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Uncertainty Clouds 2014 Forecast, But Optimism Prevails

By Mary Lou Jay

Supplier ForecastMost suppliers reported moderate to good growth during 2013 and a few had exceptional years. But uncertainty about the economy, the federal government and the healthcare law has made it more difficult to predict results for 2014. The consensus is that the economy will remain relatively flat and the material handling industry as a whole will have only modest growth (if any). But companies have varying expectations about their own sales. Some anticipate their performance will reflect that of the industry. Others are predicting increases of 10 to 200 percent and more.

With the GDP’s growth anemic, suppliers worry about the impact of rising interest rates, which could climb quickly if the Fed tapers off its purchase of U.S. government bonds. If rates rise, they expect to see a corresponding drop-off in orders as companies rethink their capital budgets.

Most believe there will be negative repercussions for business if Washington fails to get the U.S. budget and spending under control and if there is legislative standoff or government shutdown. Even with record amounts of cash available to them, potential purchasers of equipment are sitting on the sidelines unwilling to commit to spending until they know what to expect in terms of legislation and taxes.

The biggest worries appear to be centered around the healthcare law. Some suppliers reported that customers are postponing projects and expansion plans until they have a clearer picture of the costs of complying with the law. But automation suppliers see possible business opportunities; companies reluctant to hire new employees because of healthcare costs will need to rely more on automation for increased efficiencies.

Other concerns identified by suppliers include the impact of increased trucking costs due to the Tier IV diesel emission standards and limited hours of service; more punitive (vs. cooperative) enforcement by OSHA and increasing paperwork burdens imposed by government agencies; and a proliferation of required permits and inspections by cities and other jurisdictions.

Most suppliers plan to do more hiring in 2014, with engineering staff in particular demand. Only a few companies mentioned plans to expand facilities; most, like their customers, are finding ways to make more efficient use of their existing space. Greater efficiency could help them deliver products faster, which is one of the biggest demands made by customers in recent years.

Supplier Forecast 2To reach those customers, more companies appear to be at least dabbling in social media, and many are embracing it wholeheartedly and hiring experts to help them get the best results. Others don’t believe the required investment in time and staff yields enough payoff in the B-to-B market. The companies with the most success in social media see it as one more path to get information to their customers, especially to younger members of the profession who are comfortable with this type of communication. While it may not pay off directly in 2014, they believe in the coming years it will be an important tool in creating brand awareness and building relationships.

3D Storage Systems Ltd. (Newmarket, Ontario, Canada) U.S. business development manager Neil Dixon isn’t making a firm prediction for 2014, but expects the company’s more aggressive marketing efforts will pay off. “Like everyone, we’re optimistic and hope that sales will go up,” he said. 3D Storage Systems recently purchased a robot to increase its manufacturing efficiency and quality, and may be adding more robotics in 2014. The company has improved its response rate to customers, providing them with same day quotes whenever possible. As for social media, “whenever you’re getting positive attention to your company, it’s going to do nothing but help,” Dixon said.

Albion Industries Inc. (Albion, MI) Albion Industries has responded to customers’ needs by adopting lean manufacturing and by beefing up its inventory for quicker delivery of products. “We’re have been doing some consolidation of the company as well; we had eight operating divisions that we have folded into one,” said Brian Denisty, brand manager. With the introduction of some new products in the second quarter, Denisty expects Albion to see a five percent increase in sales this year, similar to what the company gained in 2013.

Applied Energy Solutions (Caledonia, NY) “We expect sales to go up by 20 percent in 2014,” said Jennifer Morgan, PR and marketing coordinator. “That will be driven by new marketing strategies, new sales focuses and reaching out to new markets.” The company will concentrate on national trade shows and on increasing brand awareness during the coming year, and on marketing its recently introduced BIT (battery information transmitter) and Superion lithium ion battery pack and charger. Applied Energy Solutions has recently implemented a CRM system to help it better service customers who want a more direct service and support connection with the company.

