A Mix of Clouds and Sun
By Mary Lou Jay
Uncertainties about the U.S. fiscal cliff, the U.S. and global economies and the effect of four more years of an administration unfriendly to small business is having a negative impact on suppliers’ and manufacturers’ outlook on the materials handling industry for the coming year.
Many of those interviewed had strong results in 2012, but even those who expect a similar increase for their own companies in 2013 are less optimistic about the outlook for the industry as a whole. Most companies are looking for only moderate growth, and several mentioned the possibility of a slowdown in the second half of 2013 or a double-dip recession due to economic policies. Food, beverage and pharmaceuticals are anticipated to remain the strongest markets in the coming year.
Only a handful of those surveyed expect to add to their facilities in 2013, but that may be due, in part, to the fact that several already grew their space sometime during the last two years. About half said they had already hired new employees in 2012, and had no need of more people; many of the remainder have at least tentative plans to bring on more administrative, customer support and/or manufacturing personnel. Those companies who are hiring frequently cited the need to ensure that they can accommodate their customers’ increasing demands for up-front, solution-providing support and faster turnaround and delivery times. A large percentage of the responding supplier companies said that their biggest investment in the coming year would be in their staff; others mentioned technology and equipment upgrades.
Although the online world in the form of social media has been embraced by some suppliers and manufacturers, most seem to be taking only tentative steps and are adopting a “wait and see” attitude. The most popular social media site appears to be LinkedIn, which companies use both for professional contacts and employee recruitment. Other businesses are posting videos on YouTube as a means of sales and customer education. Few companies seem convinced, however, that Twitter and Facebook are beneficial to building business in a B-to-B environment. Some companies do report positive results from using social media, but others who have made it part of their outreach efforts find it hard to point to definite benefits they have gained from that investment.
If growth in 2013 slows as expected, businesses may try to do more on the social media side to develop business opportunities. But if some of the looming uncertainties are resolved quickly, and businesses and investors do not take too hard a hit when the current tax codes expire, they may find that they don’t have to take that route, because 2013 goes better than expected.
Under current conditions, however, suppliers and manufacturers know that their customers, like consumers, are approaching spending warily – and that could have a negative impact on the economy and on the industry as a whole in the coming months.
3D Storage Systems Ltd. (Newmarket, ON, Canada) Although Mike Inger, sales design, said 2013 sales can be hard to predict, the company hopes to grow by 10-20 percent next year. “We’re increasing our marketing efforts, developing a new website, traveling to the U.S. and getting in front of the dealers there,” Inger said. Although many companies in today’s competitive marketplace are focusing on the lowest priced products, 3-D Storage Systems plans to focus on selling a service and adding value for its customers.
Big Lift LLC (Lombard, IL) Big Lift is a small company compared to some in the forklift industry, but Bill Pedriana, director of sales/marketing, says that gives the company an advantage. “As the economy goes through its ups and downs, we can react quickly to trends; that’s something that has led to a lot of growth for us.” Pedriana projects 25-30 percent growth for Big Lift this year, which may come in part from the introduction at ProMat 2013 of its new retailer order picker. The company’s continued focus on products for retail food and staples handling – markets that continue to do fairly well – should also help its sales.
Bluff Manufacturing (Fort Worth, TX) “We think we’re going to be up in 2013, but the degree of increase depends on the direction and implementation of tax policy by Congress,” said Cathy Pringle, director of marketing and sales. Bluff Manufacturing is committed to providing better customer service, speeding up new product introduction and building stronger supplier relationships, and is hiring and training the staff required to do just that. Bluff Manufacturing is educating customers about its products (including its new mezzanine line) through an information-filled website, which includes a product selector feature that helps customers get the best solution for their particular application.
Bolzoni Auramo Inc. (Homewood, IL) Ronnie Keene, vice president, sales and marketing, has some concerns about the 2013 outlook for the material handling industry since his own company’s sales activity has slowed considerably in the second half of 2012. “What’s worrisome for me is that’s what happened in December 2007,” he said. Nevertheless, he is expecting sales to remain at least level in 2013, sustained by key national accounts that continue to purchase new attachments and dealer sales that are improving because small end users are finally making some long overdue attachment replacements. The company will also begin importing and selling forks manufactured by its new China plant in 2013.
Borroughs Corp. (Kalamazoo, MI) Many of the markets that Borroughs serves, including automotive, retail fulfillment and records storage, languished early in 2012, then picked up again. With those customers doing better, “We anticipate sales will be up by about 25 percent in 2013,” said Tim True, vice president, sales and marketing. The company’s most important investment this year will be equipment for the manufacturing process, he added. “We’re trying to increase capacity and reduce costs.” Borroughs is likely to add staff in manufacturing and in its work centers, and is investigating either expanding facilities or adding offsite storage.
