Big things from small places

24 April 2008

Menno Koel, sales director of Holland Lift.

Menno Koel, sales director of Holland Lift.

What did Menno Koel, sales director of Holland Lift, think when he heard that JLG had bought competing scissors manufacturer Liftlux? 'My initial reaction was of surprise, but I then immediately thought of the possibility of other markets opening up for Holland Lift,” he says.

The words of a man with confidence in his products. 'It's not hard to sell good equipment”, he says, 'What is difficult is the work before you can sell - having good equipment to offer.” Evidence of hard work is the company's 40% sales growth in 2005, and the doubling of sales over the past three years, a period that included a trough in sales for the industry.

Although privately owned and small in comparison to JLG and others, Mr Koel will not put Holland Lift into any niche. 'We supply a full range of electric and diesel scissor lifts, but we are known for our high-capacity and specialized machines.” The company provides working heights from 6.5 to 34.5 m, and one product line strength is narrow machines for accessing tight spaces. Since its launch at APEX last September in Maastricht, Holland Lift has sold 20 of its 1.2 m wide, 21.4 m working height, 500 kg capacity N-195EL12 models. A 28 m machine, under development and available next June, will be just 10 cm wider. Menno Koel, sales director of Holland Lift.

Key characteristics

Mr Koel says the product development strategy focus is on three key characteristics: durability, reliability, and stability. 'We apply again and again our knowledge of good scissors design. We build long-lasting lifts that are safe to use and offer lower total cost over the product life cycle. We are considered to be the Mercedes of scissors lifts”, he says.

If that seems to describe a specialty, so be it, says Mr Koel. Some Holland Lift machines, 'special' at the time of their introduction, soon became mainstream products. High-lift, narrow machines - a strength of Holland Lift - are an example. Now more mid-sized rental companies are buying these types, according to Mr Koel. 'People cannot build to spread out in developed areas. Now they are building higher, creating more demand for high-lift, narrow access,” he says.

He projects continued strong demand and expects Holland Lift to double sales again in the next three years. For example, orders for five 34 m MegaStar machines for delivery through June, will bring the total number of sales of the giant scissor to 22. 'Some years we sell none; 2006 will be good for us,” says Mr Koel. Further prospects for a good year come from sales of 20 of the B-165EL25 scissor, a model recently converted from diesel design to electric.

As big as some of its machines may be, on the marketing side the company is more narrowly focused than the bigger companies. Ninety percent of sales are in three countries - The Netherlands, the UK, and Germany - and the company is represented in Belgium, Luxembourg, Ireland, Austria, Switzerland, and France. Mr Koel expects to appoint representatives in Spain, Italy, and the Czech Republic this year.

Interesting USA

Although the company's major owner is resident in the USA and Mr Koel did attend ConExpo in Las Vegas last year and finds the US market 'interesting”, he says, 'we have no concrete plans in the USA. We want to conquer Europe first,” which means having representation and continuing sales in every country there.

Menno Koel's confidence in the company's product and design capabilities is evident. He thinks that being a small company translates into a flexible, fast-moving organization, one that can leverage its designs through a manufacturing capacity that was expanded in 2004 and possibly will be again this year.

Will the company add manufacturing capacity in the future? Mr Koel smiles and says, 'We see nice market possibilities for JLG. We see nicer possibilities for Holland Lift”. Big things can come from small companies.

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