Autoquip Corporation (Guthrie, OK) “More manufacturing is coming back to the U.S. and the overall economy is improving,” said Louis Coleman, director of sales and marketing. “With the loosening of purse strings and capital budgets, corporations are spending money, looking for our type of material handling equipment, which provides productivity gains. With everything we’re seeing, we expect to be up four to seven percent in 2014.” As the company performs more specialty custom work and provides more product integration, it is showcasing its products on its website, sharing information about them through more than 1,000 pages of case studies, white papers and videos.

BEB Industrial Asset Management (Kansas City, MO) BEB Industrial Asset Management is seeing a strong demand for the cost savings that their technology and control products can provide. That’s one reason why it expects sales to be up by as much as 25 percent next year. Big data is another growth driver. “People are so much more technologically aware of how to get information and once they’ve got it, how to use it,” said Don Bratton, senior consultant. To increase the efficiency and effectiveness of its products for customers, BEB representatives now work out clients’ facilities, bringing them closer to details and to key decision makers.

Bolzoni Auramo Inc. (Homewood, IL) Recent changes in the attachment industry and the introduction of products from a new plant in China in the second or third quarter of the year should lead to a 20 percent sales increase for the business in 2014. “We’ll be bringing in a quality product with a price that has not been available here,” said Ronnie Keene, vice president of sales and marketing. He expects the material handling industry itself will be fairly flat during that same period. Bolzoni Auramo will be expanding its plant in Homewood in 2014, doubling its size to meet increased product demand.

Bramalea Elevator USA (Brampton, ON, Canada) With a large number of projects on the drawing board at the end of 2013, business development manager Amir Syed is looking for growth of about 15 percent in 2014. This is due in part to a code change in the U.S. that will allow a rider on material lifts. “Now that the U.S. code has adapted, we are supplying a product that meets a need,” Syed said. Bramalea Elevator will introduce two new products in the second quarter, a no-pit elevator solution and a freestanding self-supporting elevator structure. The company continues to standardize products and components to maximize efficiency and respond to customers’ needs for faster turnarounds.

Caster Concepts Inc. (Albion, MI) After growing its facility by 30 percent last year, Caster Concepts is in good shape to handle growth in the year ahead. “I expect business will be up in the single digits in 2014 over 2013,” said William Dobbins, company president. “As the economy improves, the customer is more inclined to buy a value-added product and that impacts our core business lines.” Caster Concepts will continue to invest in its people and in technology, and especially in people who know how to leverage technology. “Because we are a custom-build manufacturer, we are constantly releasing new products to meet customers’ needs,” Dobbins added.

Clark Materials Handling Company (Lexington, KY) Clark had a good year in 2013 and Bo Maslanyk, vice president of sales and marketing, expects to exceed the projected overall industry growth again this year. The company plans to add production capabilities to its two factories and to introduce products for the Class II and III markets that will meet California’s more stringent energy regulations. Clark is using new technologies to reach customers, and has already developed product and finance apps for customers. “We will also be developing more web-based and video training for our dealers, who in turn will get the information to our customers,” said Maslanyk.

Cogan Wire & Metal Products Ltd. (Terrebone, Quebec, Canada) In 2014, Cogan will be expanding its distribution network in the U.S. West Coast and Midwest and in Ontario in 2014 and will be working with a Mexican partner to grow its business there as well. “Mezzanines are being used for many more different types of applications than we have seen before,” said Derek Goddard, company president. Cogan just completed its own 12,000 square foot mezzanine. The company will be hiring engineering, sales support and manufacturing personnel to handle its expected five to 10-percent growth during the coming year and to accommodate customers’ needs for fast service.

Columbia Machine (Vancouver, Washington) Ted Yeigh, sales director, looks for a 10 percent increase in sales for the company’s material handling business. “We have some new palletizers that we are introducing for the food and beverage industry and for consumer products; they have a higher throughput and increased levels of safety as standard, as well as the flexibility that’s available now in a conventional palletizer,” he said. Columbia Machine has found that social media sites, especially YouTube and LinkedIn, can be great tools for communicating with customers about products.

