Way better trucks with superior steel

SEC Engineering and Design managing director Grant Colbran (left) and sales manager Rodger...
SEC Engineering and Design managing director Grant Colbran (left) and sales manager Rodger Trounson accept ''Hardox in My Body'' certification from Real Steel managing director Luke Mathieson, of Wellington, (second from right) and Swedish Steel's Asia...

Five years ago, the type of manufacturing now being carried out by Invercargill engineering firm SEC Engineering and Design and a handful of other New Zealand engineering companies was not even technically possible.

But the arrival of imported high-strength wear-resistant alloy plate has brought with it massive opportunities for SEC and others, especially in its work for the transport industry.

Traditionally, high-strength steel was only manufactured in thick plates.

But Hardox 450, made by Swedish Steel, comes in thinner and larger plates, making it suitable for a wide range of products including agricultural cutters, buckets for heavy machinery and waste transfer bins as well as truck chassis, bodies, tubs and decks.

Yesterday SEC become the first company in the South Island to receive ''Hardox in My Body'' certification - a quality guarantee for trucks with components manufactured using the product.

Managing director Grant Colbran said his company had been working with Hardox for about three years. The certification process, which involved assessment and approval of SEC's design and manufacturing processes, took about a year.

''Certification has the backing of Swedish Steel, and their staff are also available to give us design advice if we need it.

"Certification give our customers confidence that our processes are the right ones and they will get the longevity they expect,'' he said.

Hardox is imported into this country by Real Steel.

In October, 2012, Real Steel commissioned a giant steel press at its Upper Hutt plant to prefabricate truck and trailer bodies.

Mr Colbran said SEC got its units from Upper Hutt and finished them in Invercargill.

The larger sheets of plate and the giant press allowed truck and trailer bodies traditionally made out of eight or more separate pieces to be built with four sheets, Mr Colbran said.

That meant less welding, which he said was the weakest point on steelwork.

Hardox was calculated to be five times stronger than mild steel, so the components stood up to intensive heavy use, he said.

The introduction of the new manufacturing method and uptake from transport operators meant SEC was ''flat out'', he said.

''We've gone from zero orders [in Hardox] three years ago to a lot. There has been significant growth for us.''

Mr Colbran said he was was convinced to begin using the imported plate because he could see the benefits for customers, particularly transport operators.

''Hardox is a considerably costlier to build with, but it is lighter, stronger and more durable.

''A truck and trailer unit manufactured from it weighs one tonne less than a conventional unit, so that is another tonne of freight which can be carried.

''One customer estimated using Hardox bodies was saving $37,000 per annum per truck and trailer unit, so it doesn't take long for customers to reap the rewards.''


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