Built to master the flames.

How EMPL is converting the Econic 2635 into an industrial fire-fighting vehicle.

The Daimler Truck AG works fire brigade in Wörth is going to be using the Econic 2635 as its new industrial fire engine. In the previous instalment of our series of articles we focused on the planning and outlining of requirements for the truck. Now, this second instalment is all about the key part of the assembly process: having manufactured the chassis for the Econic, the firefighting vehicle specialists EMPL are now fitting the vehicle with the necessary equipment according to the works fire brigade spec. For the article, we were able to grab an interview with Sales Manager Thomas Moigg, an expert in his field who has been overseeing projects with at EMPL with works and industrial fire brigades since 2011. Die Werkfeuerwehr der Daimler Truck AG in Wörth setzt bei ihrem neuen Industrielöschfahrzeug auf den Econic 2635.

Special-purpose truck bodies: the Econic chassis is the best for the job.

Thomas Moigg, please briefly introduce us to EMPL.

Thomas Moigg: EMPL is a family business headquartered in Kaltenbach, Zillertal, in Tyrol, Austria. We specialise in special-purpose truck bodies – both in the fire service sector and for civil commercial vehicles and authorities. If a special solution is required, that’s when we come in! We produce components on both an individual basis, as is often needed for a works fire brigade, and on a larger scale, which is often required in the commercial vehicle sector and above all in the public authority and defence sectors.

Keyword fire brigade: In this sector, the Econic chassis is the choice of preference for the exacting requirements of these special-purpose vehicle bodies. In your opinion, what advantages does the Special Truck have compared with other trucks?

Thomas Moigg: The Econic chassis is still somewhat of an exotic in the world of firefighting. This isn’t a chassis you see every day! It is a special vehicle and a special chassis, and for this reason, we need to manufacture a special vehicle body in order to make the perfect combination.

The big advantage of the Econic lies in the cab: let’s start with its low access point, enabling the works firefighters to get in and out easily with their protective clothing and breathing apparatus. It has also been exceptionally well-designed when it comes to occupational health and safety. All in all, the cab is simply very well-thought out as it offers a lot of space. The emergency personnel themselves have space for their PPE such as gas measuring devices, thermal imaging cameras, radios and lighting systems. As the manufacturers of the vehicle body, we are able to install everything correctly and professionally, and still leave the driver and front passenger enough room to move easily!

Without specific pre-planning, there’s no successful manufacture.

And an Econic is the perfect fit for complex special-purpose vehicle bodies! So what steps do you have in order to get a chassis for special-purpose vehicles?

Thomas Moigg: Before we start retrofitting, a lot of advance planning is required from the works fire brigade. It needs to outline what its specific requirements are for the chassis, technology and body of the fire engine. The fire brigade then brings us on board quite early on in the process, when we carry out an initial technical check to verify what is actually possible to do with the vehicle and if this is compatible with what the chassis is able to do and what we want to do with the body of the firefighting vehicle?

This planning process takes about a year, and it is only when this stage is successfully completed that an order is actually placed with us. But as soon as this is done, it’s time for work to get underway: coordination meetings are held with the fire department and our technical departments (mechanics and electrics) in order to really discuss everything in detail again before assembly begins. After a final assembly meeting, we go through the entire 3D design of the vehicle body again together. It’s only when we have gone through all of this that actual manufacture begins – starting with ordering any components that need to be purchased as well as in-house parts manufacture.

The Econic at the Wörth plant fire brigade: Safety ex factory.

Detailed work, coordination and testing are the name of the game.

If everything is installed correctly, is the loading process able to begin?

Thomas Moigg: Yes, then things really get going. Each piece of equipment is assigned to a specific equipment room defined by us and the fire brigade. This is followed by the so-called frame structure meeting and approval of the frame structure with the customer.

Does this mean that this is when the customer will see the chassis and the special-purpose vehicle body for the first time?

Thomas Moigg: That’s right. Then, together we look at every single piece of cargo, from the screwdriver to the hydraulic rescue kit, and discuss whether in practice everything is as suited to its purpose as we thought it would be, before the equipment is finally installed. We then document all the firefighting equipment and keep it on the vehicle. This process takes about two to three days.

