The best material handling entrepreneurs move through the business landscape like lightning through a ground. Rather than waste time or energy, they take the shortest path to success, making the most of each opportunity that presents itself along the way. Before their competitors have time to blink, they’ve reached their goal—a profitable bottom line. In this, The MHEDA Journal‘s “Power Issue,” we pay tribute to those companies that exemplify those traits. (Plus, we really like the “power” of their names.) Read on to learn what makes these four companies truly powerful.
Powerfleet, Inc. Powered By Innovative Container Handling
In 2002, Ken Mouritzen founded Powerfleet Inc. in Arlington, Virginia, as an extension of the container handling equipment company he originated in South Africa. Ken’s sons Dean and Ryan serve as president and vice president, respectively, and the family business is focusing on its niche market to spur growth on both coasts.
Much of Powerfleet’s business is conducted with logistics providers, ports, manufacturers and container freight stations, which is one reason why the company will move into a new facility in Jacksonville, Florida, in 2008. As the company gains more of a foothold and spreads the word about its container handling products, the company is poised to capitalize on two distinct industry trends. “One is the return of empty containers back to China because of the trade deficit, which currently is a big problem for shipping lines. Companies can afford to ship goods right now because the container shipping rates back to China are very low,” explains Ryan Mouritzen, who is based in a sales office outside San Diego. The second trend concerns the chassis on which many containers sit. “Operators either want to stack or shuffle containers back and forth. It’s a huge investment to have a bunch of chassis, and it is not conducive to true savings at the end of the day.”
Powerfleet strives to have maximum customer contact, visiting and working alongside them to come up with a solution in a mutually beneficial relationship. “We can’t just go there and expect them to do what we tell them. We need to interact and understand the critical issues clients face,” Mouritzen says. “That symbiotic relationship, working alongside the customer, really does separate us. Being a smaller company, it enables a lot of freedom that our customers really enjoy.”
Employees are expected to study their customers’ industries to be able to provide the best solution. “We look for team players with a level of independence. They need to know the markets they work in, so some significant initial experience is necessary,” Mouritzen says. “We offer some leniency in that, if they find a better way of doing it, we want them to run with it. Make the customer happy.”
It’s all part of Powerfleet’s entrepreneurial culture. Mouritzen says, “We take pride in all of our employees thinking on their feet, being knowledgeable and having a good time while they’re working. They’re taking an active role in where this company is going.”
The path of the company is determined through a three-stage strategic planning process: What does Powerfleet do, for whom do they do it and how does the company excel? “First, we offer customers new ways to conduct their businesses. We do it for the small and big players because our products offer viable savings to anybody across the spectrum of the industry. We excel because we offer different, sometimes simpler, ways of thinking and finding ways around using the standard equipment out there that you think you have to use,” Mouritzen says. “We’d rather match the equipment to the process rather than the other way around. If we follow these three guidelines, our strategic goals of growth, increasing revenues and increasing profits will follow.”
It’s a strategy that has yielded positive results over the past several years. “We pride ourselves on finding the right tool for the customer’s job,” says Mourtizen. “Sometimes the status quo is the best way to go, but we constantly challenge our clients and ourselves to do things better with whatever products are available. Customers appreciate our honesty that if we can’t help them with our niche products, we’ll tell them so. We try to push them in the right direction and work alongside them and come to the proper conclusions.”
That plan is paying dividends, and the company continues to be innovative, inventive and customer-focused. As Mouritzen says, “We must constantly offer new solutions because the industry will not stand still for us, and we’re dead in the water if we don’t focus on our customer. We’re able to achieve these things because we’re small and focused on niche products. It’s a better strategy for us than being heavy with employees and facilities.”
Lift Power, Inc. — The Power Of One
Lift Power has had two events in its history that had significant impact on its growth and development and propelled it from a small, Jacksonville-oriented forklift sales/service company into the multi-branch organization that exists today.
The first significant event took place in 1971, when L.D. Mohrman created the company with the financial backing of several investors, including his father. Several years later, his father, L.D. Mohrman Sr. purchased all the outstanding shares and Lift Power became a family owned and operated business. Also, during these early years, a contract with Crown Equipment Corporation provide the company with exclusive distribution of their premier quality forklifts and parts in North Florida. Paul Mohrman, the current owner and brother of L.D. Mohrman Jr., states, “We really saw the potential for the Crown line of products and with their help, patterned our internal organization after their factory-owned shops. Lift Power has since acquired distribution rights for Komatsu, Doosan and Landoll lift trucks.
To complement Lift Power’s lift truck and parts distribution, a sister company, South Atlantic Systems, was formed to provide customers with engineered systems, including warehouse design, rack installation and conveyor layouts.
In an effort to give our customers the maximum service possible, Lift Power maintains a fleet of 40 well-stocked service vans, an extensive inventory of quality parts and a service department that provides total response as it operates 24 hours per day, seven days a week.
Lift Power maintains a fleet of used and rental vehicles for immediate delivery and have established a dock and door division that offers design, product, installation and repair.
Mohrman attributes the company’s growth to its long-term management stability and consistent philosophy. “The emphasis is on long-term relationships, whether with our customers, our vendors and our employees,” he says. “We strive to be the supplier of choice in our marketing area with emphasis on the highest quality of product and service at competitive prices. We want to be an employer of choice to our employees by offering fair compensation and an opportunity to grow with us.”
With this philosophy in place, Lift Power has become one of the largest industrial truck distributors in North Florida. The customer base includes the manufacturing industry, plus shipping and warehousing companies. The ports of Jacksonville and Savannah continue to grow and attract many manufacturing and distribution outlets, whether engaged in import or export. Ocala has a strategic Central Florida location for serving this growing state. Thus, Lift Power, with branches in each of these areas, is uniquely positioned to sell and service this important market.