Caster Concepts Inc. (Albion, MI) Sales efforts and acquisitions will be driving an expected growth of around 8 percent for Caster Concepts in 2013, according to Bill Dobbins, president. Improved efficiencies will allow them to handle the increase with current staff, but the company does plan to expand its present building by adding 20,000 sq. ft. of space. Caster Concepts has invested in engineering and sales staffing over the last few years to meet customer needs. “The best defense is a good offense,” said Dobbins. “We are going to be on the offense.”
Cherry’s Industrial Equipment Corp. (Elk Grove Village, IL) Companies that don’t want to hire more employees, but do want to get more productivity out of their plants may turn to ergonomic equipment to accomplish that goal, according to Cherry’s CEO John Costello. For that reason, he believes that his company, whose primary business is ergonomic products, will experience an 8-9 percent sales increase in 2013. “It seems like both manufacturers and distributors are spending money; there’s a pent-up demand that is finally coming through,” he said. The company will be investing in updated CRM software and will be introducing an e-commerce website during the coming year.
Colson Caster Corp., The Colson Group USA (Jonesboro, AR) Brad Kish, marketing manager, forecasts continued sales increases for Colson Casters in 2013, especially since it has made significant investments in its U.S. manufacturing capabilities to compete with imported products. “We see a growing demand for U.S.-made products; our customers want reliability, and they don’t want to wait for long lead times. They can reduce their inventories by using more U.S.-made options,” he said. Colson Casters will introduce a U.S.-made two-inch wide caster series for the commodity-type market in 2013.
Columbia Machine (Vancouver, WA) “We had a record year in 2012 by all measures; we’re looking at staying flat – but flat at record – in 2013,” said Ted Yeigh, sales director. “There are some aging equipment and aging systems out there that need to be upgraded, and people are investing in automation in a big way.” Among Columbia Machine’s new products in 2013 will be an inline, floor-level, hybrid palletizer with a very high throughput capacity. “It’s capable of handling any package type that we can put at it – large, small, with a high center of gravity – and the pattern-forming capability is virtually infinite,” said Yeigh.
Cubic Design (New Berlin, WI) Growth in the material handling mezzanines market, shifts in market shares and new products should drive a 5-10 percent increase in sales for Cubic Design, according to John Moore, vice president, marketing. The company’s new products include pipe racks (overhead support structure for piping, conduits and any kind of facility support system), canopies and moveable platforms. “We launched a food grade platform late in 2012 that’s designed to conform to food and beverage manufacturing requirements for clean design,” Moore said. “We’ve created a product line that gives customers options from the warehouse all the way up to a more sanitary environment.”
Damotech Inc. (Boisbriand, PQ, Canada) Already the largest pallet rack repair company in North America, Damotech will be expanding its product line in 2013 to add additional protection devices as well as devices that increase warehouse efficiency. Robert Brooker, co-president, hopes that warehouses’ increasing need for safety will lead to growth for the company. “It’s hard to tell; we seem to be trending up, but things can change quickly, especially following an election year,” he said. Damotech is expecting to add manufacturing and engineering staff in the coming year, and will be looking for a new facility as well.
Douglas Battery (Winston Salem, NC) Brian Faust, director of sales, said uncertainty about the economy and the political situation make it difficult to predict what 2013 will be like for Douglas Battery. During the recession, as companies consolidated their facilities, they would move chargers and batteries around rather than purchasing new. “But we’re beginning to see that a lot of that equipment is nearing the end of its life. It gets to the point where you can’t repair it; you have to replace it.” Douglas Battery will be enhancing its charger products to keep them efficient and on the cutting edge of technology.
East Penn Manufacturing Co. Inc. (Lyon Station, PA) Customers in 2013 will continue to put a greater emphasis on productivity and efficiency, said Doug Bouquard, vice president sales/general manager. “Customers are looking to suppliers to work with them in coming up with a better solution for their operation, and they want suppliers to bring a knowledge-based value to that solution. We’re gearing our sales and service operation to meet that demand going forward.” The company will accomplish that through sales training, development of its people and by getting back to the basics of understanding applications.
EBS (Houston, TX) “Customers demand more automation now than they used to,” said Ron Rogers, president/COO. “That’s good for us; that’s what we’re here for.” After a good year in 2012, however, he anticipates that sales will remain relatively level for 2013. During the year ahead, EBS will be developing Web applications that take some of its software’s features and functions mobile. That’s because equipment dealers are seeing how much easier and faster it is to invoice when they are able to capture electronically everything for an invoice from charges for parts and labor to signatures and notes, Rogers said.
