Snorkel Invests $10M to Increase Production

Snorkel International, St. Joseph, Mo., is investing $10 million to ramp up production as it moves into full line manufacture of aerial work platforms.

Snorkel was purchased for $125 million in August by The Tanfield Group PLC, a $1.3 billion U.K.-based company. Tanfield has already cleared all of Snorkel's debt in the United States and is investing a further $10 million to expand and improve the facilities in St. Joseph, Mo., which will allow Snorkel to ramp up production and start building new products for a global market.

“Demand is so high for our products that right now, there is a golden opportunity to become a major player in what is a $7-billion-a-year industry,” said Frank Scarborough, president of Snorkel. “We at Snorkel are fortunate that our new owners embrace this opportunity and are prepared to support us with significant funds to achieve our goals.”

Snorkel is recruiting an additional 40 assembly workers, with at least 60 more to follow by summer 2008, as the company ramps up production.

“Snorkel is a fantastic business with a great workforce, a great product range and great prospects,” said Darren Kell, CEO of The Tanfield Group. “Our aim is to provide a high level of funding for Snorkel to create rapid, sustainable growth and fulfill its potential.”

Tanfield already owns the UpRight and Aerial Access brands of personnel lifts, but Snorkel will be Tanfield's only aerial work platform brand in America. Snorkel will absorb eight popular UpRight machines into its product range • small to medium-sized electric and diesel-powered aerial lifts • and will transfer manufacture of these lifts from Fresno, Calif., to St. Joseph.

Tanfield entered the aerial work platform market about five years ago, when it began manufacturing the established Aerial Access range of trailer-mounted platforms. It expanded into small and medium-sized self-propelled platforms with the acquisition of UpRight in June 2006. In less than a year, Tanfield took UpRight's order intake from $300,000 per week to $3 million per week, with products sold through an established dealer network in Europe, Scandinavia, the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region.

“Along with building a new line of small and medium-sized aerial work platforms, St. Joseph will also become Tanfield's global manufacturing base for larger boom lifts,” said Scarborough. “Through its UpRight brand, Tanfield has already developed sophisticated sales channels into relatively untouched territories for Snorkel in Europe, Scandinavia and the Middle East. We can fully exploit these channels to drive our range of large boom lifts into new territories.”

The initial $10 million investment includes $4 million for a state-of-the-art paint plant at Snorkel's factory in Elwood, Kan. The sister facility in Wathena, Kan., will more than double in size to 95,000 square feet to manufacture the new product lines. It will also purchase a new IT system, machine tools and other equipment.

“Snorkel is an established, profitable business, but we can make it even more successful by investing in the very latest paint and plant technology, while also introducing some of our proven manufacturing innovation techniques,” said Kell. “Tanfield also brings Snorkel a sophisticated global supply chain and a business of a size and scale that can negotiate excellent rates with suppliers.

Kell said the investment will put Snorkel on a level playing field in the pricing arena, which would open up a global market for its products.