After that, we start the internal tests. Depending on the vehicle equipment, these take approximately two to three weeks. On the Econic at the Wörth works fire brigade, this will include pump and foam tests as well as of course completing the process with an overall quality control. And when that’s done, it’s time for customer approval. They will check that we have fully complied with our scope of delivery and we will carry out an initial joint commissioning of the vehicle. Provided that no extra work needs to be done, we usually need about one week to complete this step. Otherwise, we carry out the extra work that needs to be done and then deliver the vehicle to the fire brigade.

Flexibility from the vehicle body manufacturer, vehicle training with the customer.

Does extra work need to be done often?

Thomas Moigg: The fact that the project period is so long naturally means that the fire brigade’s requirements will sometimes change. We notice it most of all with our customers from the automotive industry: the rise of e-mobility and the adaptations that plants make as a result of this means that the fire brigades’ requirements change massively. This means that sometimes, different technical materials are needed so that these requirements can be met. And this in turn means that cargo has to be replaced or added to.

That sounds a bit like doing a puzzle on a vehicle...

Thomas Moigg: There are always changes. It’s never the case that absolutely everything fits as you’ve planned. Some things appear to be installed effectively, but then often a different picture emerges in practice. The changes we are able to make are the result of the collaborative work process with the customer – this is vital and also a little something that makes us stand out: we produce special vehicle solutions for individual vehicles. This means that we don’t have a blueprint we have to absolutely stick to and instead, we can really start with a blank sheet of paper and design everything from scratch together with the customer.

Every vehicle is therefore unique.

Thomas Moigg: That’s why we run so many projects for works fire brigades, because every industrial plant will have completely different requirements. No vehicle is the same: each and every one is completely unique.

And the fact that requirements can change several times means that a huge degree of flexibility is required on the customer side.

Thomas Moigg: That is why we are engaged in thorough dialogue with the customer throughout the entire duration of the project. This is because there are many facets to a vehicle and because requirements can change over two years. It happens a lot, but adapting to change is what we are all about.

If the vehicle with its special-purpose body is accepted by the customer, does this mean that the project is completed?

Thomas Moigg: Not yet. Our After Sales team then travels to train the firefighters on site on how to use the new vehicle – this takes one to two weeks. This process is sometimes repeated after a few months so the firefighters can further consolidate their knowledge.

So how long would you say the entire process takes from the initial meeting with the customer to training the firefighters on the finished vehicle?

Thomas Moigg: On average, it usually takes two and a half to three years.

Econic 2635: Design and manufacture: a challenge to overcome.

Talking specifically now about the new Econic 2635 industrial fire-fighting vehicle from Wörth: what stage are you currently at with this new Special Truck?

Thomas Moigg: At the stage we are currently at, we are using the frame as a basis for building the storage compartment, which will go over the panels. We are also in the process of installing the water and foam tank, the centrifugal fire pump and the roller shutters. Alongside all this, we also prepare the chassis. This means that we are already making the first changes to the driver’s cab with regard to electrics. We are preparing cable harnesses and adapting some of the frame attachments from the chassis so that the vehicle body can be positioned correctly.

So what will happen next?

Thomas Moigg: We’ll then paint the body of the vehicle. Once that’s done, we’ll place it on the chassis and start fitting out the interior. This doesn’t just mean the extinguishing equipment built into the fire engine such as the pump and tank but the cargo belonging to the individual firefighters as well. To do this, we have to install various shelves and pull-outs as well as rotating compartments, rotating walls and drawers. So that’s where we’re at now.

What has been the main challenge with the Econic 2635 so far? Have there been any obstacles that you haven’t come across before?

Thomas Moigg: What makes this Special Truck different is the fact that it’s a combination of a logistics and fire-fighting vehicle. The challenge here is definitely the space. We’re actually combining two vehicles into one. It has a centrifugal fire pump, a water and foam tank as well as a foam mixing system – everything that’s needed for putting out a fire. But it also needs to be designed with logistics in mind (such as a loading area on which roller containers holding a range of firefighting equipment can be transported) – making the Econic a true all-rounder.

And accommodating for all of this, all while sticking to the necessary weights and dimensions, is certainly the biggest challenge that the Econic 2635 is presenting us. The vehicle should also be as ergonomically designed as possible.

A story worth continuing?

We will be accompanying the Econic for the factory fire brigade in Wörth over the next few months until it is put into service. Don’t miss any articles – get a free subscription to the Econic News.

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