Mike Reichert, the new president of US-based low level access specialist Custom Equipment, talks to Euan Youdale about the company’s recent takeover and plans.

In December last year it was announced that Custom Equipment, the US-based manufacturer of Hy-Brid Lifts, had been acquired by Stratford-Cambridge Group (SCG).

Since then it has also been announced that company founder Steve Kissinger will be taking more of a back seat in company activities. Founded in 1981 as a welding and fabrication business, Custom first developed lifts for the cemetery and mausoleum markets which evolved into a full product range of scissor lifts and MEWPs.

Kissinger

Mike Reichert, Custom Equipment president (left), and company founder Steve Kissinger.

Speaking at the time of the acquisition, Kissinger, who founded the business with his wife Lynn, said, “Our family started this business over 36 years ago and are very proud of what we’ve built and the relationships that we’ve made.”

SCG now has a controlling interest of 80% of Custom Equipment, with the sellers retaining a 20% stake in the business

Speaking in the last few weeks to AI, Kissinger explained the deal with SGC was five or six months in the planning. “There was a period of transition when everyone was shifting around and establishing their new roles.”

This resulted in Mike Reichert taking on the role of president, effectively replacing Kissinger when it comes to the day-to-day running of the company. Kissinger will remain on board on a consultancy basis. Reichert’s previous role at Custom Equipment was chief financial officer but his influence has always been far reaching. “I took over Steve’s role but am still helping with planning the direction of the company and product development,” says Reichert.

As Reichert explains, part of the reason for the deal with SCG was the potential for growth and the investment in new facilities. “That’s why we took on the equity, to find that growth,” says Reichert. Although the company already boasts an impressive 20% compound growth, taking the company to the next level requires a higher level of investment.

New potential

For example, more than 80% of Custom Equipment’s sales comes from its domestic North American market. But, the company has always had ambitions overseas where low level access has established and potential markets.

Of course, Custom already has a foothold in the global marketplace with distributors in Europe, South Africa and the Middle East. The latest dealer to be signed up was General Trading and Equipment (GTE), based in Saudi Arabia with depots throughout the country.

 Hy-BridLifts_WheelLoads2

Beyond global reach, Reichert believes an answer for significant growth of the company’s equipment lies in educating the market. “It’s about getting the message across about using the right equipment for the right job. You can do 85%-90% of the jobs that typically use a 19ft scissor, with a 14ft platform.”

This is where Custom Equipment’s products fit in, along with the other advantages including the ability to put it in a standard elevator and still allow two people in the basket. However, the company is not looking to take on the likes of Genie and JLG, and realistically is forecasting a continuation of around 20% annual revenue growth. The deal with SCG will allow it to continue that growth and make significant investment in the new facilities containing state-of-the-art painting and robotic equipment to aid the fabrication, welding and assembly it does in house.

“We would be based in the same region that we are in now as there is plenty of fabrication and welding around there,” says Reichert. At the moment Custom Equipment is headquartered in Richfield, Wisconsin, and has an additional manufacturing facility in West Bend, based in the same state.

With a number of international manufacturers now producing equipment and sourcing components in China, would Custom Equipment consider a similar move? Reichert explains that all components are now sourced locally and there are no specific plans in place to change that, although it’s a situation that is always being reviewed.

“We are looking to continue to do it this way, although we will always look at the cost advantages. He adds, “I think there is another advantage in locally-sourced equipment; product is more likely to be available in the required time frame.”

The company’s biggest lift so far is the 20ft (6.1m) working height HB-1430. “Hybrid lifts are well known in low level access, as that’s our niche but we want to expand and see global opportunities open up. The plans involve using the same distributor base but to understand their specific country’s needs that we could develop products for.”

For example, adds Reichert, it makes sense to expand the pusharound line in the UK, where its popular due to the 2005 Work at Height Regulations. On a more global level, growth is likely to come from awareness, rather than specific regulation. “There is a growing awareness of ladders in industrial and commercial activity. They want to know what other products are available to elevate someone rather than using a ladder.”