EcoZohm LLC (Mooresville, NC) CEO Ed Bice is pessimistic about the economy since the current administration won another term. He fears a no-growth 2013, since he believes customers are more likely to be sitting on cash because of the administration’s policies toward business. The company will continue to enhance its product line to include the latest LED technology, although plans to add staff will be on hold until it can determine if there will be any growth this year.
eliftruck.com (Tinley Park, IL) Despite some concerns about continued consolidation of equipment dealerships and the possibility of a double dip recession, Art Arellano, president, expects to see a 10-15 percent sales increase for elifttruck.com in 2013. “Distributors are becoming more aggressive online and using many venues to market their used equipment,” he said. To help them in this process, Eliftruck.com will be introducing a revised website and an Internet marketing service program (developed by a dealer) in the coming year. It will also continue to offer leads through its Lead Genius division.
EMH Inc. (Valley City, OH) After several very good years, EMH is expecting sales to remain fairly flat or up just a little in 2013, depending on how the overall economy fares. “We will be investing in new ERP software to help us keep things moving. Customers want quicker delivery, better tech support and more documentation,” said Darryl Kozel, marketing manager. The new software will help the company keep track of all of its manufacturing capacity so that it can keep more jobs going at the same time. ”EMH is also focusing on improving delivery time frames in 2013, especially on standard items.
EnerSys (Reading, PA) Jeff Long, vice president, sales/service, is predicting only a modest increase of 5 percent in 2013 sales, although the company will probably add two new distribution centers to the 40-plus it already has. EnerSys’ outlook could be negatively impacted by rising commodity costs, however, specifically the cost of lead, which increased 14 percent from August to September 2012. As for new products in 2013, “We will be using technology to reduce costs for end users; one in particular will be a productivity improvement,” Long said.
Engineered Lifting Systems & Equipment Inc. (Elmira, ON, Canada) After a 26 percent increase in sales in 2012, Richard Kat, vice president of sales, anticipates a growth of up to 10 percent this year. One of the key growth elements will be the expansion of their product line with the introduction of the Restuff-IT, a companion to the Destuff-IT product. “The Restuff-IT improves productivity by providing ergonomic benefits to workers that are loading floor-loaded containers and trailers,” Kat explained. He finds, however, that customers are increasingly likely to ask for ROI calculations before investing in any product. “They want to know how their investment is going to pay them back,” Kat said.
Ergologistics LLC (Fargo, ND) After a 400 percent increase in sales in 2012, President Aaron Lamb is expecting another robust year for his two-year-old company. “There’s a growing focus on ergonomics and worker safety, on helping workers lift and lower safely,” he said. “Our units now function with remote for virtually hands-free operation. In 2013, however, we are going beyond that to introduce a system that lifts and loads automatically for a true hands-free interaction with materials.” Ergologistics will be adding some customer service staff and investing in R&D to allow it to continue to develop innovative technology for the materials handling market.
Fairbanks Scales (Kansas City, MO) Although 2012 started out well, Brad Grindstaff, director of channel development, saw a flattening in the last quarter and expects 2013 sales to be flat or only slightly increased (3-5 percent). The company will introduce a new line of bench scales and re-release a dual platform scale in 2013. “The bigger potential for us is the addition of a fork truck scale that has some wireless technology built in,” he said. “That means faster in and a little lower first cost, plus all the benefits of not having to use a static floor scale for a warehousing weighing application.”
Hamilton Caster & Mfg. Co. (Hamilton, Ohio) 2012 was a record year in Hamilton Caster’s 105-year history, and Steve Lippert, executive vice president, expects that growth to continue at a moderate 6-8 percent pace. That’s due to the “tremendous level” at which the company’s plant and support staff have performed, Lippert said. “Customers have really embraced the fact that we’re delivering quality products on time,” he added. The company will be introducing a new “Hamilton rugged” caster, available for next–day shipping, in the second quarter of the year. Hamilton Caster will be adding staff as needed and will be addressing its long-term need for space in 2013 as well.
Handle-It Inc. (Milwaukee, WI) Vice President of Operations Dean Johnson reports that his company’s sales reps have found customers in a relatively upbeat mood about 2013. Johnson shares that outlook, expecting an approximately 5-10 percent growth primarily because of two new products. One is a line of stretch wrap machines that will make it easier for material handling dealers to take advantage of opportunities that they see in the market. “We’ll also be launching a quick-ship program for our configurable scissor lifts. We’ll be able to ship at a 24-48 hours notice, as opposed to the traditional three to four weeks,” Johnson said.
