Taylor Machine Works is a company on a mission. Eric C. Peterson reports.
Taylor Machine Works Inc. makes heavy-duty materials handling equipment for intermodal, transportation, wood products, primary metals, construction, marina and general materials handling. Simply put, the company makes forklifts (affectionately dubbed the “Big Red” machines) and related equipment. Besides its major presence in the field of moving raw and processed materials, the Louisville, Miss.-based company has one singular distinction: It is the last privately held manufacturer of industrial lift trucks still operating today in the United States.
Founded seventy two years ago by W.A. Taylor Sr. as a small family-owned automotive and repair business, the company (led since 1968 by W.A. “Bill” Taylor Jr.) has grown into a progressive force in the worldwide materials handling equipment industry.
Early New Products
In 1937, Taylor Sr. produced his first conventional timber skidder and loader (it became known as the “Logger’s Dream”) and started a pattern of growth and expansion that has become a characteristic of the company to this day. The “Logger’s Dream” which led to the “Pasture Dream,” a unit that permitted simultaneous application of seed and fertilizer without seedbed preparation.
From there, Taylor branched into a range of agricultural, forestry and reforestation product lines and, by the early ‘50s, had introduced the “Yardster” forklift trucks, according to Bobby Triplett, the company’s manager of marketing services.
By the mid-’60s, Taylor had become one of the most advanced machine shops in the South (if not the country). Its products included everything from a complete line of heavy-duty trailers for transporting such things as gravel and soil, to agricultural implements, reforestation equipment and log loaders, and forklift trucks.
With so much going on, it became apparent that “product specialization had to be established as an immediate goal,” says Triplett. Out of that goal emerged The Taylor Group Inc., now the parent of Taylor Machine Works, a major maker of machines and tools, and several other subsidiaries and divisions. The product line is mind boggling: pneumatic tire forklifts with capacities ranging to 120,000 lbs.; cushion tire forklifts; log stackers; container handlers; reach stackers; rubber-tired gantry cranes; roll-on/roll-off (ro-ro) trucks; tow trucks; and marina trucks.
Taylor sells its products through a dealership network throughout North America and, indeed, in numerous foreign countries (just under 13 percent of its business is international). These massive machines do everything from changing engines on jumbo jets, to manipulating 12-foot-diameter culverts, to transporting cargo on and off ships, to moving pleasure boats in and out of water and dry storage facilities.
The 1990s saw the original company, now totaling more than 1,000 employees, all grown up to meet global challenges, according to Triplett. Today, Taylor Machine Works’ partners under The Taylor Group umbrella include the aptly named Sudden Service Inc. (aftermarket support, including component rebuilding and remanufacturing); and Taylor Environmental Products (wastewater treatment products).
Then there’s Temtco Steel (maker of steel plates, based in Mississippi, with branches in Pennsylvania, Illinois and Arizona). Taylor Power Systems produces a variety of power packs and generators for Taylor products and is a major distributor for Perkins and Isuzu diesel engines. Finally, Temtco Equipment and Taylor Leasing specialize in the sale and rental of the company’s various products. Needless to say, The Taylor Group Inc. provides financial, computer and human resources support for all the Taylor companies.
Needless to say, as an innovator in the business of specialized equipment, the company’s engineers and craftsmen are always looking for the latest technology and components. Its “Big Red” machines are ergonomically designed for safety and comfort, which “turns into more efficient duty cycles and machine operation,” says Triplett. “That provides greater returns on the customer’s investment.”
Taylor’s product lines are dotted with examples of innovation. Its THD Series forklifts, for example, feature Donaldson two-stage, dry-type air cleaners that prolong element life and reduce maintenance. They also have cooling systems that use a large radiator with top and bottom tanks, a coolant recovery reservoir and a low-speed pusher fan. “The seven psi system pressure is much lower than the competition,” says Triplett.
Other features include a one-piece instrument panel for convenient service access; a three-speed, fully reversing powershift transmission; a heavy-duty inboard planetary drive axle with spiral bevel ring gears and pinions (designed for increased flexibility); and inboard wet disc, hydraulic-actuated brakes.
As far as lift capability, the ULTRA-VU telescopic mast allows forward vision for the operator. An 11-foot mast is standard, with 13-, 15- and 18-foot heights available. Masts are nested-channel construction with multiple leaf lift chains.
On a Mission
All this adds up to a roughly 30 percent market share for Taylor Machine Works in terms of the U.S. lift equipment market. As far as the specific industries it supplies, more than 37 percent of its business goes to the intermodal field. After that, come wood and lumber (16.4 percent) and metals (14.6 percent), followed by the marina industry, rental fleets and concrete.
Taylor’s corporate mission statement pretty well sums up what this progressive, privately held company is all about. That mission is “to provide our customers with the highest quality of products in the world, backing them up with the most responsive aftermarket service organization available while maintaining a sound financial structure for our shareholders, vendors, community, and customers.
“We will provide for our employees a challenging and rewarding environment in which to grow and prosper,” the statement continues. “We will continue to maintain the three watch words our company was built upon – faith, vision, work.”