicles for the construction industry and agriculture

The silo vehicles with aluminium chassis, which are manufactured at the Feldbinder plant in Winsen (Luhe) near Hamburg, are used to transport dust and trickle goods such as cement, fly ash, lime or fertiliser. The portfolio includes silo semi-trailers, tipping silo semi-trailers, silo superstructures and silo trailers in ever-changing designs. At the second production site in Lutherstadt Wittenberg, tank and rail vehicles as well as special containers are manufactured in addition to silo vehicles. The configuration of the vehicle usually only emerges in the individual customer consultation: volume, number and size of the chambers, axles, the other equipment – depending on the goods to be transported, Feldbinder develops customised solutions. “We build around 2,000 vehicles per year. If necessary, we make each one differently,” explains Dr. Kley. The company deliberately relies on a very high degree of in-house production in order to be able to act flexibly.

»The greatest possible payload with the smallest possible unladen weight – that’s our maxim.«

Dr. Nina Lorea Kley, Managing Director of Feldbinder Spezialfahrzeugwerke GmbH

Over 250 kilograms of unladen weight saved

The production staff are experienced experts, and in some cases the company has even developed its own production methods to meet customer-specific requirements. Instead of welding, the vehicle manufacturer relies on solid bolted connections for the lightweight chassis – with one exception: the axle brackets are deliberately still welded to prevent corrosion at these sensitive points. “The difference in weight compared to a steel chassis of the same size is up to 250 kilograms, depending on the equipment,” explains Axel Krahn from Technical Purchasing, the axle expert at Feldbinder. In addition, the vehicles are usually equipped with forged aluminium rims, which achieve a further weight advantage of ten kilograms each – that makes an additional 60 kilograms per vehicle, by which the possible transport volume increases.
Markus Rempel completed his training at Spedition Werner Ruploh in 2020 and now moves the silo vehicles for the Westphalian transport company. The 24-year-old professional driver appreciates the reliability of the Feldbinder trailers.
Vehicle handover at Feldbinder: Managing Director Dr Nina Lorea Kley explains the advantages of the lightweight axle to driver Markus Rempel. Every trailer is manufactured at Feldbinder exactly according to the specifications and requirements of the transport companies.

Lightweight components from BPW

The advantages for customers are therefore obvious. “Particularly in the short-haul sector with several unloadings a day, every weight saving contributes significantly to better economic efficiency and permanent CO2 savings – while at the same time ensuring high functionality and robustness of the vehicles,” continues Dr Kley. Feldbinder customers such as the Werner Ruploh group of companies from Beckum in Westphalia appreciate the high quality standards. After all, stability, safety and reliability over many years of use are also important for the lightest possible constructions. The latest tipping silo semi-trailer completed for Ruploh is a good example: the KIP 45.3 vehicle model is intended for subcontracted transport in the construction industry and has an unladen weight of just 5,420 kilograms. Numerous lightweight components from BPW Bergische Achsen KG contribute to this, including the BPW LightTube trailing arm, the BPW aluminium hub and the disc brake ECO Disc (TS2 3709). “Compared to a conventional axle with a large disc brake, this reduces the weight by 126 kilograms,” Krahn describes.

Feldbinder has been relying on BPW LightTube since 2020 and now uses the lightweight solution as its standard axis.

Reliability and functionality are in demand

The Ruploh Group operates at three locations with 220 vehicles, particularly for the cement and lime industry in the Münster and Sauerland regions. “We transport the dusty goods almost all over Europe. In addition to weight savings through lightweight construction, what counts most for us are reliability and high functionality, which we can rely on from Feldbinder,” emphasises owner Werner Ruploh. His employee Markus Rempel is also convinced by the new trailer: “The vehicles are loaded and unloaded several times a day. That’s where every weight advantage makes itself felt.” The 24-year-old successfully completed his training as a professional driver at the forwarding company in autumn 2020 and is now part of the permanent team of 350 employees.

Close partnership in development

The customised vehicle concepts are only possible thanks to the close partnership that Feldbinder and BPW have maintained since the 1980s. New ideas are constantly being generated in the close exchange between the developers. Even special requirements, such as technical adaptations for the export of Feldbinder vehicles to Australia, have been mastered by the partners together, Krahn looks back. “In addition to the special solutions developed together, the BPW series products are also very well received and fit very well with our vehicle designs.” For example, the company has been consistently using the BPW LightTube steering spring as a quasi-standard since mid-2020, as it harmonises very well with its own lightweight design strategy and the feedback from the field has been consistently positive. Dr Kley confirms: “The cooperation between the two companies can be described as partnership-based, open and extremely innovative.
Lightweight construction in series production: With a great deal of expertise in aluminium and a high level of vertical integration, Feldbinder has specialised in lightweight construction concepts.

Challenges in lightweight construction and digitalisation

What challenges does Feldbinder expect to face in the coming years? The continuous optimisation of lightweight construction concepts continues to have top priority. In addition, the company is gearing up to meet the new requirements of freight forwarding customers in the digitalisation of bulk goods and tank logistics. With “Silo 4.0”, for example, the vehicle manufacturer has developed a new control system that immediately won an award at the “Truck Innovation Award 2020”. In order to be able to represent future growth, the company is dependent on qualified skilled workers – and is therefore actively tackling the issue. Currently, Feldbinder employs a good 80 trainees, which corresponds to almost ten percent of the total workforce of 950 employees. At both production sites in Winsen (Luhe) and Wittenberg, the company has set up special training workshops, the trainees receive targeted support and are guaranteed a job if they successfully complete their training. In this way, Feldbinder secures the lightweight construction and manufacturing expertise of tomorrow and beyond.
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