Paul Mohrman is confident that Lift Power is equal to the challenge in the years ahead. He has an experienced and uniquely qualified in Don Hune, whose tenure with the company is approaching 20 years in both sales and operations. The right people are in place. The future is bright. Lift Power is ready.
Experience Powers Dunn/Powers Caster Corporation
In 1993, brothers Dan and Monte Powers acquired the Phoenix location of Dunn & Company, forming what is now known as Dunn/Powers Caster Corporation. In 2003, the company made another large acquisition, purchasing Luna Caster to become the largest non-powered material handling distributor in the state of Arizona. Dunn/Powers carries the largest parts inventory for casters and parts in its area.
“We want to provide the best quality at the most competitive price, and we pride ourselves on having what customers want available in stock,” says Vice President Dan Powers. The company is able to achieve this mission, Powers says, by aligning itself with the best manufacturers.
The staff of nine people is able to offer quality customer service because every person is cross-trained to perform at least one coworker’s job duties. “In a small business especially, there are plenty of opportunities to help out someone else as challenges arise,” Powers says. “We take great strides to have a formal cross-training program in place.”
It should come as no surprise that such a program is important, as Dunn/Powers Caster Corp.’s cornerstone employee traits are friendliness and a willingness to learn. “If we can find someone with those two qualities, then we can educate them about our business.”
Even with just nine employees, Dunn/Powers Caster Corp. boasts experience of over 120 years among all its employees. “You could sum up our culture as friendly and professional,” Powers says, adding, “We definitely acknowledge the employees on any and all of their accomplishments, but they stay motivated through the nature of the business. Every customer provides a different challenge and opportunity, so they can put their problem-solving skills to good use. The personality of the people here and their extensive knowledge base really are our biggest strengths.”
Looking forward, immigration is an important trend facing the company. “Here in the Southwest, a lot of companies in manufacturing and other industries are influenced by immigration issues, so there is some concern about what will happen as regulations change,” says Powers.
Even with that uncertainty, Dunn/Powers continues to search for opportunities to grow. “We’re ready and poised to take advantage of whatever may arise, be it expanding with a racking business or acquiring a bearings company,” Powers says. “We are looking to see what becomes available in the marketplace and how we can complement our existing lines.”
Power Machinery Center Builds On Powerful Foundation
Bob Power, founder of Power Machinery Center (Oxnard, CA), was a businessman who understood how to channel his energies. In 1950, he bought Peterson Tractor, an Allis Chalmers tractor dealership, with money he borrowed from a local farmer. (The farmer later became a valuable customer—talk about recouping your investment!) At the time Power acquired it, the dealership covered only Ventura County, California.
Before long, the chance to grow his business emerged—not from a farm in a neighboring county, but from the wreckage of the Pacific Theatre and World War II. The Navy contracted Power to rebuild cranes that were left behind in the wake of the conflict, and he redirected the company’s resources to accommodate that new mission. Rick Power, Bob Power’s son and the current company president, knows how critical his father’s flexibility was to the future success of Power Machinery Center. “The Navy contract turned out to be a very profitable deal,” he says, “and gave the company a good financial basis for continued growth.”
Around 1956, Bob Power took another fork on the path to success. He bought a single Allis Chalmers forklift and displayed it on his showroom floor. When a friend asked how much the forklift cost, Power had to call the factory to find out, but he came back with the right price. His friend bought the lift truck, launching Power’s career in the material handling industry.
Fast forward a few short years, and Power had turned that first forklift sale into Power Lift Company, a new and fast-expanding division of the company. In 1960, he enlarged the company’s footprint by opening a second branch in Bakersfield, California. Power Lift Company now had coverage across several counties. According to Rick Power, his father grew the business by taking the path of personalized customer service combined with a special talent to gauge customer needs. Power explains, “Many of the areas we covered slowly moved from agriculture to light manufacturing, so we evolved to become a complete material handling dealership.”
The transformation was completed in 1983, when Power Lift Company stopped selling John Deere tractors and Allis Chalmers lift trucks, and switched to Nissan forklifts (then called Datsun). Today, Power Machinery Center offers many different brands and types of material handling equipment. “We sell most anything a warehouse needs,” says Power, including racks, conveyors, shelving and much more. The company is based out of a 33,000 sq. ft. location in Oxnard, California, with a 12,750 sq. ft. branch in Bakersfield, and is staffed by 72 experienced and committed employees. But Power isn’t content to watch the business rest on its laurels—he is constantly alert for new and more profitable ways to conduct business.
Like his father, Rick Power knows that successful companies change with the marketplace, not after it. Power Machinery Center must take advantage of available resources to stay current. “We try to be aggressive and evolve with the times,” he says. “Our industry has been around for a long time, but change is rapid, and opportunity is there for the taking. MHEDA has been quite helpful with that. We attend many of the teleconference training sessions, and I go to the national MHEDA meeting—it’s a great way to meet people.” When a new product comes out, or new software promises to improve customers’ fleet management, Power investigates. The results are on display in both company locations, which feature up-to-date administrative support technologies, including satellite Internet, VoIP, dedicated T-1 point-to-point communications between Oxnard and Bakersfield, online parts ordering and GPS vehicle tracking. “All our technology is geared to produce fast, accurate communications aimed to always improve customer service,” Power says.
At the end of the day, the connection that matters most is the one between Power Machinery Center and its customers, and no technology can substitute for a positive attitude and quality service. Over more than half a century, Bob and Rick Power have instilled those values throughout their business. “The most important thing is attitude, in both customer service and enjoyment of the workplace,” Rick Power says. If the company’s success is any measure, Power Machinery Center’s material handling customers agree with him.