State of the Industry: Cranes and Compact Equipment

Words: Jennifer MorrellAs we continue to measure the impact of this relentless economy on different facets of the masonry industry, Masonry talked with two experts in the cranes and compact equipment industries.

Darrell Messman is national sales manager, cranes for Palfinger North America, based in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada; and Kirk Zander is director of sales and marketing for Manitou, based in Waco, Texas. Following is what they had to say regarding major issues affecting the cranes market.

Masonry: How large a factor is the issue of safety for your company, and how does it play into your marketing plan?

Kirk Zander, Manitou: Safety is a huge factor for Manitou. It begins internally with compliance to OSHA regulations, safety procedures/training and providing a safe work environment. As a long-standing member of Association of Equipment Manufacturers, we both adhere to and participate in developing the processes and procedures for the safe forklift operation.

We have a very diverse range that includes niche products that we market as an alternative to current solutions. Part of this marketing effort is focused on how our product can perform in certain applications both safer and more efficiently.

Darrell Messman, Palfinger North America: Safety is No. 1. As we look at the new product developments we have introduced in the last four to five years, it all points to safety and product life. We are always showing our customers how our operator training and product aides can assist them in safe crane setup and operation.

Masonry: Have you seen any improvement or decline in your amount of business in 2009?

Kirk Zander, Manitou: We have seen some bright spots with our niche products (i.e. heavy telescopic handler range). We also have been pleased with what we consider our staple product in the United States, the masted rough terrain forklift, which is built in our Waco, Texas, facility.

Darrell Messman, Palfinger North America: We are starting to see increased activity from our customers, particularly in the planning stages. Purchasing plans have started, but contractors are still being cautious of another downturn.

Masonry: In this tough economy, what is your advice to mason contractors regarding renting versus buying?

Kirk Zander, Manitou: Of course, everyone needs to consult with their accountant, but I have always heard that you buy equipment for the lows and rent for the highs. Some have said that rentals over ownership will be more prevalent as we come out of this economic crisis, therefore limiting their risks/liabilities.

Darrell Messman, Palfinger North America: I would like to say they need to buy and buy now, but probably the more sound advice is to evaluate their position financially, and then make the best decision for their situation. Right now is a good time to buy, if they can afford to do it. Prices are low, due to low demand, and I see those prices rising after the first of the year, if the economy continues on its current path. Equipment is being sold at depressed levels right now.

Masonry: What is the most important message you’d like to convey to Masonry magazine readers?

Kirk Zander, Manitou: Maybe two messages: Looking back at the market cycles within the construction equipment arena, you can track a seven-year (plus or minus) cycle. If this holds true, then we are at the bottom of the cycle and should see business improving.

Darrell Messman, Palfinger North America: The masonry business has been good to all of us over the years and will be again very soon. Palfinger has suffered just as you all have, but we are still here as healthy as ever and will be ready to step up in any way we can to get this industry back where it belongs.

Masonry: What do you see for the future of the compact equipment industry?

Kirk Zander, Manitou: It will be interesting to see what comes from the Tier IV emission regulations and how it will affect the compact equipment market. New regulations will make it more difficult to maintain larger horsepower engines in compact equipment.

Darrell Messman, Palfinger North America: The articulating crane industry is in a powerful growth stage and will continue making inroads to the construction industries. We are seeing more developments from the larger manufacturers of these products that continue to put pressure on the traditional stiff boom crane. The weight-to-lift ratio and the geometric lifting advantages are finally proving their benefits with almost every company requiring lifting and moving of materials and/or equipment.
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