Doing the Heavy Lifting

Hoist Liftruck

Hoist Liftruck manufactures heavy duty forklift trucks that range in lift capacity from 15,000 lbs to more than 115,000 lbs. This is a company that prides itself on doing as much as possible in-house; it builds its own forks, carriages, cylinders, masts, mast rails, wiring harnesses, chassis, steering axles and cabs. Name a forklift component, and Hoist Liftruck builds it.

It all starts with the raw steel and comes out as a finished product or machine. Hoist Liftruck’s unique vertically integrated manufacturing process astonishes customers and vendors who tour its facilities. We spoke with Marketing Coordinator Jentry Prine, Vice President of Sales John Kern, and Sales and Marketing Representative Anthony Blashewski about this burgeoning business.

“When you come to our facility, you see departments set up throughout our manufacturing space where they are welding, assembling, wiring, etc. We take a lot of pride in that and have received a lot of recognition over the last ten to twelve years.”

By doing everything itself, Hoist Liftruck controls its own destiny. The company achieves a cost savings by cutting out the middle man and shortens lead times – one of its competitive advantages over other manufacturers. Other companies are building stock units but sometimes a speciality application is needed. Hoist Liftruck can take a custom order, go through additional engineering and build to specifications in as little as eight to ten weeks. It has engineers on staff and, when a special order comes in, it develops an in-house engineering solution as opposed to depending on a third party.

“Our competition’s lead times have skidded out anywhere from sixteen to eighteen months, depending on the product. Having that quick lead time is very beneficial for us. When a company or major corporation gets a capital budget approved, they want products now. It’s hard to plan around having to wait one year to get a product. We are able to significantly increase our market share by supplying product quickly.”

The key is to maintain quality and the company continues to use premium components and manufacturing to supply its customers with the best equipment. While some competitors also have an in-house capacity, Hoist Liftruck is much more agile and competent with the creation of speciality items.

The recession of 2008 to 2010 affected everyone in this business, but the company quickly downsized to rapidly reduce the amount of overhead costs affecting its business operations. “We were able to move quickly on our feet, but a lot of bigger corporations have to deal with red tape and a lot of things have to happen to be able to downsize.”

Hoist Liftruck is certainly not focused on downsizing now. Since 2010, the business has been growing at twenty percent per year and building expansion has been necessary in order to accommodate this growth. On its site, the company possesses additional manufacturing space which had previously been leased out to other companies; to expand, it is simply reconfiguring some of this 750,000 square feet to become manufacturing areas for different departments.

The electrical department is an example of this. It had been in the same area where the cabs were built. “We have since taken that department and put it in a different area of the facility that was not being utilized. Now we have a standalone place where we can build a wiring harness in a day. With our cabs, we took it from where it was before, redeveloped a storage area and have our own department for cabs, wiring cabs and building cabs.”

The company has also built its own fully automated powder coat line. This is housed in a space where inspections and final testing formerly took place. “A lot has been done with existing space to be able to increase capacity and throughput.”

Much of the steel cutting is now done in house, instead of being outsourced. In order to accomplish that, the company had to expand into another building with 10,000 square feet and double the size of its plasma cutting table to increase capacity.

Coming out of the recession, the company was able to swiftly put itself in a positive position because it had planned ahead and put the infrastructure in place to support that growth. This was made easier due to the fact that most of what it does is standardized across the different products that it manufactures. There are no “one-offs”.

Hoist Liftruck remains committed to ensuring that the quality of service and product is not jeopardized by the impressive expansions going on. John Kern explained that the company has implemented rigorous quality control processes and procedures. Before anything can leave one department and go to the next, it has to be approved. “We want to make sure that everything is within manufacturing spec. Adhering to a rigorous quality control process, we feel, has helped a lot and we don’t feel that we are compromising on anything.”

The company takes pride in hiring American workers and in saying that its products are truly made in America. It uses vendors that are within a 150 mile radius of the factory, helping to stimulate the local economy.

Recently, the company has been awarded a very large contract with the US military to the tune of $900 million over five years. Winning this important contract has taken some years as a lot of military orders were going to companies offshore.

“We feel that the first option our government should look at is a domestic one. So we messaged our congressman, and really got involved with the Buy American Act (the ‘Buy American’ provision of the 2009 stimulus package). That helped us to win the contract.”

The company’s track record supplying the government for the past fifteen years is one factor that helped to garner the contract. Over the last six to seven years, the amount of product supplied to the government by Hoist Liftruck has increased tenfold.

Part of the success of Hoist Liftruck comes from its workforce of about 350 skilled employees. Competitive wages, full benefits and retirement planning go a long way in making sure that employees feel appreciated. There are frequent employee appreciation lunches and gatherings for the family oriented team in which a lot of the employees are actually related. “We feel as if having that association allows people to work better, but also knowing that they are working in a family environment as opposed to a strict corporate environment.”

With the ongoing expansion, new recruits will be coming in. One of the bonuses about the company’s proximity to Chicago is that the area provides a large talent pool of skilled labourers and employees from which to draw.

Currently Hoist Liftruck is in the process of launching its FR series. It is an extendable frame truck with stackable counterweights which is used by riggers for lifting heavy machinery. The trucks in the series can lift up to 140,000 pounds and feature a removable boom and interchangeable forks. “We are entering this niche with a new product, and a lot of these customers know who we are from the past thirty to forty years. They have a familiarity with us, and I think that helps the process of introducing yourself to a new industry and into a new niche.”

Expansion will also be seen in different international markets in the near future as the company moves into Latin America and Southeast Asia. “That’s been a big growth market for us. We are focusing on some lumber, rigging and machinery moving. We have our space reconfigured already in anticipation of that.”

The roots of this company go back almost one hundred years, while the current version has reached its twentieth anniversary this year. However, there are no plans to celebrate that milestone as its marketing team said the company will simply be far too busy. That sounds like a successful company to me.

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June 24, 2018, 2:53 AM EDT

A Proactive Approach to Resolving a Longstanding Debate

About forty skilled Central and South American workers from Ecuador, Peru, Columbia and Costa Rica came to British Columbia, Canada as temporary foreign workers (TFWs) in 2006. This story incited Labourers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA) call for reforms to Canada’s TFW program (TFWP) and the International Mobility Program (IMP). LiUNA, a powerful voice within the construction industry with over half a million members – 110,000 of whom are in Canada – has been the only Canadian union to address the issue.