Manitou interim CEO Dominique Bamas talks about the company's future
06 August 2013
Manitou interim CEO Dominique Bamas is planning a new era for the company. He talks to Euan Youdale about new markets, expansion of the access segment, his own future, and, of course, telehandlers.
Dominique Bamas is passionate about Manitou’s future – no surprise considering he has been a friend of the Manitou family for 25 years and an independent board member since 2009.
“Once they have seen the capabilities and possibilities of these machines, then they will want to use it. The difficult thing is to get them to see it, to demonstrate the machine; so we tell our dealers: demonstrate, demonstrate, demonstrate, because it’s so obvious once you have seen it, and they won’t want to go back. And as labour costs and health and safety develop they will want those sort of machines.
“Our strategy in Russia is to have a very dynamic dealer base – we already have good dealers but we probably want more dealers and we want to help our current dealers to grow. I would say we need to increase our dealers by about 20%. But we have to help them because they need a good financial base – so many millions of Euros of working capital. So it’s a financial issue at the end of the day because it would be difficult for such a company in Russia to find the right financing programme.”
An opportunity for the company lays in producing products that are attractive to rental companies. “We already have sales to rental companies, but what we mean by developing rental is mainly to have a line of products that are adapted to specific requirement of rental companies. The rental company probably needs products with less technology, but are more robust. In the past we were more involved in high technology, and a rental fleet needs more of a basic product.”
Mr Bamas is quick to add that Manitou will not hold back on new innovation. “The DNA of the company is technology, innovation, design; so we will not change that, but we have to change our mindset a little to be able to address different markets.”
One of the main hurdles today is the new emission laws, which have reared their heads at the same time as major global recession. “On the one hand we are reducing our price, and on the other hand we have the engine regulation problem. We have to change all our engines and it’s much more expensive and not always cost effective for the client. It’s very good in terms of environment but when you are involved in business and you have to survive, most of our customers ask, ‘what are my benefits by using your new engines?’ - the reality is it’s not cost effective.”
The varying regulations around the world also cause headaches, says Mr Bamas. “We have three factories in the Sates, but the regulation for emissions are different in Canada, US and in California. Then you have Europe and the rest of the world. Industrially and financially it doesn’t make senses. Maybe in five or 10 years every country will have the same regulation all around the world, I hope so, but we all have to survive those five to 10 years.”
Historically, the access equipment segment of Manitou has had a much smaller profile than the telehandler side of the business which represents a lion’s share of turnover. But that is set to change, according to Mr Bamas.
“I really believe in the access equipment market, which probably has more potential than the telescopic handler market. Everyone knows Manitou is a telescopic handler manufacturer and it’s probably one of the most famous brands in that area, but there are less customers who also know we are a player in the access platform market. If access is 10% of our business, then I would hope that we could at least double that in the next five years, and I think we can.”
However, Manitou will not look to expand into the popular scissor arena, rather choosing to concentrate on articulated and telescopic booms. Concerning scissors, Manitou has a cross selling agreement with Terex AWP under which Manitou sells Terex-produced rough terrain diesel scissors and electric slab scissors under the Manitou brand, while Terex sells Manitou-produced self-propelled vertical masts under the Genie brand.
“Scissors are the largest part of the market,” concedes Mr Bamas, “but you see more and more articulated platforms. So we are looking at new products and geographical expansion. We want to develop our access equipment all around the world.
“In the past we have a network of dealers that sell telescopic handlers and then say, ‘by the way, we also sell access platforms.’ Now we want them to say, ‘we are a telescopic handler manufacturer and an access platform manufacturer.’ We now have the right products to do that.”
Manitou already has a dedicated facility in France for access equipment, which it has invested in heavily. In two to three years Mr Bamas hopes that this facility will be working to capacity. “I hope do have so much development that by then we will have an industrial dilemma,” he adds.
Talking of new boom products, Mr Bamas said there were some in research and development. “Obviously we have a number of projects in research and design, and I hope in next two years we will be able to go to market. “The main focus is to have a full range of products for our dealers to work on. It’s not about trying to go higher and higher it’s about having a comprehensive range within the core market.”
The company’s tallest boom is the 28 m self-propelled telescopic 280 TJ. “But I am not spending money looking to a 33 m then a 35 m,” Explains Mr Bamas, “That’s not the main issue, the main issue is to develop a full range of products to sell around the world – because France is now saturated.”
With his considerable knowledge and experience, hopefully Mr Bamas will be around for some time to lend support to the new CEO, unless, perhaps, Mr Bamas has thoughts of taking on the role permanently. “Of course it would be a great challenge - I have known Manitou for 25 years, and I have been involved with many different aspects of this company. “It’s a great family business, with many, many attractive aspects.”