Hanel Storage Systems (Pittsburgh, PA) Hanel Storage Systems expects to continue its outreach to dealers and industry customers through social media – specifically LinkedIn – in 2013, according to David Schneider, marketing manager. “Our primary goal with social media is not so much to promote the product, but it’s more about networking and trying to get in touch with and stay in touch with people we interact with all the time.” Hanel sales reps are also using YouTube videos to answer customers’ questions, providing not only a visual one-on-one response for a particular customer, but also offering a resource for other customers who might have similar questions.
Hawker (Ooltewah, TN) Dean Portney, Hawker’s vice president of sales and marketing, is looking for a sales increase of 5-6 percent in 2013, driven by general customer demand. “We’ve experienced continued growth year over year and throughout the recession,” he said. The company expects to release new products in 2013. “We are constantly enhancing and innovating,” Portney said. “Our products are targeted at reducing costs, and are thus great for all customers.”
Heli Americas (Memphis, TN) President/CEO Bruce Pelynio hopes to see growth somewhere in the 8-9 percent range in 2013. “There is still some pent-up demand that has not been satisfied from prior years,” he said. But while companies need equipment, tight credit makes it difficult for them to get the money they need for purchases. Heli Americas hopes to attract buyers with an expanded line of Class 3 products and a new line of Class 5 products. “We’ve tried our best to keep our products use-friendly from a maintenance interface standpoint,” he said. “We don’t add technology for technology’s sake.”
Hytrol Conveyor Co. Inc. (Jonesboro, AR) Although Hytrol will be marketing a new sorter and a new design for pallet handling equipment in 2013, company president Gregg Goodner doesn’t anticipate the same kind of growth in 2013 that his company experienced in 2011 and 2012. Sales should still increase by 4-7 percent, he predicted, but won’t be as robust because some of the pent-up demand for upgraded equipment has already been filled. But Goodner remains upbeat. “If I were to look at the material handling industry moving forward, between now and 2020, it will be a growth industry,” he said. “Companies will be introducing new products and new technologies.”
InCord (Colchester, CT) CEO Chip Merrit is expecting a sales increase of between 7-9 percent. “In our material handling division, in addition to our traditional pallet rack and conveyor netting, we will be re-introducing products that help our distributors differentiate themselves in the marketplace, like Cart Nets, MezzNets and elevated Rack Guard Systems,” he said. Over the past two years, InCord has tripled its inventory position and more than doubled its production capabilities to meet customers’ demands for InCord’s “almost limitless product options and incredibly fast turnaround times,” he added. Training for all staff members in 2013 will aid in this effort as well.
Intelligrated (Cincinnati, OH) After moving into larger offices at the end of 2012, Intelligrated will begin 2013 with “double capacity in headquarters and room for growth,” said Jim McKnight, senior vice president, systems sales and marketing. He expects 5-10 percent sales growth due to key customers who have provided repeat business and new customers that the company has acquired in the past few years. “We’ll be introducing new products for our zero pressure accumulation conveyor, including a zone control module that adds more features. We’re also coming up with an integrated print and apply product with printing head, conveyor and scanners all in a standard package.”
Intralox (Harahan, LA) “We are projecting strong growth of 25 percent in the material handling and logistics industries in North America in 2013; due to new products and improved position, our company will have more of the market share,” said Mark Costanzo, logistics sales manager. Intralox plans a “major introduction” of new products in both the second and fourth quarters of 2013. Costanzo sees opportunities in the parcel industry, which, unlike the warehouse and distribution markets, has just now started to embrace automation in its operations.
Jifram Extrusions Inc. (Sheboygan Falls, WI) Although Jifram Extrusions has been building custom plastic pallets for several years, it only established a business unit for this product three years ago. “We expect this business to be up by 50 percent in 2013,” said Wayne Meyer, director of sales and marketing. “There’s a niche there, and we think it’s such an opportunity that we’re going to invest even more resources behind it in 2013.” To meet the anticipated demand, Jifram will be investing in machinery that will help it to reduce lead times and produce custom-built pallets for customers within a few days.
The Kennedy Group (Willoughby, OH) “We are looking forward to diving into 2013,” said Kevin Marrie, director of sales and marketing. After 20 percent-plus growth in both 2011 and 2012, the company is expecting to add more sales people and plant employees to keep up with the demand for its line of material handling products, returnable containers and RFID tags. It also added space to two Florida production facilities last year. “We have seen tremendous growth in the returnable containers area over the past couple of years, and the market continues to grow,” Marrie said.