Columbia ParCar Corp. (Reedsburg, WI) Greg Brecklely, marketing manager, is anticipating a 15 to 20 percent increase in sales next year thanks to new product introductions on both the traditional passenger and industrial commercial side of the business. “They will be our middle duty lineup, and are a ground-up redesign,” he said. “We’ve taken things from the 1980s into current generation technology with the way we’re approaching suspension and with where we’re putting the battery pack to maintain a lower center of gravity. We also have a style overhaul.” Columbia ParCar plans on investing in software services to improve its efficiency in the year ahead.

Continental Tire the Americas (Fort Mill, SC) Sales were up by 30 percent for Continental Tire the Americas in 2013, and the company is projecting another 25 percent growth this year due to new products and additions to the sales force. California and the northeast will be strong markets. “We will be introducing a remanufactured traction tire and press-on band at the end of the first quarter,” said Gary Sass, USA market manager. “It will lower costs for customers and is an environmentally friendly green product.” The company will be upgrading plant facilities and making equipment improvements during the coming year.

Cornerstone Specialty Wood Products LLC (Cincinnati, OH) “New products, innovation and technical support are the cornerstones of our business,” said Greg Doppler, president, who expects a strong showing in the market again this year. Although he thought 2013 would be the company’s high watermark, 2014 holds the possibility of being even better, he said. Some of the growth will be coming from new applications of the company’s products and some from international growth. To better serve those international customers, the company has recently translated its entire 200-page English website into Spanish and Portuguese. “We’re seeing folks from other countries all over the world starting to reach out to us.”

Douglas Battery (Winston-Salem, NC) Douglas Battery’s projected five to seven percent increase in sales is going to be driven by “continued pent-up demand from four to five years ago when no one was buying product,” said Brian Faust, general manager. Customers have finally started to make purchases they have been putting off since the economic downturn of a few years ago. The company will be introducing new products in the first quarter of 2014, including a wider range of high-frequency chargers and a new fast charger for the Douglas brand. The upgraded products will meet the new California regulations for battery chargers.

EnerSys (Reading, PA) Cost savings and environmental benefits will drive conversion of internal combustion lift trucks to electric powered vehicles, said Jeff Long, vice president of sales and service. That interest in conversion, as well as normal replacement business, should help increase EnerSys’ sales by four to six percent this year. “We are also seeing growing interest in fast charging and opportunity charging, as users want to avoid changing batteries for multiple shifts where larger capacity square tubular batteries don’t meet their need,” he said. The company will be adding both staff and line employees and is targeting five of its facilities for growth this year.

Engineered Lifting Systems & Equipment Inc. (Elmira, Ontario, Canada) Pent up demand and a new product introduction could help boost Engineered Lifting Systems’ sales by 20 percent this year. “We’ve made a change in our product line that we’ll be introducing to the U.S. market at MODEX,” said Richard Kat, vice president of sales. “The product dramatically reduces the unloading time for floor-loaded containers while at the same time improving health and safety.” It should be of interest to any business that is doing continuous unload operations, including apparel, department store chains, manufacturers and automotive and electronic parts.

Flight Systems Industrial Products (Carlisle, PA) Continued additions to its remanufactured product line, including charger and DC to DC converters will help Flight Systems Industrial Products grow its sales by about 10 percent this year. “The expertise we’ve developed in the forklift industry will allow us to cross over into new market segments, so that we can continue to be successful and provide for long term growth,” said Barry Bowman, president. To accommodate customers that are running “lean and mean,” the company has increased the stock that it keeps on hand so that it can provide next-day delivery.

Gamber-Johnson (Stevens Point, WI) With a new product line featuring a universal computer mounting system for forklifts and racks, Gamber-Johnson expects a significant increase in sales this year. “Companies are investing thousands of dollars in technology that they’re using to move their goods faster and more efficiently, and putting some very expensive computer systems on their forklifts. They need a good rugged mounting solution that’s universal,” said Tom O’Brien, product manager. The company has also developed docking stations and cradles for tablets. To enhance its customer outreach, Gamber-Johnson will be increasing its social media presence on sites such as Facebook and YouTube this year.

