In the bustling world of heavy vehicle manufacturing, where innovation and quality are paramount, there’s one company that stands out as a shining beacon of excellence.
Sloanebuilt Trailers, an Australian-owned and family-operated business, has earned the prestigious title of Australian Owned Business of the Year 2023, marking a significant milestone in its remarkable journey.
Originally founded in the mid 1970’s by Ken Sloane in Camden, New South Wales, the company serviced the rapidly expanding coal industry. A decade on and Sloanebuilt underwent a transformative change in ownership in 1986 led by Fred and Helen Marano.
Since their acquisition, Sloanebuilt has been at the forefront of manufacturing trailer and tipper bodies retaining an 80 per cent customer retention rate for the past 35 years of operation to continually push the boundaries of innovation.
Being awarded Australian Owned Business of the Year for 2023 reaffirms its dedication to Australian manufacturing and its relentless pursuit of excellence in the Heavy Vehicle Manufacturing industry.
Manufacturers’ Monthly recently met with the senior management team at Sloanebuilt to understand the contributing factors attributed to the company’s unwavering industry success. managing director, Fred Marano spearheaded the conversation providing comprehensive insights from his extensive experience and knowledge gained over the decades being at the helm of the organisation.
He was joined by his son Tim Marano, the director of business development, and Mythili Sarathy, head of strategy and senior management advisor who contributed to this meaningful conversation with the expertise and leadership focused on its manufacturing excellence as well as fostering the next generation and future of Sloanebuilt.
A trailer for every need
Sloanebuilt’s journey to becoming Australian owned business of the year has been marked by innovation and diversification. The company’s focus lies in crafting aluminium tipping bodies and semi-trailers.
With over 100 meticulously designed product variants, Sloanebuilt caters to a wide spectrum of customers from varied industries, including mining, construction, civil, farming, grain, and quarries, demonstrating its adaptability and commitment to serving the evolving needs of its customers.
The company proudly sells its products directly to the Australian market, adhering to the highest standards and compliance with Australian regulations.
Sloanebuilt has a fully integrated manufacturing facility that houses an extensive range of machinery and equipment. Located in Smeaton Grange, the state-of-the-art nine-acre facility boasts seven overhead cranes, drive through bays, a wash bay, grit blasting, specialised heated spray booth with a paint mixing room, water jet cutting machine, aluminium mill, large and small press machines, plasma cutter, weighbridge, a spare parts store, repairs bay and much more.
Sloanebuilt’s distinguishing feature in manufacturing trailers is their holistic approach to retaining customer-centricity across all facets of operations. From the beginning to the end, customers are a primary focus of the company.
Sloanebuilt’s management team said the company aims to build trailers as if they were building for themselves. Treating customers as if they are one of their own to deliver the highest quality.
Among manufacturers, Sloanebuilt is in a unique position in that it sells directly to market, allowing follow ups with clients, providing after-sales support such as service and repairs, spare parts for its trailers.
“The customers that run parallel to us want a company that is not simply sending them a product but working closely with them throughout their journey,” Fred noted.
Sloanebuilt has the capacity to perform repairs, maintenance and refurbishments on a range of trailers and equipment including a wide variety of truck and trailer makes and models.
Servicing its own trailers means Sloanebuilt understands the common issues that can arise with the use of heavy vehicle equipment and can action preventative measures in the production line.
Maximising Australian vendors
One of the key pillars of Sloanebuilt’s success lies in its commitment to sourcing from Australian vendors.. By prioritising local suppliers and materials, Sloanebuilt not only contributes to the growth of the Australian manufacturing sector but also ensures the highest quality for its products.
Sarathy explained that Sloanebuilt source from local suppliers for parts when they cannot be produced in-house to ensure it can maximise quality.
“What we do is we focus on the local market to source some of the best calibre products because it can give us greater control on the supply chain,” she said. “The local vendors also understand the regulations better which helps us deliver impeccable products,” Sarathy explained.
By keeping manufacturing within Australia, Sloanebuilt bolsters local communities, supports Australian workers, and safeguards the integrity of its products, all while embodying the essence of Australian craftsmanship and innovation.
