Manitowoc Boom Trucks is using innovative products and sales techniques to grow its business. Eric C. Peterson reports.
Simply put, in a market that’s crowded and competitive, Manitowoc Boom Trucks (MBT) has established itself as a force to be reckoned with through a combination of innovative products and creative marketing and sales strategies. One of those strategies was the implementation of a national accounts sales effort. “The advent of national equipment-rental chains greatly challenges traditional distribution channels,” explains Jay Shiffler, western regional sales director for MBT’s parent, Manitowoc Crane Group. “The rental companies – like Hertz, National Equipment Service, RSC/Prime, The Cat Rental Store, NEFF and others – are creating additional sales opportunities requiring dedicated resources and focused attention.”
Located in Georgetown, Texas, MBT was founded in 1987 and was known as Manitex. The maker of truck-mounted booms and cranes acquired USTC in 1998, and Pioneer Cranes early last year. Just about a year ago, the three companies were combined into one named Manitowoc Boom Trucks, which produces boom trucks with capacities between 10 and 42 tons and maximum tip heights of 166 feet. It also produces a line of trolley and articulating booms, and rough-terrain fork lifts.
Late last year, MBT was organizationally combined on the sales side with Manitowoc Cranes, Inc., Manitowoc Remanufacturing, Inc., and Femco Machine Company to form Manitowoc Crane Group, based in Manitowoc, Wis., and arguably the industry’s dominant force. The parent Manitowoc makes everything from cranes and booms to vending machines and dispensers, walk-in freezers and refrigerators, and ships.
Returning to MBT and Manitowoc Crane Group as a unified sales entity, “we formerly had regional sales managers for boom trucks and cranes covering overlapping territories,” says Larry Weyers, who heads the sales force for Manitowoc Crane Group. “Our new arrangement has created more but smaller sales territories, each with a single regional manager responsible for both types of products, cranes and boom trucks.”
For MBT in particular, tying its sales effort to the emergence of the national equipment-rental companies “was all about high-volume orders,” says Shiffler. Before the recent reorganization, he was the vice president of sales and marketing for MBT; now, he’s the western regional sales director for Manitowoc Crane Group. The University of Cincinnati grad has more than two decades of experience in the lifting industry.
Individual Needs, National Scale
“Our national-accounts program allows us to focus more on the needs of each individual account,” Shiffler continues. “The companies all operate very differently from each other, and our more focused approach enables us to find the easiest way for each particular company to do business with us.”
But there’s no overlooking the company’s traditional dealer network, of course. As Shiffler explains it, “We’ve had to become very adept at communicating the big picture to our distributor network. We’ve let them know how the rental market has transitioned in recent years, and they’re realizing that the 10- to 17-ton boom-truck market has become fiercely competitive. So we’re helping them focus on larger units that offer better margins.” MBT has also created a generous parts and service incentive program that rewards dealers who handle warranty claims and service issues brought to them by the rental chains.
The emergence of national accounts has provided an additional marketing benefit for both MBT and its dealer networks: exposure. “The more equipment-rental chains buy, the more the MBT brand is out there,” says Shiffler. “They’re increasing our customer base. The more our equipment is seen working in the marketplace, the easier it is to sell.”
In fact, some MBT distributors have themselves been purchased or absorbed by large rental companies. One example is Falconite of Paducah, Ky., which is now part of National Equipment Service. “Managing new and traditional channels of sale will continue to be a challenge,” Shiffler says. “But our grass-roots approach has really paid off.”
The size and scope of MBT’s product line is mind-boggling. The C Series, for example, encompasses some 20 models with nominal ratings of from 10 to 30 tons. The series’ wide-stance, A-frame style outriggers provide optimum ground penetration. Other features include dual-operator stations; load-moment indicators or hydraulic capacity alert systems, depending upon the model; optimum crane strength-to-weight ratios; quick-reeve boom points; and grooved and negative draft angle drums.
The T Series features more than a dozen models with capacities from 10 to 30 tons, and offers the largest variety of capacities and boom lengths. The S Series’ dozen or so models have nominal ratings of 21 to 42 tons. Features include a continuous 360-degree area of operation; wide stance out-and-down outriggers; fully extended, intermediate and fully retracted outrigger spreads, and turret-mounted operator’s platform.
Finally, the X Series offers five models with ratings from15 to 28.8 tons. This series’ unique feature is a patented X-type outrigger design. Its other features include a 500-degree area of rotation and a 360-degree area of operation, plus walk-through operator’s control stations, and offset jibs (in line, or offset 15 degrees or 30 degrees).
So, when all is said and done, what’s the big seller right now? According to Shiffler, cranes mounted on a 33,000 GVW single-rear-axle chassis are the most sought-after products by the rental chains.
Support on the Scene
In terms of product distribution, MBT is truly global. Besides its distribution network in North America, the company’s products are plying their lifting trade in far-flung corners of the globe, through partnerships MBT has developed with companies across Europe and in the Asia-Pacific region. “We’re strengthening our international distribution in order to provide greater on-the-scene support,” Shiffler explains. “Our continuous R&D, acquisitions and joint ventures will expand our product offerings worldwide.”
For the future, “Manitowoc Boom Trucks will endeavor to continue to add value to our products and services through a commitment to excellence in people, equipment and processes,” says Joe Conway, executive vice president and general manager. “Quality is built into our products with superior customer-focused planning and execution.
“It is our philosophy to pursue the opportunities that exist for improvement in all phases of our operation, while we continue to grow our business,” Conway concludes. “Passion, focus and customer sensitivity are our hallmarks, and are the catalysts for our success in the ever-changing marketplace.”