Thompsons UK

The Thompsons Group is the UK’s No.1 tipper bodybuilder; a market leader that builds and sells more bodies than all its competitors combined. Find out how they have leveraged SOLIDWORKS to improve their design process…

Thompsons UK is the largest manufacturer of steel tipper bodies for rigid vehicles – A rigid vehicle comprises a cab and a chassis, whereas articulated vehicles have a cab, called a tractor unit and a trailer – Thompsons also installs the tipping gears and cranes as specifically required by the customer. Every tipper body is based around a standard design but is subject to bespoke alterations.

Prior to the investment in SOLIDWORKS, all designs were based around hand drawn diagrams that are not only time consuming to produce, but impractical to modify for each variant of a design type. This problem was exacerbated by business growth and reached a critical level when a second factory was opened in Blackburn. The business has moved away from being just a steel box on the back of a chassis to one where Thompsons UK now supplies the solution for the whole vehicle system. This has led to a huge leap in additional equipment, each one needing drawings and control. The complexity of products has obviously increased and this is now more controllable through SOLIDWORKS.

Neil Griffin, Engineering Manager at Thompsons UK said: “Due to the size of our products (around 6-7 metres long, 2.5m wide and 1m high), it is often impractical to build a prototype body. However, using SOLIDWORKS, a full assembled model can be produced, sit it on a chassis and have a pretty good idea of what the finished vehicle will look like before committing to building it.

Also by making models of all our sub-components, we can dynamically check how the moving parts work together before making them and ensure that we do not introduce problems, which won’t be found until further down the production line.

The introduction of SOLIDWORKS has not only led to better designs, due to the ability to see the final product before building it, but better repeatability of design on the shop floor because the full drawing is available. Furthermore, we are now able to try and use similar parts across a range of products, reducing inventory.

Creating and controlling drawings specifically for a customer allows us to know what we did for them when they come back in 3 years time for a repeat order.

When a customer visits our factory, we can show the complete digital assembly using SOLIDWORKS. When they are not here, I can also send them an executable eDrawings model, which they can manipulate on their computers without having any CAD software. E Drawings has also proved to be a very good sales aid because with a laptop you can show you customer solid models of a variety of different vehicles in their own office or in a quarry or anywhere you want. This does seem to impress them because they can see their vehicle and also it conveys a high tech professional image of our company”.

Thompsons UK have recently purchased a laser-cutting machine and now use SOLIDWORKS drawings to input directly into the Laser software to produce machine programs, saving time and eliminating the chance of errors.

Scott Burton, Thompson’s UK Sales Manager said: “Innova Systems have been extremely good in that they have always been on hand when I have a technical problem or query and also the SOLIDWORKS training courses have been very useful in learning a few new hints and tips

As a company we are constantly striving to improve the way we operate our business for the benefit of our customers and our company in-turn. By embracing technology we are finding new and more productive ways to build and design our tipper bodies. SOLIDWORKS represents a significant step forward for our operation and we have found that we are able to eliminate errors, and be more innovative and creative with our designs. Ultimately, this means we are more profitable and can stay leaps and bounds in front of our competitors”.