Hamilton Caster (Hamilton, OH) After adding resources in sales, engineering and production in 2013, Hamilton Caster has the infrastructure to handle an expected sales growth of eight percent this year, said Steve Lippert, executive vice president. “On the industrial casters and wheels segment of our business, we will be introducing two new caster series this year; on the carts and trailer segment, we will be growing our focus on heavy-duty trailer trucks that will have a capacity of 20,000 to 100,000 pounds,” he said. The company is continuing to look at ways of improving its products’ ergonomics since employee health is a big concern to its customers.

Hanel Storage Systems (Pittsburgh, PA) Work in the pipeline and growing interest in Hanel’s products from the automotive, healthcare and pharmaceutical markets should help the company achieve a 10-12 percent growth in 2014, according to David Schneider, marketing manager. The company will continue to make investments in IT and infrastructure, since customers want more integration of their equipment with automated systems. “The machines haven’t changed very much, but how customers want to connect them to their systems and what they expect them to do in terms of reporting and inventory management has certainly grown steadily over the years,” he said.

Hawker (Ooltewah, TN) Replacement business and continued recovery from the recession should increase Hawker’s sales by four to five percent in 2014, according to Dean Portney, vice president of sales and marketing. The company will continue its global R&D and testing efforts, and plans to introduce some updated products to the market. “Our ideal customers are those who wish to reduce operating expenses and increase productivity with our motive power solutions,” said Portney. Hawker will continue to invest and training and education of its dealer network this year.

Heli Americas (Memphis, TN) “I think in 2014 we’re going to see some basic core businesses coming back,” said Bruce Pelynio, president/CEO. “The big companies had cash to buy; it was the small to mid-sized companies that didn’t have the cash to make the replacements they needed over the last four to five years.” After a solid year in 2013, he expects Heli Americas’ sales to be up somewhere in the 10-15 percent range this year. The company will be rolling out several new products, including a small, 2,000-3,500 pound Class 5 truck in LPG and gas; it will be making ergonomic improvements to other products as well.

Hilmot Corporation (Waukesha, WI) “Hilmot’s specialty is motorized drive roller conveyors and there has definitely been an increased awareness in them,” said Jeff Berken, vice president, sales. The high demand for those products is one reason the company expects a sales increase of about 20 percent in 2014. The company will be adding sales, project management engineering and production staff, and will be incorporating new products from partner companies into its conveyor releases. Changes in the conveyor market include a trend towards more governmental inspections and permitting and an increased interest by customers in Arc Flash regulations.

Intralox (Harahan, LA) Intralox expects a 15 to 20 percent sales growth this year in part because of changes in packaging that increase the need for its conveyor systems. “The warehouse and distribution segment is going away from corrugated boxes and putting products into bags,” said Steve Mosely, industry team leader, warehouse/distribution. “We have products that do a good job of handling bagged product both in single flow and in bulk flow.” At MODEX, the company will introduce a high-speed, bi-directional sorter and a new technology that complements its activated roller belt platform and can be used for crane sorting, zone routing and pick and pack sortation applications.

Jifram Extrusions Inc. (Sheboygan Falls, WI) “Our business doubled in 2013 and we expect it to double again this year,” said Wayne Meyer, director of sales and marketing. The company’s custom built plastic pallets fill a need in what has been an underserved market, he said. “Our pallets are more durable — reusable, recyclable and sustainable.” This year, Jifram will be introducing a non-slip deck board aimed at the barrel storage market. It will also be investing heavily in its website, working with a professional Internet marketing firm to bring traffic to the site. The site will provide customers with quick access to technical information, pricing and suggested uses for their products.

The Kennedy Group (Willoughby, OH) After three good years, Kevin Marrie, director of sales and marketing, is looking for continued growth at The Kennedy Group in 2014, somewhere in the 15 to 20 percent range. “We added new people and bought a couple of new facilities in 2013, so we will be getting everything and everybody up and running and forging ahead this year,” he said. The company will continue its promotion of its new warehouse signage/weight capacity/label holder product in the coming year. It is also involved in several projects through its RFID division. “We’re seeing an uptick in everything from asset tracking to inventory tracking,” Marrie said.