Kinetic Technologies Inc. (Wickliffe, OH) Although Larry Tyler, vice president, sales/marketing, expects the company’s 2013 sales to be level with 2012, “That’s a good thing, since we had a record year last year,” he said. “We are in the prototype development of new product solutions and are already doing investigative work for lean projects that are slated for 2013.” Tyler said that his company releases new products all the time, since 80-90 percent of its work is specific to individual customers. “Customers want more lean design offerings and modifications to fit brownfield applications,” he added. “They need creative solutions to help them.”
LiuGong Forklift Americas (Katy, TX) 2012 was LiuGong Forklift Americas’ first year of distribution in the North American Market, so Ken Biediger, manager of product development and product marketing, expects to see significant growth in 2013, fueled by new dealer startups. The company will be adding staff to support that growth and considering options for expanding its physical plant by the end of the year. “Customers are tired of spending more money than they want for lift trucks,” said Biediger, noting that many trucks are too complex and include features that customers don’t want. “We offer them a more practical option with our cost-effective design philosophy.”
LTW Intralogistics Inc. (Emigsville, PA) President Daryl Hull sees LTW Intralogistics coming into its “sweet spot” in 2013. “U.S. companies are trying to reduce their warehouse operating costs, and everything we do circles around that,” he said. The company will be introducing a new product at ProMat – “what I call a solution for a very efficient mid-level case pick operation. The other important factor is that it connects the automated warehouse to manual case lifts,” he added. “It reduces the space that they need, which reduces operational costs by allowing one location in a warehouse to be used for multiple SKUs.”
Morse Manufacturing Co. Inc. (East Syracuse, NY) “Domestic growth has been modest at best for us, but international sales have been increasing,” said Nathan Andrews, president. Those international markets should help the company achieve about a 5 percent growth in 2013. “We’ll also be introducing a groundbreaking product for us, a power-propelled unit,” he said, adding that the new unit will offer a high level of quality and functionality for customers. Andrews also expects the company’s custom work to grow in the coming year. “Customers are increasingly looking for customized solutions that meet their specific need to increase productivity.”
Narrow Aisle Inc. (Dallas, TX) “I think our sales are going to be up by 15-20 percent this year,” said Warren Cornil, president. He attributes the increase to “hard work and improved market awareness for this niche market product. It’s more and more recognized as a viable solution.” The company plans to introduce its AC-powered product in 2013, probably by the end of the second quarter. The company has also instituted a new aftermarket service support program, and has focused its advertising and marketing efforts away from traditional media and to the Internet. “We’re already seeing some improvement from that,” Cornil added.
New Age Industrial (Norton, KS) “Based on what we’ve done in the past four years, we are definitely going to be up anywhere from 50-75 percent in 2013,” said Bob Brackle, national sales manager. New Age Industrial has already increased its workforce and will probably expand its facilities in 2013 to meet demand for its customized, heavy-duty aluminum transportation and storage products. The company’s use of social media has “definitely increased awareness of the types of products that we make and opened some new doors for our sales people,” Brackle said, adding that another plus is the company’s manufacture of its products in the U.S.
New London Engineering (New London, WI) Vice President Dale Trudell thinks that uncertainty in the U.S. and the world business climate could lead to a 10-15 percent downturn for New London Engineering in 2013. From the conveyor perspective, Trudell sees customers requiring more individually focused products. “You don’t see very much off the shelf anymore,” he said. “We used to see 50-foot-long conveyors, but you don’t see them now, at least not in a manufacturing environment.” The company will be investing in new software in 2013 to help it manage pricing better.
Nissan Forklift Corporation NA (Marengo, IL) Political and economic uncertainties may depress capital spending into 2013, and that’s one of the reasons that James Radous, vice president, sales/marketing, is taking a conservative approach in predicting a less than 5 percent increase in 2013 sales. Nevertheless, Radous continues to see pent-up demand both in the U.S. market and in the entire Western hemisphere, especially South America. One priority for Nissan Forklift this year will be technology products, including online resources to assist its dealers. “We’re trying to further educate the dealer, make engagement more online, real time, which provides a great opportunity for dealers who want to step up their games,” said Radous. Another focus will be the company’s fleet management system, which will offer customers the total solutions package that they appear to be looking for these days.
Omtec Corp. (Marlboro, MA) “We’re anticipating sales being up in the realm of about 30 percent with hopes of going much higher,” said Shawn Masciarelli, sales manager. The company will introduce two new product lines at ProMat, including an extruded aluminum bench line. “Having a lightweight workstation that can hold the same amount of weight as a welded-steel frame, costs less to ship and has a much more high tech look is definitely going to drive the market for this,” Masciarelli added. The company’s most important investment in the coming year will be tooling and marketing for its new product lines.
