Last year, however, Springer Equipment Company decided it was time to make a change. We decided that it was necessary to go after a new type of customer in order for us to make money. We started looking at which companies were spending money in our market. As it turns out, the people who were spending money are, for the most part, large corporations and not small and mid-sized businesses. We have not historically approached large corporations because their layers of management made it more difficult to get to the decision-makers.
In order to get into the large companies, we decided it was necessary to talk in the language that they would listen to, and that is reduced headcount and enhanced efficiency. They aren’t as interested in talking about buying forklifts or doing the things they’ve always done, because they know as well as we do that the future is uncertain. Reduced operational expense for the long-term is what they’re talking about in strategic planning meetings. And the only way for them to reach that particular goal is through solutions integration.
That meant a big shift for us. We’ve always been in the forklift truck business, but we are now also aligned with some of the nation’s best automatic guided vehicle manufacturers as well. Having the skill and knowledge to provide AGVs and robotics makes a big difference for us. We’ve been able to talk to the large corporations about enhancing their efficiency in the long run, with a return on investment of three years or less in most cases. They’ve responded well to it and are very interested in our solutions.
To gain that skill, we needed to become more aware of how automated systems operate, and that started with me. As I have learned what we need to know, I’ve communicated that with our top management, who in turn communicates it down through our team, including the technicians and parts department. Automated systems require maintenance, service and parts just like forklift trucks do, so everyone needs to be aware of what we’re doing.
The changeover has been successful thus far, and it appears to be even more so going forward. Cost-cutting will continue to be the mantra for a while, I think, so automation and efficiency enhancement will be what end-users are focusing on. When times were good, people got away with overlooking some expenses, but not anymore. It’s up to the material handling industry to find the most prudent, cost-effective, efficient, safe and secure way for end-users to bring goods from a raw material to their finished state. That’s our job. And if that means changing the way we operate so that our customers can still reach their objectives, then that’s what we’re willing to do.
|Meet the Author
Ted Springer is president of Springer Equipment Company, located in Birmingham, Alabama, and on the Web at www.springerequip.com.