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Visit to Heil Europe's Manufacturing Operation hosted by Gordon McLean, Engineering Director: Tuesday 27 October 2010.

The Scottish Region paid a visit to Heil's Scottish manufacturing plant on 27 October 2010, hosted by Gordon McLean, the Engineering Director. For 100 years, the Heil name has stood for quality and innovation. In 1973 Heil Europe was established in Fife where the company has built on its engineering and manufacturing know-how to produce refuse collection vehicles for the UK and European markets, as well as those further afield.

Heil's Refuse Collection Vehicles or RCV's are, unlike many other suppliers products, built from scratch and the company has been making RCV's since 1901. In 1973 it set up it's Scottish plant at Dalgety Bay.

After a brief introduction to the company from Gordon McLean, the party toured the plant to see RCV's being built. Starting off with the fabrication area, Gordon McLean explained that Heil builds its bodies from scratch, whereas other manufacturers assemble theirs from bought in products. Heil starts off with sheet steel and received deliveries on a daily basis. The steel used comes in four grades from normal sheet steel to high strength sheet steel for components that need to be stronger.

Design work is carried out on site and the computer generated designs are sent electronically to the plasma burner that cuts the steel into the required shape. Once cut, the steel can then be pressed and rolled to make sections for various components as required.

These components are then welded together to make up various parts and sub assemblies which are then assembled to make up the final body. Heil's modular construction means that different body sizes are easily built and sizes range from 9cubic metres through to 27 cubic metres. Approximately 30% of output is exported, with products going to Germany, Australia, Scandinavia, South Africa and many other European countries.

Heil also makes the various other parts that are used on RCV's to lift bins for emptying into the vehicle, instead of buying these in, although if the customer specifies particular lifting equipment, it can be fitted. The lifting equipment can be specified with weighing facilities to enable billing for refuse collection.

A brand new Front Loader almost ready for delivery.d

A brand new Front Loader almost ready for delivery.

© John G. Fender, 2010

Bodies are built using a strong floor assembly with substantial subframe which ensures even weight distribution. The body sides are one piece and the body can be divided internally to meet customer requirements. Currently front end loaders are gaining popularity and a number of these were seen in various stages of construction. Once the body has been constructed, the hydraulic system is installed. The valve units are bough in, but everything else is designed and manufactured in house. Currently the company is building around 1,200 vehicles a year for the UK market.

Once the body has been built, it is then pressure washed to remove grease and provide a light chemical etch that prepares the body for painting. Painting is by a 2 pack process with a primer being applied first, then the top coat is applied and baked at 80 degrees in an oven. A low volatile organic compound paint is used. Once the paint has dried, the body is then ready for mounting on the customer's chassis.

Once the chassis is delivered, it is prepared for the body to be fitted and this requires the appropriate mountings to be fitted. Flexible mountings are used and depending on the chassis, other modifications may be made. Weighing subsystems are installed so that vehicles will not be overloaded. Heil works with the chassis manufacturers to ensure that modifications meet with manufacturer approval. Power take off's and electrical wiring will be installed along with hydraulic pumps and ancillary equipment. The body is then fitted and the various connections made before testing. Once tested and, the finishing touches are made, such as applying customer decals.

The finished vehicle can cost in the region of £150,000, but the actual price will depend on the chassis and type of body specified. Heil also provides a range of service contracts and can maintain the vehicle for the customer. Servicing and the supply of spare parts in the UK is co-ordinated by a dedicated office located on site. The company also has a technical help desk for customers and there is an on-site training school offering courses in all aspects of the products for customers, for example in the electrical control systems or the hydraulic systems.

The party also visited the major repairs and warranty rectification area where vehicles will be repaired. The company experiences a very low rate of warranty claims, which underlines the high quality of the products produced. Parts can be made to order for older vehicles and even if the design is no longer in production, it is an easy matter to make the required parts owing to the flexibility of the production system. This ensures that customers get the maximum life out of their vehicles.

The Scottish Region would like to thank Heil and Gordon McLean, Engineering Director for enablig this visit to take place.

Further information on Heil can be found on their website at Heil

Report by John Fender


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