Landoll Corporation (Marysville, KS) Product improvements, cost reductions and developing international markets in China and the Middle East boosted Landoll Corporation’s sales in 2013 and should help increase them by 10 to 15 percent this year, said Ed Campbell, sales manager, material handling division. In 2014, the company will open a new 80,000 square foot parts distribution center, and will introduce an explosion-proof truck, designed for those involved in the storage of flammable and hazardous materials “It will be the first ever to use standard ACD motors and controls and will be far more efficient and less costly to maintain that previous DC-powered models,” Campbell said.

LiuGong Construction Machinery NA (Katy, TX) LiuGong received a positive response from dealers in customers in 2013, its first year in the U.S. and Canadian markets, according to Ken Biediger, forklift commercial director. He predicts a doubling of sales in the coming year. “We are filling the need for an entry-level, lower-priced product,” he said. “Our challenge now is to grow distribution and continue to add new product lines.” LiuGong will be releasing new pneumatic tire LPG machines with four to five ton capacity by midyear. The company plans to move to larger temporary quarters early this year while it seeks a spot for a more permanent North American facility.

Lyon LLC (Aurora, IL) Lyon has been under new ownership since May 2013, and with the company re-energized and more customer-focused it hopes for 10 to 12 percent growth in 2014. “The restructured Lyon is staged for growth, not only because it will reduce our operating costs but because the new management has refocused Lyon’s sales team on selling through distribution and system integrators,” said Tim Hackerson, director of sales and marketing. “We will be investing more in our sales staff and are going to look aggressively at getting some new products.”

Man Lift Mfg. Co. (Cudahy, WI) Man Lift Mfg. more than doubled sales year-over-year from 2012 to 2013 and is optimistic that they will continue to be strong in 2014. “We operate in a bit of a niche, providing products that are increasing productivity while making people safe at the same time,” said Phil Sprio, president/CEO. “Our primary business has been on the aerial side with scissors and boom lifts, and we expect to launch products on the material handling side this year.” The company will be breaking into the hazardous environment, Class 1, Division 1 equipment with forklifts and pallet jacks.

META Storage Solutions Inc. (Suwanee, GA) As a new company, META Storage Solutions anticipates a considerable growth in sales in 2014, according to Oliver Bleich, president and CEO. That growth will also be driven by an increase in domestic manufacturing activity and in e-commerce business, which should lead to an increased need for warehouse space and equipment, he said. To handle his company’s expected growth, Bleich anticipates adding sales staff, engineering personnel and customer service associates. Although the company is involved in social media, it has seen no tangible results as yet, at least in the U.S. markets.

Millwood Inc. (Vienna OH) “We expect our sales to be up as a total company between 10 and 15 percent and for specific product groups between five and 30 percent,” said John Moore, director of corporate marketing. The company is seeking new customers, expanding its national accounts presence and increasing product offerings for existing customers. Millwood has recently acquired a new space for a production facility and packaging lab, which will play a role in its new strategy of providing the total unit load solution. Millwood plans to offer offers everything required to move package products from one place to another, including the pallet, stretch wrap and corrugated materials.

Morse Manufacturing Co. Inc. (East Syracuse, NY) After a very positive 2013, Ralph Phillips, marketing manager at Morse Manufacturing, is looking for a continued trend of growth in the three to five percent range. “We’re finding that a lot of customers are emphasizing the need for quality, U.S.-made products, and we’re seeing growth in the segments of exports,” he added. More customers are also asking for products that can be customized for specific applications. Morse Manufacturing will be introducing product improvements this year and a new drum handler that will feature a power grip mechanism. This equipment will enable a single operator to handle all the necessary processes right from the controls.

Narrow Aisle (Dallas, TX) “Everyone today is more conscious of how to get the maximum cubic utilization of their space, especially because of the rising cost of real estate and other expenses,” said Warren Cornil, president. “That feeds naturally into our product, a forklift that allows you to store more in less space at a lower cost.” Cornil expects to see a 25 percent increase in sales in 2014. “At MODEX, we are going to introduce an expanded product line and AC power for the first time,” he added. The move to an ESOP form of ownership has been a very positive move for the company.

