Mike Anderson’s American Iron

Better Roads Staff | October 4, 2011

Can One Color Meet All Your Needs

What’s that they say, whoever they are? “You can’t be all things to all people.”

By Mike Anderson

While many construction equipment manufacturers and their respective brands have historically focused on particular sectors by offering products of only select types or even specific sizes within those select types, a few others have indeed tried to swallow the whole apple and not just take a bite or two out of the market. The second approach believes that if our customer needs it, whatever it is, we’ll have it. If that customer has $2,756,234.10 to spend this year on equipment products and services, we don’t want any of it – even that lousy dime – rolling off our yard and potentially onto our competitor’s. That’s because, next year, it might be more than that lousy dime that goes down the street. This year’s lost used coupler sale could become next year’s lost backhoe sale and the following year’s lost roller, paver and milling machine sale.

Makes sense, but is it practical?

The biggest challenge may not be that some manufacturers and their dealers aren’t equipped to provide all – or at least most – products, services and support. It might rather be just the age-old makeup of construction equipment users. No doubt, yellow ironers have they favorite equipment brands, but most often those favorites change from equipment type to equipment type, even within a type depending on application. For instance, a guy might absolutely swear by Brand A excavators for heavy highway work, but will just as quickly turn his back on them in favor of Brand B when equipping his utility division. And, of course, preferences do change over time.

It’s not like the farm tractor game, where if Grandpa dug with Blue (or Red, or Green, or whatever), Dad dug with Blue, I dig with Blue, and my boys will dig with Blue. By comparison, the excavator guys “have tried them all,” and undoubtedly have their opinions of each.

One day not that many years ago, I was driving a state highway, just picking up speed coming out of a small town when I spotted an excavator working off in a wooded area, almost hidden. Circling around to take photos of the machine at work, I was greeted by the shouts of the operator, who idled down when he spotted me, or my camera. Standard reaction was to reach for my ID, but he wasn’t angry, at least not at me, and not for reasons one would expect. “So, you don’t work for (Brand E)?” he asked. “Too bad, I have a message for them: They must be crazy. They make these great machines and then they don’t want to sell them. We had to beg just to get this one after we bought a few million dollars’ worth of other equipment they seem more interested in selling.

“This is the best excavator ever built,” he said as he climbed back into the cab, “and, believe me, I have tried them all.”

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