Features & Interviews

Manufacturing in Lancashire: Leyland Trucks plant visit

05 November 2014 #Features & Interviews

Few people stop to think that nearly 30% of all the new trucks registered in the UK are also built domestically. One plant with a long back-story is Leyland Trucks in Lancashire, but should it defined as an assembly operation, or a manufacturing plant?

Component assembly at Leyland plant

Component assembly at Leyland plant


The origin of the truck plant in the town of Leyland dates back to Lancashire Steam Motors, founded in 1896. The firm changed its name to Leyland Trucks shortly after production of internal combustion engines started in 1904, and at one time employed 30,000 people. While this is no longer the case, over a thousand employees still design and produce heavy vehicles.  The one million square feet of factory space has a big responsibility as it assembles all the right-hand-drive DAF trucks that are sold in the UK, including the LF, CF and XF ranges. It also exports to over 50 countries with FBU (fully built up), and CKD (completely knocked down) products. Owned by DAF Trucks, and ultimately by Paccar in the US, it is part of the American giant’s European and worldwide product portfolio. And while Peterbilt and Kenworth brands are big in the US, it’s DAF’s flexibility that makes it more acceptable in global markets. Paccar acquired DAF in 1996 and Leyland Trucks two years later.

Role play

Engines, gearboxes and cabs arrive at the plant fully assembled and trimmed, but to describe the facility simply as an ‘assembly plant’ would be to do it a disservice. The plant has sole responsibility for designing and building the light LF range and the 18-tonne CF, so that’s more than a bolt-up operation. However, it’s the home-grown nature of much of the work that qualifies as value-added manufacturing. Apart from running a bodybuilding line with production running at 1,500 per year, they will also produce bespoke bodies to order.

Leyland factory producing DAF

Leyland factory producing DAF

Denis Culloty, Chief Engineer at the plant, says that Euro-6 has thrown a few curved balls their way. He says, “For hauliers who want a simple box-bodied 18-tonner, or a 6×2 tractor, the after treatment designs are well-established and now routine build. But for a lot of customers who need products for specialised applications, it has generated issues that our designers have had to solve.”


An LF 220 chassis destined for Johnston Sweepers is a good example. The customer needed a chassis with no encumbrances in the way of the installation of sweeper equipment and controls, but Euro-6 did exactly that. So the Leyland design team set about a solution that re-shaped, and relocated, all the SCR equipment to the rear of the cab.

It’s a relatively short production run that may have qualified as nuisance value elsewhere, but not at Leyland. Add all these niches up and you have valuable extra volumes.  For example, a light 28-tonne, low chassis height tractor designed for DHL’s Trade Team brewery deliveries has a production run of 100. Meanwhile, another customer’s 6×4 that needs more chassis space has the SCR equipment designed around the vertical exhaust stack behind the cab. In addition to the regular boxes, flats and curtains, Leyland’s own AeroBody on the LF is also reported to be doing well, and DAF’s UK Managing Director, Ray Ashworth, says that bodywork is considered to be simply another item on their options list.

Creative edge

The Leyland design centre, currently in a building at the end of the assembly hall, is in line for a major re-vamp and relocation within the factory to put it among central office functions. The team uses CAD (computer-aided design), CAM (computer-aided manufacture), and CFD (computational fluid dynamics) in the same way as Paccar’s other global sites. The ability to design in virtual space before expensive patterns are commissioned is cheaper and quicker. It also has advantages for production engineers when they are designing build schedules. A 40-stage build process can be minutely examined in the 3D theatre, and decisions can be made that will save assembly staff time and trouble. A new model can be built in virtual space, with assembly teams able to contribute and comment, as can component suppliers. More dynamic design issues can be tackled too. Suspension reaction can be predicted with data from the spring manufacturers imported into the system, and the Belgian pavé section of DAF’s test track in Eindhoven was laser mapped for the recent LF design project, and then brought to the Leyland design centre, virtually.


The plant has a surprisingly semi-autonomous nature. The current Managing Director of Leyland Trucks, Ron Augustyn, has been in command for two years. He agrees that the Paccar culture has imbued the plant, and internal project boards do cooperate between sites, but the Chief Engineer at Leyland reports to Augustyn, not to Ron Borsboom, DAF’s Chief Engineer in Eindhoven. Augustyn told us, “Leyland is firmly embedded in the Paccar global quality process, and it scores highly among its overseas peers.” He’s clearly proud of the Leyland plant’s reputation at the higher management altitudes in Seattle, and he also feels privileged to be a custodian at the front end of a lot of industrial history. Paccar’s ethos is known for being single-mindedly customer-driven, and a company with an unbroken record of 75 years profitable trading must be a shrewd judge of efficient operations.

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