Volume 13 | Issue 4 | Year 2010

“Niche” is neat, efficient and profitable when your name is Manitex International Inc.
A leading provider of engineered lifting solutions, Manitex International specializes in niche products for niche markets, describes President and Chief Operating Officer Andrew Rooke, who could certainly add versatility, innovation and vision to the Bridgeview, Illinois-headquartered company’s profile.

Boom trucks, rough terrain crane and forklifts, indoor electric forklifts, specialized trailers and special mission-oriented equipment – these vehicles traverse the market terrain that Manitex carved out for itself.

“Each piece of equipment is a highly engineered niche product that serves special lifting needs in a range of sectors that include commercial and municipality construction, oil and gas, railroad, military and government,” says Rooke.

Manitex was founded in 1993, incorporated in 2003 and went public in 2006. What began in North America is spreading throughout the world. About two years ago, the appropriately named Manitex International initiated plans to target an increasing number of global markets.

“Historically, Manitex has been a North America-centric business, but starting around 2008, we began driving in the direction of international diversification, which is making us more of a global business,” say Rooke, who joined the company in January 2007. “A lot of activity has been within the United Arab Emirates and in Saudi Arabia. In that world region, we secured the services of a very good dealer who leveraged our attributes and applied them to the construction and the oil and gas industries.”

As such, a healthy and growing portion of the company’s revenues now come from outside of North America, and success in this global direction is underscored by a recent announcement. In June 2010 Manitex revealed that it received new orders that totaled approximately $5 million. About 25 percent of the orders involved international customers.

“Also, about $4 million of the orders were for boom truck cranes, and a good chunk involved our export business,” says Rooke. Another $1 million was for specialized military handling products, he adds.

As Rooke earlier indicated, Manitex International’s roots are in North America. The company rapidly grew via an aggressive acquisition strategy. In 2009, Manitex made two major acquisitions that brought additional specialized engineering products into the organization and increased its market share. In July of that year, through a stock purchase, Manitex acquired the Badger Equipment Company, a Winona, Minnesota-based manufacturer of specialized rough terrain cranes and material handling products. “That took us into a related but new sector,” Rooke points out. “We recognized the chance to get into a new market, and we seized the opportunity.”

Then, in December 2009, the company acquired the operating assets of Load King Trailers, an Elk Point, South Dakota-based manufacturer of specialized engineered trailers and hauling systems typically used for transporting heavy equipment.

In June of 2010, further underscoring its global push, Manitex announced that its newly formed Italian subsidiary, CVS Ferrari, SRL, entered into an agreement to operate – on an exclusive rental basis – the business of CVS SpA, a Milan-based designer and manufacturer of a wide range of reach stackers and related lifting equipment that serves the global container market through an extensive dealer network.

All of this helped Manitex International to carve out its “niche,” so to speak, which includes a significant market share. “Only a limited number of manufacturers get involved in the particular niches we cover,” observes Rooke. “But we compete against some very large players, yet we’ve been able to succeed because of our recent acquisitions, as well as our strong focus on our core activities.”

One of the company’s key differentiators is that it targets (in quite specific fashion) its customers’ requirements. Further, by targeting specific niches, Manitex possesses a sharper focus than some of its competitors and, in turn, is better able to respond to customers’ needs.

Appropriately, its manufacturing approach is quite focused, too. “We try and hone in on what we perceive are our most significant advantages, which involves equipment assembly, thus we do a limited amount of fabrication, which varies from location to location, depending on where we believe our expertise is required in the process,” explains Rooke.

The company’s locations include its boom truck business that operates in a facility in Georgetown, Texas. The subsidiary manufactures and then markets a comprehensive line of boom trucks and sign cranes through a national and international dealership network, according to the company. The boom truck and crane products find application in industrial projects, energy exploration and infrastructure development, including roads, bridges, and commercial construction.

“Then, our principle material handling operation, located just outside of Toronto, Canada, is home to our Liftking business,” adds Rooke. This Liftking subsidiary came into the fold following a 2006 acquisition. Established in 1968, Liftking became well known for its line of heavy-duty, straight-mast, rough terrain forklifts. Today, it provides material handling equipment such as the Noble straight-mast rough terrain forklift product line, the Lowry high capacity cushion tired forklift, Schaeff electric indoor forklifts as well as specialized carriers, heavy material handling transporters and steel mill equipment. Manitex Liftking’s rough terrain forklifts are used in both commercial and military applications.

“We also have an equipment distribution segment based at our Bridgeview headquarters, just outside of Chicago,” reports Rooke. Specifically, this crane-and-machinery focused division distributes products such as the Terex truck and rough terrain cranes, Fuchs material handlers and Manitex’s own product line. It also provides after-market service in its local market, and it is a leading distributor of OEM crane parts, supplying parts to U.S. and international customers.

The organization is rounded out by the Minnesota-based Badger Equipment division (the rough terrain crane-focused operation), the South Dakota-based Load King subsidiary, and the Italian operation. However, besides providing industry leading engineered lifting equipment, Manitex’s divisions also offer replacement parts to enhance customers’ equipment investments, as well as a wide array of service support and training programs. The company’s innovative “UPTIME” program raised the bar when it comes to parts ordering and tracking service levels. The program provides replacement parts on a 24/7 basis via online ordering and tracking. “Our parts business is substantial, as it represents about 25 percent of our total revenue,” reveals Rooke.

Meanwhile, Manitex plans to stay the course with its aggressive and globe-focused expansion strategy, which will entail both organic growth and acquisitions. As far as acquisition activities, the company keeps it eye out for the most appropriate businesses with the most appropriate products to advance its strategic direction.

“Within this two-pronged strategy, we see organic growth in terms of revenue and continued margin of profitability,” describes Rooke. “Plans in terms of acquisition growth are pretty obvious, after the two 2009 purchases and the 2010 announcement about CVS.”

Like everyone, Manitex endured a very challenging period in the past year or so. Still, it managed to successfully confront the challenges at that same time that it prepared itself for the future and the anticipated market upswing. The company managed to increase its product portfolio and its markets and, as a result, it is now even stronger than it was before the economic storm hit.

The company is seeing a gradual increase in demand in its traditional North American markets, as well as within the international markets that it selectively entered. And the company will continue on this positive path, seeking new products and new domestic and international markets. That’s it’s niche.

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