About Us, the team building your motorcycle trailer
Welcome to Ironhorse Trailers, the home of America’s best Motorcycle Trailer
Ironhorse Trailers designs, builds and distributes the best purpose-built motorcycle carriers in the world. In fact, Ironhorse builds and distributes the only enclosed trailers specifically designed by bikers to haul motorcycles. That’s why they are aerodynamic, strong but lightweight, rust and dent proof, and set a whole new standard for user-friendliness. Although our open trailers are not quite as streamlined as the enclosed ones, they are bult to the same standard in every other respect.
When and How We Started
Ironhorse Trailers was founded in 2002 in Lavergne, TN, near Nashville. Our first home was a 4,000 square foot building. During that time, all our fiberglass parts were supplied by one subcontractor and all our chasses were supplied by another. By 2005, we had discontinued the original fixed top model, replaced it with two new flip top models and outgrown the building. After a two year search, we relocated to a new building about six times the size of our former one, on a four lane highway, and only about seventy miles away.
Why We Started
After we started motorcycling in the nineties, it quickly became apparent that the distances to some of the places we wanted to ride were well beyond the distances we enjoyed riding. So, like many others, we trotted over to our local trailer dealer and plunked down a few thousand dollars for an enclosed metal trailer with square corners, the classic metal box cargo trailer. Then I spent the rest of the day, including three trips to the hardware store, getting the trailer ready to carry bikes.
When my 1970 Chevy pickup had trouble pulling it, I speculated that the motor was just old and tired. So the next thing I tried was a 98 Ford Explorer with a V8. When that didn’t work either, I bought a 2001 Lincoln Navigator, hitched up the trailer, loaded our motorcycles and took off for AZ. Twenty minutes and six hills later I finally realized it wasn’t the tow vehicle. Rather the weight of the loaded metal box trailer just didn’t work well with modern high horsepower, low torque automotive motors. But as I soon discovered, the weight was only half of it. What made me realize how much shape mattered was having to hang on to one side of the steering wheel with both hands to keep from being blown off the road by crosswinds in AZ, NM and west Texas.
All in all, the AZ trip convinced us that there had to be a better way—an enclosed, streamlined, lightweight motorcycle trailer. As long time manufacturing management consultants, we knew that whatever the better way turned out to be, we were qualified to develop the necessary manufacturing processes. Since we were already fed up with extensive air travel and ready for a serious career change, starting a manufacturing company seemed almost like a predestined segue.
Where We Are Located and Why
The market for Ironhorse Motorcycle Trailers is anywhere in the world where there are discriminating bikers. That includes the U.S. and many foreign countries. We have, in fact, shipped trailers to Dubai, Qatar, Russia, Estonia, Georgia, Panama, Germany, etc. But as long as we only have one location, the cost to ship our trailers effectively limits our trading area to North America. And even then, the further away from our main location potential customers are, the more reluctant they are to buy an Ironhorse.
That’s why we are located in middle Tennessee about halfway between Chattanooga and Nashville. There we are within a day’s drive of roughly 80% of the U.S. population. We’re in middle TN for the same reason much of auto industry has gravitated to this area. Autos and trailers are both large and expensive to ship and generally the customer’s tolerance for shipping cost is limited.
How We Build Ironhorse Trailers
Over-reliance on subcontractors during our first five years left us with a strong desire to be vertically integrated. So when we moved to our new location, we immediately began building our own chasses. It was another couple of years before we started making our own fiberglass parts too. For several years, every chassis went to an outside contactor for powder coating, but a change to aluminum in 2014 put a stop to that. A few trailers go out for custom painting but now everything else is done under one roof—ours.
For much of the year we produce strictly to order. During the rest of the year, we produce mostly to order but occasionally build a trailer for stock to avoid wasting capacity. All three enclosed models are built on the same line, one at a time, in an ever-changing make-to-order model sequence.
No trailer or part of a trailer can move forward until the one ahead of it has moved on, thus making the line function much like a pipe with a vacuum on the outer end. Wheel chock, d-ring and spare wheel installation are some of the last steps, thus allowing late stage customization. Typically it takes about a week to build a trailer from start to finish but lead times can be as long at 5-6 weeks since much of the year we have a backlog of orders waiting to be built.