Panel-Built Inc. (Blairsville, GA) Panel-Built’s intended move into the West Coast market should help it grow about 10 percent in the coming year, said Conrad Walker, marketing/quality manager. That should lead to an expansion of both staff and facilities. Panel-Built will be introducing a new barrier rail/guard rail design in 2013 called the integral sleeve guardrail. “Instead of bolting it together, as you do with a standard guardrail, it slides in and out so it’s easier to access whatever you’re blocking off,” Walker said.
Philadelphia Scientific LLC (Montgomeryville, PA) As lean operations become ever more important in distribution and warehouse operations, Philadelphia Scientific’s battery watering and battery charger management systems will provide feedback to help companies reduce waste, according to Harold Vanasse, vice president, sales/marketing. With the company’s addition of new products in 2013, including a charger management center for smaller distribution centers and a simplified, less expensive system for larger customers, he expects a 5-10 percent increase in the company’s sales and the addition of a few new employees.
Pramac America LLC (Marietta, GA) “Like most of our customers, we are cautiously optimistic about 2013,” said Bob IntVeldt, vice president of sales. By building on the company’s current customer base and adding staff to ensure that customer service remains good, IntVeldt expects to see a 5-10 percent increase in business in 2013. He anticipates launching the I-TON – the only non-metallic hand pallet truck in the world – in the U.S. in the fourth quarter. “It will provide the robustness of steel without the corrosion, contamination, weight and cost of steel and galvanized trucks,” he said.
Quick Cable (Franksville, WI) “I’m projecting an 8-10 percent growth in 2013,” said John Leto, senior account manager. “That’s a dip from last year, since we were up 28 percent, mainly because the material handling market has been showing some decent recovery since the abysmal year of 2008. I don’t think we can expect 28 percent growth for years in a row.” The company’s recent sale to an equity firm should bring in money to add products and capabilities. In 2013, Quick Cable will be introducing a reformulated line of chemicals for the material handling industry, along with new products, including a battery wipe.
Ralphs-Pugh Co. Inc. (Benicia, CA) Tom O’Brien, vice president, sales, is anticipating 5-7 percent growth next year, driven by continued demand for new equipment and steady demand for replacement parts. The company will introduce a new product at ProMat; it offers a significantly lower cost to its customers, which includes case and package handling applications. Ralphs-Pugh is also planning to invest in its operations by converting to solar energy this year.
Republic Storage Systems LLC (Canton, OH) President Mike Dyer is expecting a slight uptick this year in his material handling business, due to the fact that large industrial customers and manufacturers with extensive distribution networks are investing in and improving their fulfillment processes. “They’ve got cash, and it’s a good way to invest it,” Dyer said. “They’re actively trying to streamline their supply chain and their fulfillment end.” Republic Storage Systems made its own significant investment last year, installing a powder coating line that can be used for all of its products to meet customers’ higher expectations for product quality.
Ridg-U-Rak Inc. (North East, PA) “If we could just repeat 2012 in 2013, with no growth, I’d be very happy,” said Dave Olson, national sales manager. He said that 2012 was an exceptional year. The company is making a significant investment in 2013 in developing new proprietary software to support its sales, engineering and manufacturing activities. Olson sees increased business in the logistics and order fulfillment side taking place in the coming year; over the longer term, the expanded Panama Canal could also have a positive impact. But there are some obvious issues that could affect the entire industry’s outlook, including the global and domestic economy and the government’s fiscal cliff.
SpaceGuard Products (Seymour, IN) “We’re coming off one of our strongest years in 2012 and we expect sales in 2013 to increase by about 5-percent,” said Eddie Murphy, president. The company is improving its wire partition design to allow for easier installation. It also will focus on training the staff it hired last year and on weighing options for the expansion of its facilities. To meet its customers’ needs to get answers quickly, SpaceGuard has strengthened its distribution channel with partners that can provide that kind of immediate response.
Schaefer Systems International (Charlotte, NC) Gordon Hellberg, vice president of sales, expects a 10 percent increase in sales in 2013; he believes it should be much stronger, however. “There’s a pent-up demand, but things seem to be stalled. You can be selected for a project, but you have to wait for them to pull the trigger. It seems the bigger the project, the tougher it is to get the go.” With customers more interested in making use of vertical space in their warehouses, Hellberg sees a market for the company’s conveying and warehouse automation products, which can significantly improve operational efficiencies.
Seegrid Corporation (Pittsburgh, PA) Seegrid is looking for increased sales in 2013. That’s due to its partnership with forklift OEM Raymond Corporation and their production of Guided by Seegrid® robotic industrial trucks, as well as Seegrid’s recent introduction of its driverless 10,000lb GT 10 Tow Tractor. “Industry-sector interest from printing and packaging, grocery chains, automotive suppliers and other multi-shift, large-square foot distribution centers has generated a strong sales pipeline for Seegrid in 2013,” said Amanda Merrell, marketing manager. “The global marketplace continues to expand, and 2013 is primed for global sales for Seegrid.”