In an era of extensive competition, Sloanebuilt’s dedication to remaining Australian-made not only sets it apart but also serves as a shining example of how Australian manufacturing can thrive on a foundation of quality, reliability, and unwavering commitment to local industry.
The Sloanebuilt way
What truly sets Sloanebuilt apart is its enduring status as a family-owned and operated business. The Marano family’s dedication and determination have been instrumental in shaping the company’s values and culture. While the essential ethos remains constant, the Sloanebuilt team continually strives for excellence, pushing boundaries, and providing innovative solutions for their customers.
Fred Marano expresses the company’s ethos clearly: “We want that culture of what we do to run through the whole business, all the way down to the last person working on the trailers.”
Alongside the extensive Australian supply chain, Sloanebuilt engrains strict quality management procedures in the company culture to ensure that their customers receive best quality trailers.
“We have a strict quality management system that is totally integrated, every manager has a clear understanding of what the expectations are and delivers those goals as a team,” Fred said.
These procedures begin all the way at the hiring stage Sarathy detailed. “Every employee that we hire is of the highest quality,” she said.
“Being a family run business, team leaders have an understanding of what each employee needs to be doing, they look at their skills, their qualities and what training they need to do.”
It is by creating this culture, that Sloanebuilt can streamline production processes, enable better innovation and deliver high quality products that meets standards and exceed all expectations.
Sloanebuilt’s success story is fundamentally tied to its investment in people. The company places great importance on hiring and nurturing talent within its ranks.
From the experienced engineers who meticulously design the trailers to the skilled fabricators, mechanics, painters and welders who craft them with precision, it’s the people behind the scenes who breathe life into every product.
The leadership team’s vision, the trainers who nurture talent, and the support staff who ensure seamless operations all play pivotal roles in shaping Sloanebuilt’s success.
Tim Marano, director of business development, has a very hands-on relationship with the workers and explained in even greater detail the team dynamics.
“By investing in our people with the training and support they need, we are able to minimise downtime, errors and deliver quality products,” he said.
Sloanebuilt, according to Sarathy, is always searching for ‘diamonds’ that will become an asset to the company once they are brought into the fold.
“The question is whether to build talent or buy talent,” she said.
“We are a fast-growing manufacturer, so this is a decision we have to make all the time. We will always have to hire externally, but the plan is always to build from within in the long run, identify key roles and use our talent internally to fill those.”
“By utilising existing team members, they understand our culture and our processes, we have a clear strategy for the growth of our team, and we will continue to follow that,” she said.
In addition to rigorous training, Sloanebuilt actively engages in apprenticeship programs, ensuring that new entrants to the industry receive the support and guidance needed to thrive.
“Even when an apprentice finishes after four years, they may not be 100 per cent ready. But once they find their strength, we can encourage growth and development from there,” Tim noted.
The power of automation in manufacturing
In a world where automation is at the forefront of manufacturing discussions, Sloanebuilt remains committed to achieving the delicate balance between tradition and technology.
Fred Marano acknowledges the potential benefits of robots and cobots while emphasising that these technologies should complement, not replace, the skills and expertise of the company’s workforce.
With a company like Sloanebuilt, so many of the trailers built are customised, making automation challenging and requiring all workers to maintain an ability to adjust accordingly.
“Cobots seem to be the way forward, working in tandem with the machine is a way I can see our production line being sped up and benefitting from modern technology,” Fred explained.
The team at Sloanebuilt does not believe that standalone robots are in the short-term future for the company and expects to use a range of other advance machines and systems to meet the needs of the production line.
Tim explained that Sloanebuilt is considering its options and what will work best for its own processes.
“Robots and cobots obviously have a range of benefits, but we are bringing them in slowly and cautiously to ensure they work alongside our team and don’t replace jobs,” he said.
Sarathy added, “I think it is all about mindful investment in new technology – we cannot risk making outlandish investments that will not benefit the company.”
Customer centricity remains a primary focus for the company in ensuring the successful implementation of these technologies.
