In early July, Linamar Corp., Guelph, Ontario, named Brad Boehler as the new interim president of its Skyjack subsidiary, also of Guelph. Boehler joined Skyjack in 2003, and has consistently held leadership positions at the company, including vice president of engineering and, most recently, vice president of sales and marketing.
Recently, Boehler took time to talk with Lift and Access about what lies ahead for Skyjack under his management.
Lift and Access: What are Skyjack’s overall goals?
Brad Boehler: Skyjack wants to become a global full-line aerial work platform supplier. We are a strong scissor-lift company, but we need to expand into new markets and also fill in some gaps in our telescopic- and articulating-boom product lines. We are now developing a 60-foot articulating boom lift and will soon start work on an 80-foot telescopic boom lift. Larger telescopic and smaller electric models are also coming. Although we will not be immediately developing the big telehandler line, we will continue to manufacture and support those products as that market moves from niche to mainstream.
LA: What do you see as Skyjack’s strengths?
BB: We have built a strong reputation for providing products that are simple, safe, cost-effective, and reliable. We are also easy to do business with. As we move forward, we will stay true to those strengths and principles. We are also fortunate to have a financially strong and interested parent company in Linamar, which enables us to aggressively pursue the new-product development and market expansion that will let Skyjack grow both in North America and globally.
LA: What are some areas where Skyjack has opportunities to improve?
BB: Like all equipment manufacturers, we had to cut deeply during the recent tough times. Now we need to recruit quality people with the right skills to help us aggressively develop product improvements and to help us grow globally. We are now looking for people in specific global regions and with global skills to help us do that.
LA: What are some of the geographic areas you’re targeting for expansion?
BB: We want to become stronger in our established markets of North America, Latin America, and the United Kingdom, while also establishing sales, service, and support networks in other areas of the world. Our first priorities are high-growth areas like Brazil, China, and Australia. For the near term, we will manufacture products for all global markets at our existing plants, but we are looking at the possibility of local market manufacturing in the future.
LA: What will change under the new “aggressive” product development plan?
BB: Skyjack is changing its product development process to a multifunctional approach with a process that more resembles automotive industry-style development and launches. It starts with conducting customer focus groups and really hearing the voices of many customers in order to come up with a clear view of customer needs. To address those needs and to also understand how we can manufacture and support the product most effectively, we assemble a cross-functional team to develop a product that meets all aspects of those needs. The team includes representatives of sales, engineering, purchasing, manufacturing, parts, service, and other departments to look at the new product from every angle. That will let us consistently come up with superior products and support systems.
LA: Will Skyjack be branching out into new kinds of products, or expanding existing lines?
BB: At present, we don’t envision branching into new kinds of products. Our focus will be on filling in and expanding the range of models we offer in our current product lines, as well as improving performance by incorporating new but proven technology. We want to stay true to our strength of offering equipment that’s simple for the customer to use and maintain, but we also want to incorporate new technology where it enhances simplicity, performance, and reliability. We have to be aware of how new technology enables our products to comply with safety and emissions requirements. One vital rule is that no new technology will be incorporated into Skyjack products until it is proven absolutely reliable.
LA: How will you go about evaluating and incorporating new technology?
BB: We are developing a process for identifying and validating new technology that could add value for customers. We previously have done this within our work groups, but we are going to build a dedicated technical validation staff to find and test new technology. Again, nothing will be incorporated into Skyjack products until it’s proven effective and reliable.
LA: Are there any other topics we should address?
BB: Even though Skyjack is becoming a larger company and expanding globally, we will remain approachable and responsive to customers. We will still feel like a small company when they interact with us. Also, we will stay true to the core values that have made customers like Skyjack products: simplicity, safety, reliability, and efficiency.