The Ousset Agency (Spring Branch, TX) “We expect sales to be up by at least 10 to 15 percent this year,” said John Ousset, president. “The growth of the agency will be driven by the dealers’ desire to maintain or increase market share.” Dealers will be concentrating on cementing relationships with customers utilizing direct mail, email marketing and social media. When it comes to social media, “The marketing research is showing B2B benefits from putting a human face on the dealerships as well as assisting organic SEO efforts through all the back linking activity. The consistency and frequency of the messaging is critical to maximizing the results,” Ousset said.

Panel Built Inc. (Blairsville, GA) After a slow first half of 2013 due to the company’s reliance on government sales, Panel Built saw its sales pick up somewhat in the second half of the year. It still anticipates sales growth of just two to three percent in 2014, however. “We’ve seen the sales cycle stretch out quite a bit,” added Conrad Walker, marketing manager. Panel Built will continue to invest in people and equipment to become more efficient. “We have something that we’re working on for streamlining our sales and quoting process that could be very beneficial to our customers and to us,” Walker said.

Pramac America LLC (Marietta, GA) Pramac expects sales growth between 10 and 12 percent in 2014. “We will grow by adding to our customer base and focusing on our new electric pallet trucks,” said Bob IntVeldt, vice president sales, commercial. “We’ve added sales reps in markets where we haven’t had coverage before and we’re going to continue to do that.” Sales will also increase as material handling companies are forced to replace their aging inventory of handling equipment. Pramac will be adding to its product lineup with a light-duty, electric fork over stacker intended for narrow aisle uses and a compact light duty stacker targeted to markets where confined space is an issue.

The Raymond Corporation (Greene, NY) After a better-than-anticipated 2013, Tim Combs, vice president of sales is conservatively anticipating growth just a little ahead of the GDP growth in 2014. The company will continue to provide enhancements for its iWarehouse fleet management product line, and plans to introduce an automated lift truck designed primarily for the horizontal transport area sometime in 2014. “All of the innovation and technology development we have is focused on labor optimization, whether that’s more productivity out of a piece of equipment, less downtime or better energy usage,” said Combs. Owners are trying to minimize avoidable costs with their equipment, reducing the real cost of ownership.

Ridg-U-Rak Inc. (North East, PA) David Olson, national sales/marketing manager, predicts a flattening of sales in 2014 after some robust growth in 2013. “The fourth quarter tells a lot about the first half of the year will be, and certainly large-scale logistics projects have slowed down,” he said. Olson believes that growth in 2012 and 2013 stemmed from pent-up demand, which is tapering off now that companies finally have been using their capital to make improvements. Consumers concerns about the economy are still impacting growth as well. Ridg-U-Rak does anticipate releasing a new product during the year, and will be investing in tooling upgrades and other manufacturing improvements.

Ryson International Inc. (Yorktown, VA) Although the company is coming off a growth year, Ole Rygh, president/ CEO predicts little increase in 2014, and there may even be a dip in line with the overall economy. Ryson will be broadening its product lines this year to include conveyors that can handle smaller packages and conveyors that can handle larger packages. “Companies are trying to get more utilization out of the existing buildings they have, and our products offer space savings with increased throughput,” Rygh said. Ryson is also seeing more requests for reconfigurations of existing spiral conveyors to accommodate new packaging or production lines.

Seegrid (Pittsburgh, PA) In 2014 Seegrid plans to introduce a new short straddle forklift and anticipates 15 to 25 percent growth, according to John Hayes, vice president of sales and marketing, North America. The sales increase will come from greater demand from the manufacturing and distribution markets and the company’s new marketing messaging. Seegrid uses social media channels to share information. “We are not focusing on trying to sell products, but on joining in the industry thought leadership,” Hayes said. Seegrid has found that customers are weighing safety and efficiency as well as ROI when they make purchases.

SI Systems LLC (Easton, PA) Growth at SI Systems will come primarily from new product development, from market share and from the company’s acquisition of a company that specializes in warehouse control and management software. “This is a new venture for SI, and we are going to continue to support our existing customer base and expand our existing products as well as focus on this new software venture,” said Peter Rice, vice president sales and marketing. To handle all of these opportunities, the company will be adding software engineers and sales people in the coming year. Rice sees ecommerce as offering future growth opportunities.

