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A Pierce County success story

By Staff | Feb 2, 2018

Jesse Fritz finishes assembling a truck bed.

When the doors opened for Rugby Manufacturing in 1969, there were 14 workers on the production line and 10 workers in office for a total of 24 employees. Today Rugby Manufacturing is one of the country’s leaders in truck bed manufacturing and truck and trailer hoists in the U.S. and Canada, employing more than 100 workers. It is one of Pierce County’s largest employers.

Rugby Manufacturing is not a ‘walk-in’ store front where merchandise is sold. The people of Pierce County don’t often see what it is that is built here. Products are sold by distributors. They use trucking companies to ship truck beds, hoists and other accessories to their distributors throughout the U.S. and Canada. In the late ’80s, Rugby Manufacturing had 10 warehouses.

“Today, we have 350 distribution centers throughout the United States and Canada,” Jeff Duchscher, general manager, said. “We only sell through our distributors. It’s much like buying a Ford Truck. You don’t go to Ford, you go to a dealer to purchase your truck. Unfortunately, then the community does not see daily what it is we do. We welcome the chance to share what we are doing with the county.”

Each week, 12 large trucks ship out truck beds, hoists and truck accessories to locations throughout the country and Canada. Rugby Manufacturing contributes to the local economy also, not only through jobs, but through support work such as trucking, plumbing, supplies and materials. Employees buy homes, their spouses have jobs, and they shop locally for groceries, furniture and day to day needs.

“Next year, we will be celebrating our 50th anniversary in Rugby,” Duchscher said. “We are doing well, and each year since the 2008-2009 recession we have increased our sales and growth. I see no reason that will not continue in this financial climate.”

“We anticipate growth in employment, in our manufacturing staff. The office and management staff will hold, with most adds to staff coming from our welders who we hire experienced and the rest of the jobs are mostly trainable. We will spend a month or so training for those positions. I don’t mind training new employees. We are always looking for people that want to work at a stable company, with great people,” Duchscher commented.

In the manufacturing environment, Duchscher commented that most work “is with materials of less than fifty pounds.” Large conveyor lines and robotics handle the rotation of equipment, which allow employees to easily access the materials, in tight places without lifting. Duchscher said his safety record was very good due to the employees knowledge and longevity of workers, and the new equipment.

The plant has three areas, and has expanded to 160,000 square feet which includes a smaller, older area that was the original plant. It also has designated space for research and development which is ongoing. The company also has a dedicated staff.

“Many of our truck bodies, are small bodies class 3-7 and are used in the Northeast part of the United States. These truck bodies are very efficient in large cities, where there is not a lot of room for large trucks to drive throughout towns, like Boston. The bodies are built to order, shipped weekly, and manufacturing has expanded to two working shifts to increase efficiency and meet demand.”

Rugby also designs and manufactures more hoists than any company in the world. These hoists are factory tested for ruggedness and durability right here by the Rugby research and development staff. The new equipment is built and painted in the plant, and rotates on a large conveyor belt around the plant floor.

Rugby joined TBEI, Inc. (Truck Bodies and Equipment International) in 2005, and is taking advantage of TBEI’s know-how and technology. In 2015, Rugby Manufacturing received its ISO 9001:2008 certification which is an industry standard for excellence.

From the fields of the past when Rugby Mfg. was a small agricultural equipment manufacturer to the present day, Rugby Manufacturing is today a cutting edge truck expert for Pierce County and an iconic member of the business community.

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