Crane and Hoist Canada

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The Proof is in the Purchasing

October 31, 2022  By Don Horne

How the crane industry learned to love going digital

Alex Schuessler, International Group president and founder of SmartEquip, Inc., told Crane & Hoist Canada magazine that while the industry now loves his OEM ordering platform, there was initially reluctance and doubt.

 Over the past few years, we’ve had nothing but positive feedback,” says Schuessler. “The favourite thing we hear back from those in the crane industry is, ‘We should have done this earlier’.”

There is a sense of loyalty and closeness in the crane industry, between OEMs and their customers – and that expands into the construction realm, says Schuessler, where his company SmartEquip cut its teeth before approaching crane companies.

And for the industry to adopt the SmartEquip platform took a while, to build that trust.


The shift to online

Similar to the digital shift across your life as a consumer, you can now also buy parts online, from your designated dealer.

“What we focus on is the ‘demand chain’,” says Schuessler. “When you simplify the demand chain for the dealer, you not only remove a great deal of effort and transaction cost, but you are also enhancing the full equipment lifecycle. Dealers don’t just allow you to secure the right part with minimal effort, but they can now also deliver service time savings and improve equipment uptime.”

And that means very big cost savings and revenue gains for crane companies.

For a company like Ritchie Bros., who acquired SmartEquip, the benefits to crane and hoist owners and rental companies was evident from the very beginning.

“Ritchie Bros. has long been exclusively associated with equipment disposition, with a stellar reputation on maximizing a return on sale,” says Schuessler. “SmartEquip, in stark contrast, has always been focused on maximizing the value of equipment ownership – its lifecycle.” to Ritchie Bros., this is an important strategic broadening of focus.

What are the benefits?

But what are the benefits of a “smart” network when it comes to identifying and ordering OEM parts for crane and hoist equipment?

Cranes are complex pieces of equipment, with each unit being different from the next. Locating the right, often serial-number-specific part and service procedure for each asset is a highly complicated procedure – one that stands to benefit from a digital platform which guides the service technician. Yet, when Schuessler and SmartEquip approached the crane industry with its online platform, there was the anticipated hesitancy within the industry.

“We’ve been doing this for 22 years, and our focus for the majority of that time has been on construction equipment,” he says. “The crane industry has only become interested in the last four or five years, and very cautiously so. And to a large extent, they learned about the benefits by watching how their customers used our platform to support their construction equipment fleets.”

Crane users stand to benefit so much more, says Schuessler, as in addition to the non-uniformity of their equipment, cranes are also massively more expensive, resulting in more expensive downtime.

“There is a much greater return on asset with our system.”

With the SmartEquip database, the right part and service procedure are often merely a keystroke away.

The Proof is in the Purchasing

Crane companies are cautious by nature, but the advantages of the system have swayed many to embrace the system.

“In the last couple of years, they have opened up,” says Schuessler. “Especially among fleet owners that have mixed fleets; when they see the benefits, they are believers.”

And the COVID pandemic only fuelled the acceptance of the system.

“Interest has increased since the pandemic hit, and along with the supply chain issues,” says Schuessler. “Equipment ownership cycles are becoming longer, and parts consumption has increased significantly across an extended equipment ownership lifecycle.”

Fleet owners are recalibrating their ‘replace versus repair’ projections to deal with the challenges presented by supply chain delays, and by increased acquisition costs.

“There is a big shift going on among big equipment industries,” says Schuessler. “We have 110 equipment fleets and approximately 675 suppliers on the system today, worldwide, and most are in the construction space. But there is so much learning now going on in the crane industry as well, and we are very happy to be a part of it.”

(You can find this article in the November/December issue of Crane & Hoist magazine)

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