Lancaster County trailer maker takes years of sales to the drawing board
An East Earl Township manufacturer started with what it called a “clean sheet of paper” when it decided to design a new grain trailer for its customers.
The manufacturer, M. H. Eby Inc., finished with what it believes is an improvement on other products already on the market.
“We weren’t interested in building a me-too product,” said Travis Eby, president of M.H. Eby, which makes livestock trailers and other agricultural equipment. “Why would anyone buy it if it was just like the other major brands?”
Grain trailers are used alongside other equipment during harvesting. The trailers are loaded through an open top, while trap doors can be opened to release the grain from the bottom.
Trailer sales in the U.S. are dominated by two manufacturers, Timpte Inc. and Wilson Trailer, which split approximately 85 percent of the market, according to Eby.
With over 30 years of experience selling the competition’s grain trailers, Eby said M.H. Eby and its designers wanted to create a trailer that would last longer and look different. M.H. Eby employs 220 people and had revenue of $99 million in 2017.
One focus of the company’s designers was the wheel used to open the trap door underneath the trailer, said Eby. The wheel, which cranks open the door as it’s under the pressure of a full load of grain, is the piece of equipment handled most by the user and can be difficult to operate.
M.H. Eby incorporated a larger, greasable wheel that offers additional leverage to users. Eby said that while the solution seems simple, the design of existing products can make it harder to introduce changes.
“The competitors’ products evolved over time. When you get your process in place, you don’t want to change it,” Eby said. “The legacy products have existing geometries that make some of the angles and clearances impossible to change some dimensions.”
The designers of the Generation weren’t confined by decisions on previous products.
To give the trailer a longer life, the company focused on making everything it could out of aluminum and galvanized any steel parts to keep the trailer’s undercarriage from rusting. Competing manufacturers offer less-expensive trailers that use more steel parts, but Eby said his company decided to use more aluminum at an increased price to focus on making the trailer as rust-proof as possible, despite an increase in cost for the final product.
M.H. Eby offers the trailer starting in the upper $30,000 price range through special order and plans to manufacture the trailer at both its East Earl Township and Story City, Iowa facilities.
Base models for the trailer’s competition start at approximately $38,000 according to local dealer Emm Sales & Service Inc. in West Earl Township.
M.H. Eby wanted to differentiate the trailer’s aesthetics, aiming for a streamlined siding, without the visible fasteners and panels found on other agricultural trailers. The sleek finish was one of the reasons why Bob Santini decided to buy a Generation trailer.
“I like the design. It will be easier to keep clean and will stay nice with a lot less work,” said Santini, a farmer in Stewartsville, New Jersey, who specializes in grain, soybeans and corn.
The trailer’s build, made to limit corrosion over the years, was also a positive for Santini, who said he felt the trailer was built to last.
“We will use it every day. The grain we haul, working five days a week and the road conditions all take a toll on a trailer,” he said. “In a week we probably put on a thousand miles, maybe more.”