SpaceRak div Heartland Steel Products (Marysville, MI) “I could see the first and second quarter of 2013 being a bit down compared to 2012 and then picking up in the third and fourth quarter with the net effect of things being flat,” said Patrick Peplowski, senior vice president, sales and marketing. Since distributors today are more focused on event sourcing – requiring suppliers to provide more information and support – SpaceRak will be investing in more training for employees and in developing tools that will allow them to provide better value to customers in a more timely, more accurate and more complete manner.
SpeedCell (Zeeland, MI) ProMat 2013 will see the re-release of the SpeedCell Storage System, designed to save about 50 percent in space and labor in a warehouse, according to company president Doug Buma. “We’re relatively new to the materials handling industry, so we expect our sales will be up about 1,000 percent in 2013,” he said. Although Buma shares others’ concerns about the global economy, he believes that innovative products can overcome that problem. “If the industry as a whole can be innovating, it will really position itself well for growth even if the economy is not doing very well.”
Starrco Company Inc. (Maryland Heights, MO) A newly-released tall wall system and the addition of new customers should help Starrco Company increase its sales by 20-30 percent in 2013, according to Bryan Carey, president. “I think things are turning up, and that 2013 will be a good year,” he said. With customers more demanding on both speed and price, “we’re trying to streamline our operation, producing our product faster and more efficiently with less inventory. We’re constantly looking for ways to improve.”
Steele Solutions (Franklin, WI) “We’ve been growing even in the tough economy,” said Kevin O’Neill, vice president, predicting a 5-10 percent growth for 2013. “We have people and processes in place to help our distributors sell more. A larger marketing presence, more lead generation and our presence at ProMat 2013 will lead to more opportunities as well.” After completing a plant expansion and adding 10 more people in 2012, Steele Solutions plans to add 5-10 more people in manufacturing, marketing and sales during the coming year.
Stellana US (Lake Geneva, WI) “We’re forecasting sales in 2013 to be up north of 15 percent,” said Michael Scoon, sales/marketing manager. Projects with new customers in the final negotiation phases, projects with existing customers that are coming to a head and new products that are starting to get some momentum should drive that growth. Those new products include a new tire material and a new tire design – the Optima – that is a complete tire and hub in one. “There are a number of different cost savings with this tire that should drive down the whole cost of ownership significantly,” Scoon said.
Superior Tire and Rubber Corp. (Warren, PA) Platform wins on the OEM side, an expanded sales force and enhanced distribution on the aftermarket side should allow Superior Tire and Rubber to experience growth in the low double digits next year. Although the company has increased quote opportunities, “it takes more time to close sales because people are a little more pessimistic about going ahead and saying that they will make a purchase,” said Dave Brocklehurst, aftermarket sales manager. He expects the company to add staff and expand facilities in 2013. “Our most important investment is staff; hiring and training,” he added.
Teilhaber Manufacturing Corp. (Broomfield, CO) “We think distributors are going to get stronger and better in 2013,” said Donald Rutkowski, vice president. He expects Teilhaber Manufacturing, which has experienced good growth over the past few years, to be up 8-12 percent in 2013. “If we can provide quality and better service – and if everybody else is out 4-6 weeks and we’re out 2-3 weeks because we’re fully staffed – we think that’s a real competitive advantage,” Rutkowski added. As customers reduce staff and outsource work, “that’s great for us. We like that kind of business rather than just going through a bidding process.”
TotalTrax Inc. (Newport, DE) “We’ll be launching some new products in 2013 that will represent a whole new level in what we call smart truck technology,” said Phil Van Wormer, executive vice president. “As a technology innovator, we’re a growth company, so we expect growth to be substantial in 2013.” Another favorable factor for growth is that the company’s products improve safety and productivity of fleets. “We find that even during the recession, sound companies are always looking at ways to invest in those kinds of technologies,” Van Wormer added. TotalTrax expects to add commercial sales and manufacturing positions in 2013 to support anticipated sales increases.
Toyota Material Handling USA Inc. (Irvine, CA) “If you look back over the last 30 years, the magic number for the lift truck industry seems to be 2.5 percent GDP, and the expectations are less than that for 2013, so we think sales are going to be flat,” said Jeff Rufener, president. “But that doesn’t mean it will be a bad year; the industry is at a size that’s allowing all of us to prosper, so we continue to be optimistic.” Toyota will be introducing the next generation of internal combustion cushions in pneumatic trucks – the 8-Series – which will be powered by the new Toyota engines. The company will continue the relocation of its headquarters to Columbus, Indiana, in 2013, hiring high-quality new associates to replace those who choose not to make the move.