SpaceRAK division (Heartland Steel Products) (Marysville, MI) “We expect our overall sales and production for 2014 to be up by 13 percent next year,” said Pat Peplowski, senior vice president, sales and marketing. The company has plans for new equipment at its California manufacturing plant and will be adding sales, administrative and plant staff. “Customers expect things to be done faster and in a more cost-effective manner than five years ago,” Peplowski said. To remain competitive in this marketplace it’s critical to find the right people for the company and ensure that they have the resources required to do their jobs.

SpeedCell Storage Solutions (Zeeland, MI) “We anticipate sales to be up 50 to 150 percent, as our products are starting to get traction in the marketplace,” said J.W. Jones, director of sales and marketing. “Customers have realized for years that a pallet rack with a shelf or a pallet was the best way to store products of certain types; now we’re offering them an alternative that gives them greater density.” Because real time responses are very important to customers, SpeedCell Storage Solutions will be investing in sales configuration software. It will allow them to provide customers with real time quotes that can be immediately turned into production drawings.

SSI Schaefer Systems International Inc. (Charlotte, NC) “We expect our materials handling product sales to be up by about 15.5 percent in 2014 compared to 2013, and our dynamic product sales — semi-automated warehouse solutions — to be up by 25 percent,” said Klaus-Dieter Wurm, vice president and managing director, MHD. This year the company will introduce its new AutoCruiser conveyor line at MODEX in combination with workstations and its Logimat vertical lift module. “We are involved in social media and in certain product categories have jumped to near the top spot on the Google search engine. We receive more customer inquiries via the internet and social media than ever before,” added Wurm.

Steele Solutions (Franklin, WI) After entering 2013 with a large backlog of orders, Steele Solutions saw a slowdown in midyear. “I think sales will be pretty level in 2014,” said Kevin O’Neill, vice president. The company is making some changes to its designs this year to ensure that they meet the more stringent IBC codes (seismic and others) that states and municipalities are adopting. Steele Solutions is also finding ways to be creative and save customers money without taking away the functionality of their products. O’Neill finds social media a valuable tool, since activity on sites like Twitter and LinkedIn helps the company stay in touch with people in the industry.

TGW Systems Inc. (Spring Lake, MI) “There’s been a lot of activity in our whole industry; people are buying again,” said Jim Bronsema, director of distributor sales. TGW Systems’ sales have been on the rise for the past few years and Bronsema anticipates another 10 percent gain in 2014. “We have put some progressive assembly lines in place that allow us to build equipment at a faster pace and more economically, which allows us to get more throughput through our existing manufacturing facility,” he added. Bronsema has seen a change in customer demand as the company’s volume of motorized driven roller conveyors has gone up considerably each year.

TotalTrax Inc. (Newport, DE) “Customers are realizing that introducing fleet management really requires change management,” said Phil Van Wormer, executive vice president. He bases the company’s anticipated growth of 20 percent-plus in 2014 not only on the innovative equipment monitoring tools it will be introducing but also on the company’s commitment to helping customers fully capture the benefit of their fleet management investment. The company will be expanding its social media outreach this year. “We’re uniquely capturing a lot of data that customers aren’t used to having, and we believe there’s an opportunity for us to provide some thought leadership as to how you use this data to drive productivity improvements.”

Tractel Inc., Griphoist Division (Norwood, MA) Tractel will be changing the way it sells in the U.S. in 2014, hiring dedicated Tractel reps for its fall protection, material handling and temporary access product lines. In addition, Tractel customers will no longer have to buy products through the company’s Canadian offices but will be able to send purchase orders to the Boston or Los Angeles offices instead. “We are trying to alleviate inconvenience to our customers, reduce their freight costs and make the whole process of doing business with us easier,” said Steve Gallagher, marketing manager for Swingstage and Griphoist. He expects the changes should help bring about a 10 percent increase in sales.

