If you have a car, it is highly probable that your vehicle is fitted with a klaxon and lamps manufactured by TRUCK-LITE and you are not even aware of that. This text will help you to do necessary catching up. Located in Bydgoszcz, northern Poland, the company has proved a reliable provider of signal horns and lighting and thus commanded the respect of automotive boffins. Although established in Poland less than ten years ago, the brand has managed so far to achieve recognition on every continent. They have traded with all the most powerful businesses including the leaders of the industry from Germany, United States and Japan. Written by Bartosz Sowiński
Short nonetheless abundant in landmark events, the history of the TRUCK-LITE activity in Poland provides a detailed illustration of the market there. The Polish economy underwent a process of globalization as soon as many local businesses faced the prospect of cut-throat free market competition and started cooperating closely with foreign investors. Hence the inception of TRUCK-LITE in Poland, which initially operated under the FER-Belma Sp. z o.o (LLP) brand name. It came about in 2000 in Bydgoszcz thanks to the joint venture of Polish and German capital, namely B.Z.E. BELMA S.A. and FER Fahrzeugelektrik GmbH. The founders , each of which boasted a few decades of trading experience and contacts with VW, Audi, Seat, Porsche, MAN, and FIAT Auto Poland, set out to create a centre for acoustics in Central East Europe. Owing to the cutting edge technology, highly qualified staff and quality management FER Belma soon got the project off the ground and joined the leaders of the global automotive industry. Mr. Tomasz Wojciechwoski, sales manager at TRUCK-LITE elaborates on it: “Then we proceeded to establishing liaison with the partners in Korea (GM DAT), China (Shanghai GM) and Japan (FUSO Truck and ISUZU). However, it is two events that followed which set a strategic course for the company’s development. In 2002 FER Fahrzeugelektrik GmbH entered into a close alliance with American Penske Group which took over majority shares in it and thus gained control over its foreign branches too. Soon after that, in 2004, they went into partnership with TRUCK-LITE (belonging to Penske Group), the leading provider of lighting for the heavy duty industry in the US. Subsequently, the investors from TRUCK-LITE decided to buy the shares of B.Z.E. BELMA S.A. from FER-Belma.
As a result of its founders’ structural conversion the Polish branch of TRUCK-LITE enjoys a rare opportunity to rely on capital assets of no fewer than four corporate businesses – FER Fahrzeugelekrik GmbH (now
TRUCK-LITE EUROPE GMBH), Flexible Lamps Ltd (now TRUCK-LITE EUROPE LTD, Harlow, UK), TRUCK_LITE US and Penske Group. “The combined power of these companies makes a springboard for us establishing a status of a strong and reliable partner for European entrepreneurship,” Mr. Wojciechowski adds. The first of these, located in Eisenach, Germany, and established in 1907, FER Fahrzeugelekrik GmbH boasts the annual turnover of 75 mln EURO. They began as a modest manufacturer of carbide bicycle lamps and over time specialised in turning out elements of vehicle wiring and lighting. Nowadays, due to long-term partnerships with Bosh and Volkswagen, to name but a few, the company enjoys recognition of the most prominent worldwide car producers. The second of these, Flexible Lamps Ltd. was set up in 1924 in London. Since the inception it has been focused on manufacturing lighting for commercial vehicles, mainly for lorries and trailers. They also focus on rubber sealed lighting, hence the brand Rubbolite. The third, established in 1955 in America, TRUCK_LITE has a turnover of up to 473 mln USD per annum. Its infrastructure includes 13 factory floors in the US, UK, Germany, Belarus and China. The rate of employment there reaches 3,000 workers who serve more 4,000 clients with 24,000 distribution locations. It proved successful on the strength of its patent portfolio and a variety of affordable and environment friendly solutions. Suffice it to say that TRUCK-LITE belongs to an elite of producers taking advantage of energy saving LED lighting. Finally, the third corporation, namely Penske Group, being a dominant stakeholder in both FER Fahrzeugelekrik GmbH and TRUCK-LITE, prides itself on a truly global range. Set up in 1965, it has created more than 34,000 jobs so far in the US, Mexico and Europe and reached the rate of 18 bln USD (for 2006) of annual turnover. Penske Corporation boasts also an enormous fleet of around 220,000 lorries. Nonetheless, the business takes greatest pride and invests heavily in the R&D sections, which give employment to around 5 % of its entire workforce.
Little woder, therefore, that the TRUCK-LITE branch from Bydgoszcz acts with a view to the topmost level of lighting and signal horns quality. That is why their motto reads: “The business is good only if it wants to get better.” It goes without saying it was devised for the sake of the customer satisfaction. Everything has to be spick and span there, even before components enter production lines. This allows to avoid unnecessary trouble as it often happens when solutions on offer do not meet the demand of the competitive contemporary market. Nowadays, customers favour goods that are not only economical, but also safe, clean and sustainable. In order to cater for them TRUCK-LITE in Poland made a blueprint for and launched the Integrated Quality and Environment Management System, which complies with the requirements of ISO/TS 16949: 2009 technological specification and ISO 14001 standards. It is further substantiated by the relevant certificates which confirm that the company is able to satisfy the exacting quality requirements in terms of the whole production process, including design, manufacturing proper, installation and distribution alike. The process itself is seen to by a representative of the Quality and Environment Management System Board, who is responsible for: specifying quality aims and policy; popularization and development of the consciousness in terms of our customers demands and expectations amongst the employees; supervising the administration; planning and controlling audits; obtaining quality certificates; and cooperation with customers and suppliers. This hard work did not pass unnoticed in the industry. FORD awarding the Q1 status on the Polish branch of TRUCK-LITE proves a case in point here. This department was also invited to join an elite club of “Polski Panteon Ekologii” (“Polish Ecological Pantheon”). People at the company regard it as a crowning achievement on their narrow path to sustainability. Mr Wojciechowski also stresses the fact that in 2007 the company received the NCAGE code (NATO Commercial and Government Entity) for the businesses vital in terms of national defence.