Mike Reichert, the new president of US-based low level access specialist Custom Equipment, talks to AI about the company’s recent takeover and plans.

In December last year it was announced that Custom Equipment, the US-based manufacturer of Hy-Brid Lifts, had been acquired by Stratford-Cambridge Group (SCG).

Since then it has also been announced that company founder Steve Kissinger will be taking more of a back seat in company activities. Founded in 1981 as a welding and fabrication business, Custom first developed lifts for the cemetery and mausoleum markets which evolved into a full product range of scissor lifts and MEWPs.

Speaking at the time of the acquisition, Kissinger, who founded the business with his wife Lynn, said, “Our family started this business over 36 years ago and are very proud of what we’ve built and the relationships that we’ve made.”

SCG now has a controlling interest of 80% of Custom Equipment, with the sellers retaining a 20% stake in the business

Speaking in the last few weeks to AI, Kissinger explained the deal with SGC was five or six months in the planning. “There was a period of transition when everyone was shifting around and establishing their new roles.”

This resulted in Mike Reichert taking on the role of president, effectively replacing Kissinger when it comes to the day-to-day running of the company. Kissinger will remain on board on a consultancy basis. Reichert’s previous role at Custom Equipment was chief financial officer but his influence has always been far reaching. “I took over Steve’s role but am still helping with planning the direction of the company and product development,” says Reichert.

As Reichert explains, part of the reason for the deal with SCG was the potential for growth and the investment in new facilities. “That’s why we took on the equity, to find that growth,” says Reichert. Although the company already boasts an impressive 20% compound growth, taking the company to the next level requires a higher level of investment.

New potential

For example, more than 80% of Custom Equipment’s sales comes from its domestic North American market. But, the company has always had ambitions overseas where low level access has established and potential markets.

Of course, Custom already has a foothold in the global marketplace with distributors in Europe, South Africa and the Middle East. The latest dealer to be signed up was General Trading and Equipment (GTE), based in Saudi Arabia with depots throughout the country.

Beyond global reach, Reichert believes an answer for significant growth of the company’s equipment lies in educating the market. “It’s about getting the message across about using the right equipment for the right job. You can do 85%-90% of the jobs that typically use a 19ft scissor, with a 14ft platform.”

 IMG_9273

This is where Custom Equipment’s products fit in, along with the other advantages including the ability to put it in a standard elevator and still allow two people in the basket. However, the company is not looking to take on the likes of Genie and JLG, and realistically is forecasting a continuation of around 20% annual revenue growth. The deal with SCG will allow it to continue that growth and make significant investment in the new facilities containing state-of-the-art painting and robotic equipment to aid the fabrication, welding and assembly it does in house.

“We would be based in the same region that we are in now as there is plenty of fabrication and welding around there,” says Reichert. At the moment Custom Equipment is headquartered in Richfield, Wisconsin, and has an additional manufacturing facility in West Bend, based in the same state.

With a number of international manufacturers now producing equipment and sourcing components in China, would Custom Equipment consider a similar move? Reichert explains that all components are now sourced locally and there are no specific plans in place to change that, although it’s a situation that is always being reviewed.

“We are looking to continue to do it this way, although we will always look at the cost advantages. He adds, “I think there is another advantage in locally-sourced equipment; product is more likely to be available in the required time frame.”

The company’s biggest lift so far is the 20ft (6.1m) working height HB-1430. “Hybrid lifts are well known in low level access, as that’s our niche but we want to expand and see global opportunities open up. The plans involve using the same distributor base but to understand their specific country’s needs that we could develop products for.”

For example, adds Reichert, it makes sense to expand the pusharound line in the UK, where its popular due to the 2005 Work at Height Regulations. On a more global level, growth is likely to come from awareness, rather than specific regulation. “There is a growing awareness of ladders in industrial and commercial activity. They want to know what other products are available to elevate someone rather than using a ladder.”

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