Creating Custom Knapheide Service Trucks With the SOLIDWORKS Suite

Creating Custom Knapheide Service Trucks With the SOLIDWORKS Suite

If you look, you can find them everywhere. Municipal parking lots, farm fields, remote forest roads – maybe even your trusted local plumber.

Custom built to fit countless industries and unique applications, the Knapheide Manufacturing Company has become the most popular manufacturer of work truck bodies and truck beds in North America.

But they didn’t get there overnight. For six generations, Knapheide family has helped the business evolve and grow – from craftsman wagons to becoming the large-scale manufacturer that it is today.

Humble Beginnings

In 1848, German immigrant Herman Heinrich Knapheide started the Knapheide Wagon Company in Quincy, Illinois. Known for their high-quality craftsmanship, his wagons gained popularity among farmers, miners and pioneers and earned a reputation for specialization.

As advancements developed, Knapheide evolved. During the third generation of family leadership, the company switched gears (quite literally) to installing wagon bodies on Ford Model T chassis – and the rest is history.

Since then, the Knapheide Manufacturing Company has perfected the craft of developing and installing highly customized work service trucks to satisfy the evolving needs of the transportation industry.

Custom service truck bodies with Knapheide ManufacturingCustom service truck bodies with Knapheide Manufacturing

Managing the Workload

It’s one thing to produce thousands of service trucks. But creating thousands of customized service trucks is another thing entirely. With hundreds of product models and customizable options to choose from, there are endless possibilities of unique trucks to try to manufacture.

Not to mention about nine million parts to keep track of.

That’s where the SOLIDWORKS product portfolio comes in.

Efficiency is key when you’re manufacturing at such a large scale, and SOLIDWORKS PDM has helped immensely. “SOLIDWORKS PDM helps by providing a structured workflow, and multiple transitions within workflows,” says Marty Ohnemus, CAD Administrator at Knapheide. The company has seen immense communication improvements with SOLIDWORKS PDM, as well as document control and linking, adding conditions and revision history.

"We're a fast-moving environment and a lot of the business is both custom and standard," he said. “We can make changes for the customer and go back to previous versions [with SOLIDWORKS]. It all speeds up the process."

Knapheide engineer utilizing SOLIDWORKS revision controlKnapheide engineer utilizing SOLIDWORKS revision control

Automation is Key

For Justin Steele, Specialty Products Engineering Manager, DriveWorks has been the tool that has made all the difference. His team handles special projects that don’t fit the mold of typical Knapheide offerings, and they often have to develop creative manufacturing solutions.

But this work can quickly become monotonous with tedious manual steps.

“The biggest hurdle we had was the amount of mundane tasks in design work; creating the drawings, creating the bills of materials, adding notes, dimensions and tens of thousands of parts throughout product iterations,” Justin remarked. “But leveraging DriveWorks allows us to automate those mundane tasks so that designers can focus on the fun part – which is the design cycle.”

Not only that, but DriveWorks opened a communication bridge between designers and those on the shop floor, allowing them to provide detailed 3D models that they weren’t able to keep up with the demand for before. “They can measure, pull things apart and get that extra perception,” said Marty. This has made the production process much more efficient by creating a communication path and allowed users to open CAD files from others even if they’re on a different shift.

Communication opportunities with SOLIDWORKS tools for Knapheide ManufacturingCommunication opportunities with SOLIDWORKS tools for Knapheide Manufacturing

Another tool that has revolutionized the way that the Knapheide manufacturing floor operates has been SOLIDWORKS Composer. With the software, designers are able to create incredibly detailed sets of installation instructions and all of the necessary documentation. Assemblers don’t have to guess where things need to go, which hardware needs to be used – and every document can be color coded and have exploded views with arrows and labels.

Boosting Skillsets with SolidProfessor

For a company as large and diverse in their product offerings as Knapheide, it’s important to keep their engineering and manufacturing teams up to date on training and the latest software enhancements.

That’s where SolidProfessor and its expansive library of learning resources comes in.

While they used to rely on training manuals, their team became quickly frustrated as new features and enhancements of the software were continuously released every six months. With SolidProfessor, designers can be constantly engaged and learning by taking classes, finding questions to popular questions and dramatically reduce downtime.

“You always have to be moving forward,” said Marty. “Our motto is ‘Never Settle’ and we want to always move forward and do the best we can to our customer.” And for them, that includes having a well-trained organization.

Watch the Knapheide Story


For generations, the Knapheide Manufacturing Company has continued to change their product line as well as their production cycle as new innovations were released. But one thing has always stayed constant – their passion for creating tailored products that enable their customers to be the most effective in their work.

And for Knapheide, the SOLIDWORKS suite of tools has helped them accomplish just that. As VP of Engineering Chris Weiss said, “SOLIDWORKS allows us to put a complete vision of our product together.”

Curious about how any of the SOLIDWORKS tools can make a difference in your organization like they have for Knapheide? Learn more about these impressive solutions and contact us at Hawk Ridge Systems today. Our dedicated team of engineering and manufacturing professionals will be happy to help!

May 25, 2022
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