“As business leaders we need to understand where the industry is going based on the needs of the customers and not on the want of the technology, we need to always put our clients first and not just blindly follow the direction technology is heading in,” Sarathy said.
Sloanebuilt’s strength and ability to produce custom-made trailers could make complete automation challenging, but the company actively evaluates where technology can enhance their processes without sacrificing the human touch that sets them apart.
Sloanebuilt expects to utilise automation in its prefabrication space in the near future, as it appears to be a more optimistic area and far more cost effective than investing in robotics on the production line.
Looking forward with purpose
Sloanebuilt remains family-owned and determined to celebrate its success by supporting manufacturing in Australia, Fred Marano emphasised. “We’re here not only to support ourselves but also to support manufacturing in Australia collectively,” he said.
“By investing in our people and maintaining our industry-leading quality, we are poised for continued growth,” Fred explained.
As Sloanebuilt propels itself into the future, one thing is clear: its journey of innovation, quality, and dedication to Australia’s heavy vehicle manufacturing industry is far from over.
“We are of course here to support ourselves but also holistically as manufacturers in Australia by supporting each other,” Fred said.
“We bring good people onboard, we train them well and give them that career pathway to remain a critical part of the manufacturing industry.”
“We need to celebrate our industry and show that welding is no longer a dirty and dark profession, it has good, clean and high-quality equipment that is a pleasure to work on,” he said.
Recognising Australian manufacturing excellence
In May 2023, Sloanebuilt was honoured with the prestigious title of Australian Owned Business of the Year. This remarkable achievement marks a significant milestone in the company’s journey highlighting Sloanebuilt’s unwavering commitment to Australian manufacturing and its relentless pursuit of excellence and innovation in the heavy vehicle industry.
The Australian Owned Business of the Year award distinguishes businesses that are advocates of the Australian Owned initiative and have a strong operational focus on Australian-produced and manufactured suppliers.
Sloanebuilt was selected as Australian Owned Business of the Year from over 200 entries across industries demonstrating the company’s commitment to local partners, vendor, suppliers, talent and hence its contribution to the local community, heavy vehicle industry, manufacturing sector and the country.
Its state-of-the-art facility, which served as the venue for the award ceremony, is a testament to its continued investment in cutting-edge technology, advanced manufacturing machineries and processes, safety and quality management systems, and skilled tradespeople, engineers, and admin staff.
As a leading player in the heavy vehicle industry, Sloanebuilt Trailers has become synonymous with focusing on generations of product knowledge, quality awareness, customer centricity, safety conscious and manufacturing excellence.
With a commitment to Australian manufacturing and prioritising local suppliers, Sloanebuilt has supported the national economy, created employment opportunities, fostered a talent ecosystem, and contributed to the local community.
Sloanebuilt were presented with this award by Kristy Ponting, the general manager of Australian Owned whose passion and extensive experience in promoting Australian businesses further highlighted the significance of this recognition.
Ponting commended Sloanebuilt’s unparalleled commitment to quality, safety, and comradery in manufacturing. She attested that the Australian Owned judges panel meticulously selected Sloanebuilt out of 200 entries due to its remarkable capabilities, exceptional processes and being sustainable and consistent in executing it.
Ponting praised Sloanebuilt’s incredible facility and growth over the years as well as the company’s pivotal role in advancing the Australian economy.
“We proudly fly the Australian flag out the front of our site because we believe in Australia and are very passionate about seeing it grow.” Fred said, in relation to the company’s achievement.
“For us, this award just shows we are on the right track, but it doesn’t mean we have reached the end point, we need to keep striving to be better every single day,” he said.
When you buy from Sloanebuilt, you’re not just acquiring a quality product; you’re supporting Australian communities, workers, and the broader manufacturing industry. While proud to celebrate its success, the company is not resting on its laurels, remaining tightly focused on supporting manufacturing and supplier economy more broadly in Australia.
“We are of course here to support ourselves but also holistically as manufacturers in Australia by supporting each other,” Fred said.
“We need to celebrate our industry and show that welding is no longer a dirty and dark profession, it has good, clean and high-quality equipment that is a pleasure to work on.”