Suffolk-based trailer manufacturer Richard Western Ltd opened its factory doors to dealers and customers for the first time in November. David Williams attended.
Richard Western started the business in 1968 as an alternative enterprise on the family’s farm at Framlingham, Suffolk producing steel sundry items such as feed troughs. High product quality meant Richard was asked to manufacture larger and more complex items and, in 1976, the first high capacity, strongly built farm trailer was produced.
The range of products expanded to include muck spreaders from 1984 with the Coleman range purchased and, later that decade, the Greenburner flame cultivation system of chemical-free weed control was acquired. Now 500 trailers and trailed implements are produced and sold annually by the 75-strong team, and supplied to 19 countries including through a network of 25 UK dealers.
Trailers account for three quarters of the company’s current business with most demand for silage and grain transport. Flat beds and livestock trailers are also produced.
Trailers to suit
Suffolk Trailers are the company’s standard range, with capacity from 11–24t, and all except the largest model are fitted with twin axles. Versions are available to suit roots, grain and silage as well as flatbeds and Easy-Load livestock transporters.
Wellington Trailers have the highest standard specification to meet the most demanding use. Also available in 14–24t capacity versions, the premium range features a steep 60-degree tip angle and an extra-tough 4mm monocoque body.
Richard Western spreaders, popular across the UK and overseas, include Delilah and FBS rear-discharge, and SDS side-discharge models. Spinning disc application is available for rear delivery versions improving accuracy and increasing spread width for light materials such as poultry manure and compost.
Delilah and FBS models can be equipped with a vertical beater spreader unit for yard manure, and a disc for lighter solids for increased versatility whatever the material being applied.
GRS grain chaser bins are a relatively new range for the company but a logical extension to the high capacity trailer line-up. With tandem or triple axles these have 25–30t capacities and are equipped with large flotation tyres to reduce ground compaction and big, variable-pitch augers for fast unloading.
Drill fillers are also part of the range, but with smaller 8t, 10t or 12t capacities.
The Western family continues to invest in the plant to optimise product quality and one of the latest factory improvements is a new £1.2m painting area with spray booths capable of accommodating the largest trailers. Before two-pack undercoat is applied, every machine is shot blasted to ensure optimal paint adhesion and a durable finish.
“We have never had a factory open day previously, but felt that after 50 years we should give dealers and customers the opportunity to see our production facilities and meet our team,” explained director Angus Western. “Our business started with demand from farmers across East Anglia and we were especially pleased that so many early customers attended.”
Angus said recent business strategy has been to focus on the core ranges, and especially trailers and spreaders. “We had approximately 20 product lines and were trying to be everything to everyone, but now there are 6 core products which gives us better opportunities to produce top quality equipment when it is needed without cutting corners. Shorter lead times are available, helping dealers and end users.”
Spreader production is an on-going area of focus. “Our spreader production line has gradually evolved and improved and, to meet increasing demand, we have invested in a new production line dedicated to manufacturing rear discharge spreaders.”
Succession is another area of investment for the business. “It’s always been a father and son managed business,” continued Angus, “but we are at a point where we need to broaden and increase our management structure which should allow us to identify and develop new areas for future growth, and increase production to satisfy the growing demand.”
Safer trailer braking
Safe trailer braking was an area of focus at the open days. Pictured with an early combined hydraulic and air-operated example, and a safer modern equivalent is pneumatic and electronic braking specialist JH Milnes Ltd representative, Steve Burles (left) with Angus Western.
“In the past trailer manufacturers used what was available at that time to construct their braking systems,” explained Angus. “More effective alternatives are now available and manufacturers and dealers have a duty to explain the limitations of some of the previous systems still fitted to trailers, and suggest they are replaced by modern alternatives. Components for older braking systems fitted to all trailer brands tend to be cheaper, so it’s tempting to continue using them, but skimping on safety just doesn’t feel right to us and we advise customers to upgrade.”
A particular issue which came to light recently involves systems where a single brake lever is operated by two separate actuators – one hydraulic and one pneumatic. This arrangement was the most common on agricultural trailers across the industry until a few years ago,” explained Angus. “It allows use behind an older tractor with hydraulic brakes or a modern tractor with pneumatic brakes, and when it was new there was no problem, provided it was correctly set up. But, because it depends on a single brake arm with two actuators connected separately – one above the other and each a different distance from the fulcrum, the stroke lengths required to operate the brakes are different which is what causes the problem.
“As brake shoes wear, longer strokes are needed, and eventually one of the actuators runs out of effective travel. If that system is selected one day due to a tractor swap for example, the user could find that brakes which worked the previous day on another tractor have become ineffective.”
Angus said a relatively inexpensive and simple solution is available. This requires the separate hydraulic and pneumatic actuators to be replaced by a single combined air and hydraulic actuator with only one connection to the brake arm.
“We would urge farmers and contractors to check their trailers, whatever the brand, for this type of braking arrangement and, if it is fitted, replace it. The cost is approximately £400 to upgrade a typical twin-axle trailer,” he continued, “which is insignificant against the risk of an accident on- or off-road due to ineffective brakes.”