Three-decades old and celebrating its 30th anniversary, Bandit Industries Inc. is a leading manufacturer of wood chippers, stump grinders, and other wood processing equipment. The founder loved the raccoon imagery that forms the company logo. But there’s nothing cute about what this company does to competitors, reports Dan Harvey.
Bandit Industries has clawed it share of the marketplace, a fact underscored by the raccoon logo. The raccoon looks cute, but this is one tough company, as reflected by its success and its rugged machinery.
The Remus, Mich.-based enterprise gained large market share by transforming basic tools into unique iterations – in the process leaving competitors behind. Many companies offer landscaping tools, but Bandit Industries’ output – the hand-fed brush and wood chippers, whole tree chippers, stump grinders, forestry mowers, and waste-reduction machines – is characterized by company innovations that differentiates. Customization is a key word. Bandit doesn’t take the assembly line approach. Rather, it takes a team approach. Team members foster better quality control and incorporate features that customers have asked for. In several cases, new product ideas come from customer input.
All of this happened in a three-decade span, and that’s remarkable. Established in 1983, Bandit is observing its 30th anniversary, a reason to celebrate its position as one of the largest developers, marketers, and suppliers of the aforementioned equipment.
It all started when Mike Morey, Sr., built the first Bandit Chipper in 1983. This occurred in a modest 6,000 square-foot facility, where only six employees helped convert a repair facility into a vibrant production site. From there, Morey spread his message – which took him on a 15,000-mile tour wherein he could communicate the value of what his company innovated. Results were immediate: customers purchased.
Company spokesperson Christopher Smith looks back at the beginnings. “Success began with the very first chipper – the Model 100 Brush Bandit, he says.
As far as the beginnings, it only took a year to generate $90,000 in sales, according to company lore. Another Morey family member soon came into the business fold: At the behest of Mike Morey, Jerry Morey came in to handle marketing and sales. This happened in 1987, a time when demand for chippers significantly increased.
That milestone was followed by a period of expansion, when employee numbers increased along with manufacturing space. According to reports, starting in 1990, Bandit added six manufacturing sites – which translated into an expansion every two years, or a 40-fold increase.
Today, the company boasts 240,000 square feet of production space. “And Jerry Morey is now the company’s president,” says Smith.
Bandit now provides jobs for more than 400 people, and its Michigan facilities are located at two manufacturing sites outside of Mount Pleasant, placing operations in a centrally located region that best serves its customers and industry needs. Indeed, Bandit’s whole tree chipper plant recently underwent an expansion that enables the company to direct equipment production toward the ever-growing biomass marketplace.
Large Customer Base
As far as customers, Bandit serves a gamut. “Customer base ranges from the small tree-service businesses – which you might consider as ‘mom and pop’ – to national tree service companies,” informs Smith. “Also, we serve the loggers and the local governments [municipalities].”
To be more specific, land clearing operators, utilities, and those that seek to make recycling both a business opportunity and a social responsibility use Bandit technology. “We’re not wasteful,” says Smith. “Results of our technology contribute to renewable energy.”
Fuel, That Is.
Innovation comes with collaboration. “Our growth is based on customer feedback,” says Smith. “This involves the tight-knit relationship we’ve developed. Our ear is open. We listen very closely to what our customers say.”
Customers know what they want; subsequently, Bandit Industries supplies them with what they need.
Customers communicate their needs very forcefully. “We’ve made meeting their needs our primary concern,” says Smith. “Communications involve customers talking with our engineers. They tell us, ‘We are working on a project with this machine, and we are looking for this result.’ That kind of communication can go into our next line of equipment. Our machines aren’t cookie cutter, which is something we’re proud of. We extensively use new technology – for instance, advanced welding techniques – in creating machines. That translates into durability.”
For sure, Bandit Industries’ equipment is applied in environments that require the highest level of durability.
Bandit provides clients a complete line of high-quality, dependable hand-fed chippers, whole tree chippers, stump grinders, forestry mowers, and waste reduction units. Main components of its unique, innovative product line include:
- Hand-fed brush chippers – The company offers 17 different hand-fed chipper models – more than any other chipper manufacturer. A wide variety of disc- or drum-style chippers are available, ranging in size from six-inch to 21-inch capacity. Further, the hundreds of options enable customers to select the chipper that best suit their needs.
- Stump grinders – Bandit offers a wide range of stump grinders to suit any size job. Ten models are available, ranging from small 13-horsepower handlebar units ideal for rental stores, to 200-horsepower self-propelled track stumpers suitable for large land clearing operations.
- Whole tree chippers – Bandit Industries offers eight towable and six self-propelled whole tree chipper models – again, this is more than any other similar manufacturer provides. Bandit pioneered the self-propelled market by offering the industry’s first track whole tree chipper in 1990. Disc- or drum- style chippers are available, ranging in size from 18-inch to 36-inch capacity with engines boasting more than 1,000 horsepower. Numerous options and styles are available. As such, Bandit is able to supply a whole tree chipper that suits any job.
- Beast® recyclers/horizontal grinders – Bandit Industries offers four towable, four self-propelled, and four electrically powered Beast recyclers/horizontal grinders. These extremely versatile machines process everything from stumps and slash to construction waste, shingles, tires, plastic pallets and more. The equipment ranges in size from16-inch to 45-inch capacity with engines characterized by more than 1,000 horsepower. Further, all Beast recyclers/horizontal grinders can be outfitted as electric units. This enhances capability and efficiency.
- Forestry mowers/track mulchers – Bandit Industries has seen the future of forestry mowing and high-production land clearing, and it responded with a comprehensive line of track crawlers. The units provide incomparable hydraulic power, a huge amount of engine horsepower, and the highest level of operator comfort.
In addition, Bandit Industries offers the highest quality wear parts – which positively impacts customer production and reduces maintenance costs and machine downtime. Bandit can also offer solutions for its own machines as well as machines from other major manufacturers.
Along with product and production expansion, Bandit Industries is always adding to its dealer network. “This is increasing our reach, and quite rapidly,” says Smith.
Its dealer network is the envy of the industry, as it fosters better customer relationships and emphasizes dealer training in sales and support. At recent count, the company has 150-plus dealer locations in more than 50 countries.
In the first quarter of 2013, the company added three new dealer locations to its North American market. In the past two years, the company has nearly doubled its sales volume, added 180 employees, and 24 new dealers in the US and Canada – numbers that underscore how the company continues growing.
The new dealers serve customers in northern and southern Florida and central Canada. They carry Bandit’s line of hand-fed wood chippers and stump grinders in addition to complete parts and service support – as well as the Zenith chipper knives and Revolution stump grinder cutting systems available for most major chipper/stump grinder makes and models.
Meanwhile, the company continues operating as a team. “This is a ‘family’ company, and that’s just not in the blood sense,” comments Smith. “Everyone – at every level – works together toward a common purpose. As such, we consider it crucially important to take care of our employees. We realize the bottom line in this kind of relationship: when we make money, our employees are making money. When you stop and think about it, employees make it all happen. At the same time, we’re not looking for employees to do it all. We don’t just look for ways to improve our products; we also look for ways to improve the workplace experience. We have a ‘we’re in this together’ mentality.”
The result is a win-win-win situation: for the company, its employees, and – especially – Bandit Industries’ customers.
“Ultimately, it is the community that benefits,” says Smith.
And the community is global – as Bandit Industries sells products in Europe, Asia, New Zealand and Australia.
Bandit Industries has earned the trust of professionals throughout the world, the company points out.