The evolution of our pre-fab bus product and how innovation works at DIS-TRAN

“There’s always room for more innovation and new things.” – Warren Spector, game designer

DIS-TRAN’s pre-fabricated bus (PFB) product began, as most of our innovations do, by solving a customer’s problem.

Around 2008, we had a wind farm contractor ask us about doing a PFB for a wind farm because they were facing craft labor shortages; they were working in remote rural areas with somewhat extreme weather and environmental conditions not conducive to outdoor welding. At that point, the market didn't even offer the technology to be able to figure out exactly what PFB would do, like we have today.

“In the beginning, we took the bus pipe, knowing it’d be about 10 feet along but not knowing the exact measurement, and we’d leave some extra length,” says John Halle, Midwest Regional Sales Manager at DIS-TRAN. “We welded one end of the bus on our side, then shipped it to the job site where they installed and cut off the excess length themselves. That eliminated most of the measuring and 50% of the welding.”

But it was also just the beginning for the PFB.

We knew the product could be ground-breaking. Even just a partial PFB significantly reduced the negative impacts of dependency on scarce, costly specialty craft as well as the impacts of inclement weather conditions on field welding (and the related safety dangers to personnel).

For example, the PFB helped make short work of this project completed in winter conditions. As the client said at the time, “The PFB helped a lot, especially when you're putting it out, it's sub-freezing temperatures, and you'd rather not have a guy welding fifty feet in the air.”

However, the PFB really came into its own once we were able to match the forward-looking product line with futuristic technology. Three-dimensional modeling software allowed us to get exact specifications and complete a PFB end-to-end. In fact, 3D modeling amplified all the natural advantages of a pre-fab bus. That’s because the advanced software enabled us to collapse design times too (for example, we reduced A-frame design time from a minimum of a week to a single day). The software itself could then populate a full Bill of Materials and provide drawings that could facilitate assembly in the factory.

Our fantastic Project Support Service Center also provided the perfect environment in which to undertake the assembly and construction. “There are a lot of things we can do in our Service Center that others cannot,” says John.

In turn, we were able to pre-fabricate the PFB end-to-end so that, once the product arrived on the job site, it could just be slipped into the structure during installation, requiring only minimal field welding – and occasionally none – resulting in installation times that could happen in less than a day.

That’s how innovation works at DIS-TRAN. It almost always starts with our designers and engineers putting on their thinking caps to figure out how to solve a customer problem or challenge. We think outside the box and come up with an innovative solution. But we don’t stop there. We iterate and improve upon our original solution until it’s the best it can be.