Know-how and Cutting Edge Gears
As such the Quality and Environment Management System Board takes care of necessary supervision and research. This team conducts thorough verification already at the stage materials and components supply. Thanks to automatic objective solutions these guys not only attest the quality of ready products for sale, but also carry out spot checks at random stage of the production process. Each phase is monitored with the equipment which guarantees the necessary accuracy of the measurements taken. These gears are calibrated and monitored by expert contractors. Periodical audit assessment and requalifying research is in turn done in the TRUCK-LITE laboratory. The products which were complained about are also analysed there. Owing to the technical know-how of its workers and cutting edge technologies the laboratory is able to face such challenges as: length and angle measuring using the VISION measuring microscope, type HAWK SYSTEM 7, and the 3D MITUTOYO coordinating measuring machine, type CRYSTA APEX C776; electro acoustic parameters measurement of signal horns in a semi-anechoic chamber with BRÜEL & KJAER gears; climatic and anti-corrosion examinations performed respectively in the WEISS TECHNIK climatic chamber, type WK-340, and in the WEISS TECHNIK salt spray corrosion chamber, type SC – 450. However, there is more to the technological capabilities of TRUCK-LITE than just the laboratory. There is also an impressive portfolio of more than 200 patents from all over the world. As we are not permitted enough space to include all these, we should at least mention sealed and shock-mounted lamps, energy saving LED lighting, new generation fuel filters and gas assisted mirrors.
Scope of Production
Let’s move on to a review of what TRUCK-LITE EUROPE is able to offer the automotive industry. The company specialises in manufacturing disc and trumpet signal horns for all types of vehicles including motorcycles, passenger cars, trucks, as well as forklifts and other heavy-duty vehicles. Mr. Wojciechowski stresses: “Our manufactures are regarded as High Value Product. For that matter we provide horns for Porsche. At the moment our annual sales figure has reached 3,000,000 items.” Each and every of basic models has at least a few dozen variants according to specific demands of our customers concerning protective covering, assembly methods, type of connector and colour. The second main branch of the TRUCK-LITE production are lighting elements for passenger, commercial and special vehicles, including side direction indicators, interior lamps, number-plate lighting, stop lamps, control lamps. As regards special vehicles, the company complies with the requirements of the producers of trucks, trucks, buses, vans, coaches, agricultural equipment (tractors, harvesters), building equipment (bulldozers, steamrollers). They manufacture lighting exterior such as: headlights, side lamps, multifunctional rear lamps, and work lamps; as well as interior for: gauges, driver’s cabin, glove compartments and junction box. Mr. Wojciechowski drew our attention to three models in particular: firstly, a pioneer on the market, a multifunctional rear LED lamp for trailers and lorries (for pics, see next page), Model 756, which will not let you down under the conditions when other lamps stop working; secondly, a multifunctional rear lamp, Model M800, reliable even under averse weather conditions and designed so as to face reduce risk of mechanical damage; and thirdly, a new generation junction box for trailers, Model M820, which guarantees that your electric circuit will work for many years. In addition, TRUCK-LITE catalogues include a wide variety of VOLVO mirrors, class II and IV, manufactured thanks to state of the art gas assistance technology. These light and at the same time resistant mirrors were produced with a view to regulations of the EU. They were designed so as to allow maximum visibility and reduce the level of air resistance. This obviously makes you save fuel.
It should be also remarked that a wide variety of solutions, spotless technology and affordable pricing made the products mentioned above grow in popularity among experts and buyers alike. Nowadays it would we easier to identify the producers which do not take advantage of the TRUCK-LITE services than those that entered contracts with the company. The list of the latter abounds in real giants. For the sake of space we can name but a few, after the first and one of the last letters of the alphabet, namely Aston Martin and Audi and Volkswagen and Volvo respectively. As Mr. Wojciechowski suggests: “Polish manufactures tend to be considered top quality. A “Made in Poland” label makes a powerful case in the course of serious negotiations, especially nowadays when all the producers have to struggle against the deluge of the Asian junk.” Only this year has the Polish branch of TRUCK-LITE gone into partnership with Daimler and MAN Latin America. The business has also launched a campaign in Kuwait, which hopefully will turn into a gateway to the thriving markets of the Near East. The TRUCK-LITE logo has managed to reach all the continents so far. That seems the best recommendation for the businessman to dream of as the facts and figures and their powers of persuasion always convince better than a mere blowing one’s horn.