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Moving Mountains: The growth and evolution of Welch Equipment Company

Welch Equipment Company (Denver, Colorado) was founded in 1983 by Duane Welch. Welch had been the Vice President of Sales at Murray Equipment, which at the time represented both the Crown and Raymond forklift lines. Both manufacturers approached Murray and asked the dealership to become exclusive. The company was faced with a choice. Duane, however, treated this as an opportunity. He decided that he wanted to continue the relationship he had established with Raymond. He opted to leave Murray and launch Welch Equipment Company; starting the company with only five employees.

“Since those humble beginnings, Welch has grown to more than 230 team members and has offices in four states with five locations in Colorado alone,” says Welch Equipment President Steven Rice.

Though the company has grown to impressive heights since its inception, its core beliefs have remained constant. The company’s motto, Personal Partnerships – Elevated Solutions, speaks to these beliefs.

“The one thing that has remained the same is the never-ending commitment to our customers. For our customers, no matter their size, We Move Mountains! Whether you’ve been with us for years or are just discovering what we’re about, Welch Equipment will always be available to provide your business with the most comprehensive material handling solutions. We understand that your business is about moving material, not worrying about the equipment that is moving material.”

Product Growth

Welch takes that last sentence very seriously. It wants its customers to focus on what they do best, not worrying about their equipment. To give total peace of mind, Welch prides itself on working with the most respected brands in the industry. That has been true since Duane started the company to continue his relationship with Raymond and it continues to be true today. In the late 1980s, Welch partnered with Toyota Industrial Equipment, which enabled Welch to go to market with two of the premier lines of lift trucks in the industry.

“Toyota Material Handling North America (TMHNA) is comprised of both Raymond and Toyota,” says Rice. “It’s the leading forklift provider in North America and the World. These two products are the ‘core’ of Welch product offerings and the company’s strategy is to represent products that not only support both Raymond and Toyota, but also provide solutions for every customer.”

As the company has grown, Welch has become a turn-key solution provider; providing material handling solutions in lift trucks, shelves, conveyors, order pickers and lifts, including new or used equipment as well as rental and even installation. The company aims to be a one-stop-shop for all material handling, storage and material process flow issues.

“Today, Welch Equipment Company has a battery division, a MillWright Division, an Allied/Systems division, a Special Products Division, a Technology Sales Division, a Customer Support Division and a Core Product Division which includes forklift sales, service, parts and rental,” says Rice.

The company represents lines including Toyota and Raymond, Clark, Interlake Mecalux, Modula Vertical Carousel Storage Systems, Unarco, Hannibal, DamoTech, SpaceRAK, Dematic, TGW Conveyor, WireCrafters, and more. Welch has been recognized routinely by Toyota, Raymond and Clark.. The company’s battery division was also named a 2017 Hawker Dealer of Excellence.

“Our corporate strategy is to approach our market with products and services that support many different industries,” says Rice. “We work closely with literally dozens of manufacturers. It is imperative that trust is the bond that drives the relationships. Our choice has always been to align ourselves with quality manufacturers that are comfortable with and see the value of exclusive arrangements with quality distributors.”

Company Culture

Representing the best lines in the industry is a big part of the equation, but at the end of the day, end-users are choosing to do business with the distributor, not the manufacturer. Welch Equipment has always understood that and that’s why they have a top-down culture of going above and beyond for the customer.

“We have a customer-first culture, supported by our mission statement,” says Rice. That mission statement reads: To be the premier destination in material handling solutions by advancing the success of our partners through providing effective, efficient solutions and elite customer service.

Says Rice, “”Our culture is supported internally by a strong technology strategy and externally with a deeplytrained sales and service customer caring team at all of our locations. This strategy presents a value-added proposition for our customers.”

To ensure the proper fit of a prospective employee into this customer-centric culture, Welch’s Human Resources Department is heavily involved in the company’s recruiting initiative.

“We work with a couple of trade schools and participate in several job fairs in our region to promote our industry and our company,” says Rice. “Currently, we’re placing our millennial additions in our IT department, our BDR department, technology sales and various technician roles. Training is one of our go-to market strategies, so we’re consciously recruiting people that are new to our industry, putting them through an extensive training program and then providing them a road map of options, while allowing them to migrate to an area they’re interested and competent in.”

Company Evolution

“Our wonderful industry has been constantly evolving, but the last decade has seen dramatic changes in our customers’ purchasing procedures and their expectations, as well as changes in manufacturers’ go-tomarket strategy,” says Rice. “In some ways, the customer and their vendors are working even more closely today, and their relationship is more of a partnership rather than the historic customer/supplier relationship.”

Anticipating trends and adapting to them has been a hallmark of Welch Equipment going back to its inception. And being on the leading edge of adapting to customer trends like faster communication, turn-key service and adapting to the “Amazon Effect” have helped keep Welch on top of the market throughout a historic shift in the market.

“Although the changes are coming fast and furious, personal relationships are still the key to moving into a true partnership with your customer,” Rice says. “Customers are looking for material handling companies that can understand their current system and make recommendations, then implement solutions that will make them more successful. This, of course, must occur within their budget constraints.”

Being a turn-key dealer, has allowed Welch to take that vision of an ideal material handling company and turn it into a reality. By starting its millennial employees in technology-focused roles, it has ensured that the company is current on all the latest trends and is able to adapt quickly when something new crops up.

Rice notes that the Amazon and Wal-Mart effect is not only changing how consumers do business, it’s changing how all companies are doing business.

“The move to more unit load handling changes all aspects of a company’s material handling operation and a distributor must be able to support their customers through these rapid changes,” says Rice. “WEC is structured to assist companies with those issues through our Systems Department with our System Engineers and CAD professionals as well as our extensive product offering.”

Recently, Toyota Advanced Logistics (TAL) was formed to help support that customer base with extensive engineering and state-of-the-art systems products. That has substantially increased the scope of projects that Welch’s systems group can now successfully implement.

“We’re constantly looking to technology to help WEC and our customers,” says Rice. “We’re in the process of launching a new interactive website, several WEC apps, updated tablet program and, of course, we’re involved with social media.”

Going Forward

On the topic of evolution, Rice says, “We all know the saying, ‘If you’re not growing, you’re dying.’ Welch, like most material handling distributors, develops one-year and five-year plans and now a 2025 plan to make sure we are organized to meet every milestone and all of our corporate objectives. We do reflect on our past to make sure we remember what worked and what didn’t, but we believe that staying on the bleeding edge will make us a better vendor and our customers more successful. Our best practice groups spend most of our meeting time working on future customer needs and how we can plan an important part of both of our futures.”