It is great to have a crane person in charge of Terex Cranes. Crane owners have mentioned that this has been an issue for some time and that they are concerned for the company’s long-term future. Tell us a little about Ken Lousberg the crane man and, now that you have been in the job a few months, how are you settling into the new role and what is it that makes you a crane person?
Most importantly on what makes me a crane person is that I love cranes, they are just cool. More specifically, though, I previously served in multiple leadership roles within our Cranes business over the past several years, so it has helped to be in a position to start immediately.
For some background on me, I started with Genie in 1997, and joined Terex when Genie was acquired in 2002. In 2005 I moved over to the crane segment as the vice president of Terex Business Systems (TBS) for Terex Cranes. Two years later I was then named the vice president and general manager of Terex Cranes Europe. In 2010 I moved to Beijing, assuming the role of Terex China president, where I also had responsibility for our crane businesses in Asia. So I’ve been in the Crane group for some time, and I am really excited and humbled to lead such a great team.
In the short and medium term what changes do you plan to make at Terex Cranes and why? What is working well and what are the priorities for improvement?
As a team, we are all focused on three key priorities, plus one. First and foremost our focus is on customer satisfaction. I know that our customers rely on Terex Cranes to provide innovative products backed up by dependable parts and responsive services, with an absolute commitment to safety. In the past year, we have restructured our focus on being able to support our customers more effectively. We sell much more than cranes and I want us to support our customers throughout their experience with us. The life of a crane just starts when it leaves the factory.
Second, we are very focused on quality and reliability. Across our product portfolio, our customers need high quality and reliable products. So, one of our key focus areas is to continually find ways to improve both our products and our services to meet and hopefully, exceed, our customers’ expectations.
Third, we are intensifying our focus on new products: I’m happy with the number of products our team has recently introduced, especially considering the enormous amount of time all of the engine transitions have taken from these efforts, but I do want us to introduce even more. I feel we have some product gaps in our portfolio that our customers need us to fill. When we bought the Demag business in Germany they were always known as an innovator in the industry and I want us to really build on that.
My plus one priority is our team members’ development. We tend to spend a lot of time talking about our products but, ultimately, we are in the people business. I feel it is critical that we are constantly teaching and learning with our team. Whether that is how to technically solve a problem, training on proper quality techniques, or how to communicate better with each other and our customers. If we get it right with our people, everything else will come together.
What plans do you have to rationalise and reduce manufacturing capacity and workforce in line with the fall in demand for new cranes?
We have recently had to reduce our workforce, primarily in the US, but took action globally as well. It is a tough decision and we never like to do this but, with some of the changes in demand, we had to make adjustments. I feel we do this with a lot of respect for our team members but it is always tough. We have been purposeful in protecting positions that are customer facing as well as those that are working on our new product development and quality improvement priorities.
In the longer term, how do you plan to make your mark on Terex and on the wider industry?
That is a tough question for me, as I guess I really don’t think of it as making my mark. What would make me really proud, though, is if our customers look back and say that we were good at taking care of them before, but now we are great. Ultimately, satisfied customers become loyal partners and I want to drive that type of loyalty. As I said before, as we move down this path or journey it will be very focused on day to day customer satisfaction, improving our quality and reliability, and introducing innovative products based on our customer’s feedback and needs.
On the future of Terex, what can you say about the proposed merger with Konecranes and the unsolicited buyout bid from Zoomlion?
The Terex Board of Directors, in consultation with its legal and financial advisors, are carefully reviewing the Zoomlion proposal to determine the course of action that it believes is in the best interests of Terex shareholders. For the time being, [and still at press time] the Terex Board of Directors has not changed its recommendation of the merger.
What synergies do you see, a) with a Konecranes merger and b) with a Zoomlion acquisition and what would the benefits be?
The synergies with Konecranes would primarily be with our Materials Handling & Port Solutions segment. The benefits for our crane segment would primarily be in purchasing and other back office synergies. The board felt those synergies alone were more than sufficient to propose the merger.
In terms of product strategy what are you planning? What needs to be done, for example, with the rough terrain crane range, customers still using the legacy brand names, and so on?
We are watching the market trends and taking customers’ needs into account to make our product development decisions. The rough terrain crane market is strategic for us. We are aware of the complexity of our offering; we are implementing a new product strategy, especially by developing a global RT product line with a unified design. Regarding legacy brand names, we know that they mean a lot to our customers and maybe they will see something interesting at Bauma 2016…
I don’t necessarily want to go into our product strategy for our competitors to read but, clearly an intense product plan focused on our customers’ needs and continuity through our products is very important to me.
What will be your approach and how will you go beyond what the law requires in terms of product performance, safety and operational requirements?
At Terex, everything starts with safety. Every meeting, every design project, everything. Our focus on safety and feedback from our customers is what helps us go beyond basic law compliance. For example, we designed the fall protection system that was an ESTA award winner for our lattice boom crawler cranes. As I said, safety is paramount at Terex. It’s everyone’s business at our company to design, engineer and manufacture products that meet the highest safety standards so that crane operators – and everyone on a jobsite – can go to work feeling safe and secure.
How do you see the crane industry changing in the long term - do you think that crane rental companies will disappear where they add little value to the supply chain and that manufacturers will replace them? Or what do you see?
Personally I don’t see the rental company concept going away and being replaced by the manufacturers. If anything, I see the rental companies getting bigger, for two reasons. First, it is somewhat a natural evolution that companies like to focus on their core competencies. It makes sense to me that a construction company would look at lifting as a non-core item and tend to rent the lift versus own the equipment and manage it themselves. Second, I would guess there will be a fair amount of small rental company consolidation. It is certainly what I saw in the AWP business and would guess it may happen in our industry as well.
Would you encourage your children to follow you into the crane industry and, if so, why?
Of course I would! Maybe I should change that answer in case my wife reads this. I would encourage them to go into the crane business if that is what they are passionate about. I think I have a decent chance of it happening though. My two oldest sons were very young when I worked in Zweibrücken, Germany, at our crane business. On weekends I would take them to the factory so they could see the cranes being tested in the acceptance yards. They loved it. It always made me laugh because they thought I personally built every Demag crane they would see. They’ve gotten a bit older now and know it takes a big team of people to do what we do, but they still can spot a Terex Demag Crane or a Terex Tower crane anywhere in the world. I’m sure part of their passion about our cranes is because they see me working on cranes every day, so I think we have the passionate part in place. Now we’ll have to see if they work hard enough to be a Terex team member.
This interview was taken from the April issue of International Cranes and Specialized Transport magazine.