This is a survival story. And a good one at that. Snorkel is a 45-year-young company having recently announced the successful completion of its first year in business under a new owner, representing a rebirth of sorts.
“In 2003 we have made significant strides in providing parts and technical services with a simplistic approach to doing business,” says Leslie McHugh, Inside Sales and Marketing Manager for Snorkel. “We are customer focused, responsive, priced competitively, number one in quality and on-time deliveries. During 2003 we have provided products, parts and technical services throughout America, Canada, Europe, Northern and Southern Asia to our customers.”
Snorkel is once again getting back to the business disciplines that made it a key supplier in the aerial industry worldwide. But not long ago, Snorkel hit a glitch. It was acquired by a company that just wasn’t a good fit. “We didn’t fit the mold of the businesses within this company,” says McHugh. The company floundered at first, but still managed to stay afloat. Then, things slowly turned grim. Business eventually got so bad, the company nearly shut down.
Thankfully, in late 2002, a group of private investors purchased Snorkel. “It is a diversified group made up of local investors – one from New York and a long time Snorkel supplier who was familiar with the industry and the product. He knew the product was the cornerstone of the industry,” says McHugh. ” He was close enough to the business to know it was a tremendous opportunity.”
The purchase included the Snorkel facilities located in Elwood, Kan., Australia and New Zealand. Building on the strengths from the past, the group brought Snorkel back. “At the point of that purchase we were extremely close to being closed down. But we refused to throw in the towel. We knew that if the right people came along, we could resurrect and start over,” says McHugh. “So in January 2003 we started picking up the pieces.”
Sky’s the Limit
Snorkel has always been a worldwide supplier of high quality industrial, maintenance and construction aerial equipment: articulating booms, telescoping and jib booms, self-propelled scissorlifts, and towable lifts designed for use on surfaces from slab to rough terrain. Its customers include equipment rental companies worldwide and end users are usually contractors, construction sites, and building maintenance contractors.
Its roots extend to 1958 when Snorkel Fire Equipment Company was founded to market the Snorkel, a revolutionary new elevating platform designed for fire fighting and rescue work. In 1964 the facilities were moved from Grandview, Mo. to St. Joseph, Mo. The Squrt articulated boom water tower and then the Tele-Squrt combination aerial ladder/water tower soon followed. These products set the standard for aerial fire fighting equipment.
In 1977, Snorkel entered the construction/industrial market with the first Snorkelift telescoping boom aerial work platform. Much of the advanced design technology and experience gained through the years of serving the fire fighting industry, including the use of aluminum telescoping booms, and state-of-the-art hydraulic and electrical systems, were incorporated into this new product line.
Snorkelift machines quickly became the industry leader in terms of quality, low maintenance cost, greatest dependability and performance. Their resale value in the used equipment market is unsurpassed by any work platforms available in the world market. Each year new Snorkel booms have been added to the product line giving the company a wide range of telescoping and articulating/telescoping booms from 37-foot to 126-foot ground to platform height models.
The company capitalized on an opportunity in 1988 to complement the Snorkelift product line by acquiring Economy Engineering Company, the world’s leading manufacturer of self-propelled scissorlifts and ground entry vertical lift work platforms. Economy’s history dates back to 1901 as a manufacturer of material handling and commercial elevating equipment. The first Economy scissorlifts were introduced in the late 1970s and quickly became the world leader in that portion of the work platform industry.
Many of the old standby Snorkels are still in the product line. “We have a very aggressive new product plan in the works now because the past few years we weren’t afforded the time to work on new product introduction,” says McHugh. There is a full set of new jib products on tap. We’re going to expand our jib products significantly, making them more flexible and have more working range than a straight boom. We should have three new jibs out by the fall.” Snorkel will also be offering more enhancements and additions to its existing products.
It also will introduce two new electric scissorlifts before the end of the year. “These will be honed versions of our original products designed to meet market demands,” says McHugh. “We’ve had requests for scissors that can fit in narrower spaces and higher, tighter areas and we’re doing everything we can do meet customer demand.”
Once Snorkel was back on its feet, it got its very first order from Star Rental in Washington, a long time customer. “It was exciting to hear comments from our customers. We didn’t understand the scope of what was going on and the emotion surrounding our pending closure because we were so wrapped up with things internally,” says McHugh. ” We were extremely encouraged by the support received from our customers.”
While Snorkel has believed in its products for years, the response from its customer base was a real boost. “It was an awesome feeling to know that support was out there,” says McHugh. “When we felt that energy coming from the outside and saw it continue by having long time customers step up to the plate and place orders and bring new customers on board, we couldn’t have been more thrilled.”
And Snorkel is happy to report it’s back in full force. “From production to manufacturing, every facet is back in full force. And we’re looking to grow all of the pieces of the business, expanding globally,” says McHugh.
In 2003 Snorkel re-employed a significant number of top quality former Snorkel
people, offering a competitive employee benefits program, installed a new more effective operating system, improved paint and general delivered quality, provided on time parts shipments, and introduced a factory recondition/repair program and first year profitability.
“We are moving forward at a prudent business pace so we consistently deliver as promised with quality products,” says McHugh. “The focus continues to be on providing top quality, innovative products at a reasonable price to the rental industry. Our goal is not to be the largest aerial work platform manufacturer but to be the best. When it comes to our core values we will be second to none.”