When it comes to purchased materials like aluminum, axles, lights, trim, hardware, tires etc., we rely on small quantities delivered frequently to the point of use. A handful of tried and true suppliers deliver materials weekly. One supplier manages all the nuts and bolts and replenishes our work cell bins twice weekly. As a matter of principle and working capital conservation, Ironhorse Trailers has NO storeroom.
The infrastructure that supports the one piece, not batch, flow through our facility includes clearly defined flow paths, single and multi-person work cells complete with tool shadow boards and dedicated parts bins and racks. As a result, the kind of manual and electronic production and inventory tracking and reporting once so prevalent in U.S. factories is unnecessary and conspicuously, deliberately absent.
Workers in our facility get very good at what they do or get gone—our multi-skilled work force takes so much pride in the breadth and depth of their knowledge and the Ironhorse Motorcycle Trailers they build that they are self-policing. Between that and the supervision built into the infrastructure, very little direction and correction are required. The production line sometimes runs for days without anything more than an occasional minor hiccup.
Who Our Key Players Are
Julie is perhaps THE key player. The ultimate multi-tasker, until recently, she was the sole salesperson while also handling the marketing, finance, human relations and administrative duties. I, Ed, am the product designer, product engineer, and operations strategist. We are the co¬owners and founders of Ironhorse Motorcycle Trailers.
Mick is not an employee, but we think of him as part of our team. A former ad agency owner and motorcycle racer, he regularly turns our rough draft marketing messages into the polished, visually effective marketing materials that appear on our website, on our FB page, in email and/or telephone responses to inquiries, and as hard copy brochures. He monitors our FB traffic and calls our attention to issues and suggests solutions as well as pointing out opportunities to maximize the effectiveness of our FB page. He also prepares press releases and uses his motorcycle magazine contacts to selectively place them in the most appropriate magazines.
Chris is another non-employee critical to our success. An Australian by birth, he currently commutes from the U.S. to India where he is Chief Pilot for a large Indian corporation. Several years ago, he designed and developed our Ironhorse Trailers web site while working in the U.S. and continues to keep it fresh and readily accessible to those searching for motorcycle trailers. It’s a sign of the times that we while we have never met face to face, we are and will be eternally grateful to him for his efforts on our behalf.
Victor has been with us since July of 2005 and is our top gun in the shop. Not only can he do any and every production job in the shop, he also builds plugs and molds, maintains the chopper and gelcoat guns, and does most of the tasks usually reserved for plant and manufacturing engineers. It doesn’t seem to matter whether it involves electricity, carpentry, plumbing, welding or fiberglass fabrication; if I can think it, Victor can do it. When we started the company, none of us knew anything about fiberglass fabrication or plug and mold building. We’ve all learned on the fly with Victor leading the way most of the time.
Gus joined in September of 2009 and is second in command in the shop and the other person we really rely on. He preps the chasses, keeps up with VIN numbers and the schedule and like Victor, can do any and every job. He takes great pains to build flawless chasses and makes improvement suggestions which are typically implemented immediately. Always quick to help in other areas as needs change, we had to discourage him from running to do so in the interest of safety.
Medi and Roque have been with Ironhorse for six and four years respectively, and they live in their own world do about the most critical and demanding jobs. They shoot the gelcoat and fiberglass, and the fiberglass body the world sees is the result of their diligence and good work. It sounds so easy–just pick up a “gun” and shoot. But the critical element is rolling, a demanding job that insures that the lamination is good and there are no “air pockets” between layers. They do a fabulous job!
Kim joined us in September of 2013 to beef up our sales effort and provide administrative support. Although she’s not a biker, she relates well to those who are and does a wonderful job of helping people decide which of our Ironhorse Trailers will best meet their needs.
Jonathan has been with us a couple of years and is our metal/aluminum working go-to guy. He has an extensive background in fabrication, and plant and vehicle maintenance. He runs the metal shop that builds the chasses, manages the aluminum and steel inventory and keeps our vehicle fleet rolling. He excels at trouble shooting, fabricates my latest brainstorm from the skimpiest of sketches and independently designs, develops and maintains our welding fixtures.
A number of other employees all play important roles too—in general we have very little turnover among our entire team. We value their learning ability, their skills, their work ethic, the work that they do and their willingness to help one another. Most of all, we value their loyalty and do our best to live up to the example they set.