Trelleborg Wheel Systems Americas Inc. (Fairlawn, OH) The acquisition of Maine Industrial Tire in 2013 has provided the platform for Trelleborg’s growth this year, said Ydo Doornbos, managing director. Educating customers about the total value of ownership — showing that the upfront cost is not the ultimate decision point — is key to sales, which should grow by five to 10 percent. “We’ll be adding and enhancing the lines that we have with new sizes or new designs,” Doornbos added. The company will focus on integrating employees of the two companies into a common culture, and will invest in a new ERP global system so they share the same platform.

Tri Lite Inc. (Chicago, IL) Tri Lite’s recent introduction of new products that feature LED technology for warehousing loading dock application should help it achieve a growth of five to 10 percent this year. “Two things that help us out are the continued increased interest in energy savings for lighting applications, and the limited availability and decreasing availability of halogen and incandescent bulbs,” said Robert Herling, company president. Tri Lite serves its customers — multi-distribution centers and warehouses with multiple loading docks — through distributors and OEM manufacturers.

TVH Parts Co. (Olathe, KS) “The driving force of customer service and customer support is speed,” said Dirk von Holt, vice president sales and marketing, who expects single-digit growth in 2014. “Our customers want parts now, but they don’t want to have to inventory replacement parts themselves. Hence our strategy of opening multiple distribution centers and increasing inventory levels.” This year TVH Parts will be introducing a complete line of attachments manufactured by CAM, an Italian company that it owns. Parts availability is the key; to meet customer’s needs, the company has a fill rate level of 97 percent on all of its offered items.

UniCarriers Americas Corp. (Marengo, IL) Geographic expansion into Central and South America and further penetration into the national accounts market should increase UniCarriers’ Americas’ sales by four to six percent next year. “We are being asked to partner more, to do more proactive consulting as customers look for headache-free operations,” said James Radous, vice president marketing and sales. The company will continue to focus on the integration of the Nissan Forklift and TCM brands under the UniCarriers name. Social media has helped. “We’ve been able to connect with a wider and more diverse group of individuals and businesses by going through social media channels,” Radous said.

Verticon LLC (Omaha, NE) Ron Kennedy, general partner, is looking for a dramatic increase — as high as 200 percent — in the coming year. “We will be releasing some new products and improvements on existing products throughout the year,” he said. “We’re heavily into automated material handling systems and the new products have to do with higher throughputs of our equipment and upgraded controllability.” Companies are going to turn to automation to maintain their profitability and sustainability, he said, so they will be looking for more integrated systems for manufacturing and distribution. To help get their products out to customers, Verticon intends to improve its dealer network through better orientation programs this year. Wesley International (Scottdale, GA)

Wesley International  (Scottdale, GA) President/ CEO Bob Fisher anticipates a 20 percent increase in sales due to several factors: new products (including a lithium industrial battery stock chaser and an automated AVG) and growth in the company’s industrial trailers product line. “The third reason is the strength of our company in selling MHE products to power users, the large companies that operate large facilities,” he said. “We have continued to grow our share of that segment.” In 2014, Wesley International will be investing in a complete overhaul of its information technology, in product development and in employee training.

Wildeck Inc. (Waukesha, WI) “We have several product lines and the moderate sales growth we expect in 2014 will vary by product. Overall, we expect gains in the range of 10-percent to 12-percent in 2014,” said Hubert Schlegel, director of marketing. The company added staff and a second manufacturing shift in 2013 and continues to make process improvements as part of its company-wide lean initiative. Wildeck will be introducing new products and product enhancements during the first half of 2014, designed primarily for its vertical reciprocating conveyor product line but also for mezzanine platforms, safety guard rail products, and industrial rolling ladders and work platforms.

Yosemite Software Solutions (Mariposa, CA) “Forklift sales are on the upswing and dealers are really busy quoting and selling new equipment. As that happens, our product becomes more important for them, because it can really help a sales person in creating quotes and proposals,” said Sean Phillips, vice president of business development for Yosemite Software Solutions. That growth, coupled with the positive results of a long-term inbound and outbound marketing plan, should help drive a 10 to 15 percent growth for the company in 2014. To help customers manage their sales cycle more efficiently, Yosemite Software, is focusing on integrating its programs with dealers’ and manufacturers’ software.

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