The X file

19 March 2008

Chuck Hutchinson, vice president of sales and co–owner, says the company's main focus right now is t

Chuck Hutchinson, vice president of sales and co–owner, says the company's main focus right now is to complete its Summit Series development project, releasing several new products over this year and

To be one of the largest scaffold manufacturers in North America isn't good enough for Bil–Jax. The company's management team has ambitions to offer the widest range of trailer–mounted booms in the country, even Europe. As it continues to develop its Summit Series of trailer–mounted products, the company also has now entered the self propelled market with its new X–Boom Series.

With the company name going strong now for 60 years as of 2007, Bil–Jax has been in the lift industry for approximately 25 years. Its product line of equipment, from scaffolding to its lift lines (trailer–mounted and the new telescopic booms), equipment trailers and staging, exceeds 6,000 end items.

However, it wasn't until 2003 when the company reached a crossroads with its lift line. When the company's current management team and a private US investment group purchased the business from German scaffold company Plettac, the team had to decide what to do with the line.

“We decided in 2003 when we bought the company that we either needed to get involved in a big way in lifts or get out of lifts,” says co–owner and Vice President of Sales Chuck Hutchinson, who has been with the company for almost 15 years. “And we decided to get involved in lifts.

We redesigned our product line so we could offer industry–leading features to our customers so we could in fact dominate the category of trailer–mounted boom lifts, at least in the United States and hopefully around the world.”

Product line expansion

The company has introduced five new trailer models since 2003, says Hutchinson, and this year sees the company enter the self–propelled boom market with its new X–Boom series. The first model is the 43 1/2 foot working height model SLT 3632, introduced at this year's World of Concrete in Las Vegas, which will be released in October to coincide with the company's 60th anniversary.

Hutchinson says the self–propelled line is different because it is a lightweight, four wheel drive machine with hydraulic outriggers. The SLT 3632 machine features 32 feet maximum outreach, 3.5 mph speed, 4WD, oscillating axles, a grade capability of 45º, and auto–leveling up to 12.5º.

“Its advantage is weight, which affects transportability and cost. With the combination of a trailer and machine, it will weigh less than 10,000 pounds with no special licensing required,” Hutchinson says.

In addition to the launch of the X–Boom Series, the company continues to develop its Summit Series towable lifts. This range is now being marketed in Europe, with a CE–marked European version of the 3632T shown on the IPAF booth at the massive Bauma exhibition in Munich, Germany in April. The company continued to build greater awareness of the product line at the UK's SED show in May.

Product is built to industry standards but is less expensive and light weight. More products in this line will be released next year.

“Bauma gave us exposure to people we haven't met before and gave them an opportunity to see our machines, get to meet us, and find out what our intentions are,” says Hutchinson. “From our standpoint, it was a very good show. We created lots of interest in our products, generated lots of leads from people who wanted to represent us. And since that time, we signed five dealers.” These dealers are in Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, Austria and Switzerland.

Bil–Jax is also now entering the Latin American market, with a dealer already in Colombia. The company has a dealer in Beijing, China, and Hutchinson says talks are underway with a distributor in Australia. “We haven't completed our Australian certifications yet but as soon as we do that, we'll probably sign an Australian dealer,” he says.

With its expansion plans and increased product lines, you might think the company has been growing. However, it is difficult to know by how much: because the company is privately–owned, Hutchinson declined to give annual sales numbers but says the last three years have been records for the company. He says this year's sales will be similar to last year's and with its emergence into the international market, next year will also be high sales.

“We expect to do more outside the US next year than obviously we're going to do this year,” Hutchinson says. “That will help continue to fuel the growth. And we expect further growth in the domestic market, as well.”

Lift line growth

He adds that although its sales are stronger in scaffolding, the lift line is a faster–growing market. The company expects at some point that the sales will be evenly split between scaffolding and lifts.

The residential slowdown in the US hasn't much impacted sales of the lift line, says Hutchinson, who reports that commercial and industrial business is still “red hot.”

Can the company's manufacturing facility keep up with demand? Hutchinson says the company's facility in Archbold, OH, which comprises 350,000 square feet and was completed in 1995, is still relatively new. The facility has capabilities of producing 1,500 to 2,000 units per year, he says.

The company's strategy is to complete its X–Boom and Summit Series. As reported in ALH's H January/February issue, the X–Boom model SLT–3632 (aka 36XT) is the company's “first” product in the series. The next model, the 45 foot, self–propelled 45XA will be released in October. Next year, two more X–Booms will be released, one of which is the SLT 5533XA, as well as two models in the “trailer mounted area,” says Hutchinson, and adds there are field test units of the X–Boom Series being tested at its plant, with dealers and rental yards.

“I think our strategy is pretty apparent and simple: we intend to complete our Summit Series development project, which will include the traditional trailer–mounted boom products, and we've carried that one step forward into the four wheel drive, what we call the X–Boom,” says Hutchinson. He says there are similarities between those two series, such as that all the lift structures are identical. The only thing that changes between the trailer–mounted and the self–propelled products is the chassis.

Expansion plans?

He says the company may move into tracked machines once the X–Boom line is complete. Does Bil–Jax have any thoughts to enter the scissor lift market? Hutchinson says at this time there are no plans, but the company isn't ruling it out. “We got a big enough project on our plate right now finishing out the development of our Summit Series machines. Once we get that completed, we'll take a look at what other options are out there and attractive.

Latest News
What do you want from a modern excavator?
Projects are growing in complexity demanding more efficient and dynamic solutions but what do users need from their equipment to meet these goals?
Fuel cell specialist AFC raises funds for rental JV
AFC Energy will invest in its rental JV with Speedy Hire
PartnerLift trio in Ahern equipment deal
Three rental companies receive lifts at Ahern Germany