Tractel Inc., Griphoist Division (Norwood, MA) Expecting a sales increase of about 10 percent, Tractel will focus in 2013 on improving its service and inventory levels. “Customers of manufacturers are trying to have less value on hand, requiring the manufacturer to stock more,” said Steve Gallagher, marketing manager. At the same time, customers are also requiring shorter delivery times.
Tri-Lite Inc. (Chicago, IL) President Robert Herling anticipates that new products, including the next generation of LED-based loading dock lights and dock communication lights, will spur a sales increase of about 10 percent this year. “LED lighting products have become a significant factor in our business,” he said. “Customers are more concerned about lighting efficiency and energy efficiency and safety, and LED lights are the primary way that they’ve adapted to that.” He’s not as optimistic about the outlook for the materials handling industry as a whole, however, citing the European economic situation, U.S. political issues and the effects of Congressional infighting on state and local budgets as reasons for concern.
TVH Parts (Olathe, KS) 2012 was a year of expansion for TVH Parts, which added space to its Kansas headquarters building and opened a new distribution center in Louisiana. Those changes have helped position the company for an expected 5-10 percent growth in 2013. “As a supplier of aftermarket parts, we are fairly recession-proof,” said Dirk vonHolt, vice president, sales and marketing. To meet customer’s demands for always-available parts, “We’re focusing more on better buying behavior so we can still keep our terms of inventory attractive but always have high fill rates as well.”
Unarco Material Handling (Springfield, TN) “We’re looking for things to continue to improve and cautiously optimistic in looking for a 5-6 percent growth,” said Brian Boals, director of sales “I think in 2013 and beyond we will continue to see an industry and technology drive for factory automation and warehouse automation.” Unarco has added resources in estimating and engineering to boost its offerings in engineered services relative to ASRS mini-load systems. The company is also reintroducing its 48-hour quick ship program at its flagship facility in Tennessee so that it can meet distributors and integrators’ needs for quick turnarounds.
UNEX Manufacturing Inc. (Jackson, NJ) Mark Neuwirth, vice president, sales, said UNEX Manufacturing had a very good 2012 – up 24 percent beyond 2011 – but he foresees things flattening out in 2013. Over the next 12 months, UNEX will be investing in educating its staff in sales and customer service. “We’re also developing tools for our distributors so that we can educate them for better pricing and better customer service,” he said. Changes in cash flow due to tightening credit have made it more important than ever to work with customers so that they can justify the ROI on the products that they purchase from UNEX.
UN Forklift LLC (McDonough GA) Although UN Forklift has a 32-year history in China, it’s a new company in the U.S., and general manager Drew Braun expects a slow but steady growth as the company establishes itself here. “We anticipate we’ll do 100 trucks by the end of 2012, 300 in 2013 and in 2014, once we start cranking, about double that,” he said. The company will continue to look for good people to run the business and for good dealers who will be the right fit for the company. UN Forklift currently offers Class 1, 2, 3 and 5 products and is developing a Class 4 forklift for North America.
UNIRAK Storage Systems by F&F Industries (Taylor, MI) “We just completed our best year ever; we are increasing our dealer base, our quote activity is high and we are hitting targets for keeping customers satisfied” said Eric Gonda, vice president, who expects 2013 sales to be up by about 20 percent. UNIRAK will be adding administrative and production staff, and bringing into operation a new roll forming line that will allow it to produce a host of new beam profiles. Gonda said that the company will focus this year on filling orders quickly and efficiently to meet customers’ pent-up demands.
Verticon LLC (Omaha, NE)Changes to Verticon’s dealer network should spark a sales increase of 20-25 percent in 2013, according to Ronald M. Kennedy, vice president, sales/ marketing. “We’re rolling out a new dealer program and some dealer education for their sales engineers,” he said. He expects to see continued growth in the material handling industry as a whole, and believes that companies will rely more on automation as members of the baby boom generation retire. “I think that automation drives profitability,” Kennedy said. “If companies have a desire to be profitable, they’ll probably turn to automation.”
Worldwide Material Handling Products LLC (Romeoville, IL) President/CEO Vic Kedaitis expects both his company and the material handling industry as a whole to be up by 5-10 percent in 2013. “There’s still some recovery, equipment replacement that people have been delaying for the last couple of years,” he said. Kedaitis also believes that with the uncertainty of the election over, the industry may loosen up some more with investments. Worldwide Material Handling will be making its own investment this year in providing its people with the best tools available so that they can do their jobs more effectively.