Lift Truck Center fights complacency with top-notch customer service.
The pedigree stretches even farther than the timeline.
Lift Truck Center has been in the material handling equipment business since its parent company – Murfin Inc. – purchased the operation from Oliver Handling in 1982. But the link established between retired Lift Truck president Bill Bolin and W.R. Murfin stretches all the way back to the late 1950s, which was instrumental in leading to Murfin’s subsequent acquisition.
Murfin Inc. is a Wichita, Kan.-based family business that got its start as Murfin Drilling Co. in 1926 and consolidated its assets in 1991. Murfin Drilling remains one of the top oil and gas production companies in Kansas, and other corporate holdings also include Murphy Tractor and Equipment Company, MV Purchasing LLC and MV Oil Trust, radio stations, commercial real estate and banks.
“Nearly 90 years later, they remain committed to their original business, along with serving many diverse industries,” said Doug Iannone, president of Lift Truck Center. “Lift Truck Center has a successful legacy and has served to mentor many veterans of this industry. Years ago, my dad, while employed for a Tulsa dealership, worked for one of the many successful graduates that was originally trained in Wichita at our dealership, under the influence of Bill Bolin.”
These days, Lift Truck Center has a workforce of just more than 50 employees split between branch locations in Wichita and Springfield, Mo., and Iannone said the company is looking to hire technicians, parts and sales consultants in both cities. Several resident technicians, too, are stationed in remote locations, and the company’s territory covers more than 100 counties in Kansas and Missouri, catering to clients in the manufacturing, warehousing, retail and logistics spaces, among others.
Equipment sales account for roughly half of overall, he said, while service, parts and rentals comprise the other 50 percent.
“Our customers range from the small business that doesn’t own a forklift and rents twice a year, to large fleet users with 100+ lift trucks,” Iannone said. “(They) use lift trucks to produce, or move their products to their respective customers. When an operation is dependent on lift trucks, the costs of an out-of-service unit in some cases can be several thousands of dollars for every hour that it is out of commission. That dependency and cost of downtime creates a high sense of urgency on us as service providers to respond quickly to getting the lift truck repaired and back in operation.”
Competition comes in the form of independent service technicians, eBay and other online equipment wholesalers and both factory branch and locally owned dealerships. The availability of so many stable and long-standing dealers, he said, has helped establish a high baseline for customer service.
Given that reality, Lift Truck Center leans on its reputation for honesty, and its position as a dealer representative for Toyota – the top-selling brand of lift truck in North America for 13 years and the No. 1-ranked forklift in quality, value and lowest cost of ownership by the Peerless Research Group.
“There are many variables that separate good from best,” Iannone said.
“The vast size of our area makes it challenging to cost effectively service customers, that in extreme cases are over five hours drive time away from our nearest brick-and-mortar facility. Integrity is the absolute driver in our business, with a focus on striving to understand and communicate the facts and without compromise committed to fulfilling promises and doing the right thing. Integrity, best products, coupled with the right people for delivering responsive service are the main reasons our customers do business.
“While certainly important to be profitable, our success will be measured by more than the bottom line, and will include the ability to contribute to worthy causes that positively touch the lives of our employees and the people in our communities.”
Lift Truck Center has developed significant and productive supplier relationships with not only Toyota, but also Doosan and Sellick. Also vital to success have been connections to Reaco Battery Service Corp. and Cascade Corp, which are vital to most of the company’s lift truck sales. Additionally, a partnership with Interlake Mecalux Warehouse Solutions provides systems that enable it to serve as a single source for customer storage and space-saving solutions.
A corporate expansion into southwest Missouri in 2013 was enabled by the purchase of a previous Toyota lift truck dealer, and a move to a new location in Springfield is expected in 2016. A new product line – Nilfisk-Advance sweepers and scrubbers – was added recently, too, and will help Lift Truck Center further strengthen its value proposition to existing customers within serviced industries.
Going forward, Iannone said continuing to practice fundamentals will ensure prolonged success.
“Our culture embraces the Toyota ‘Kaizen’ process for continuous improvement,” he said.
“It’s critical that we fight complacency and continue to find ways to take care of our customers better than our competition. Remaining close to our customers and understanding their goals will be keys to keeping our focus on track. Continued growth and expansion with additional locations are high on of our list of priorities. We hope to narrow the mileage gap between remote customers and our facilities, along with growing in new markets outside of Kansas and southwest Missouri.
“We will continue to invest in our partnership with our key suppliers, and strategize with them on ways we can collectively exceed customer expectations, and continue increasing our market share. We will responsibly implement technology and new software that will help us better manage the fleet operating costs for our customers, and provide our business with the tools that allow quick access to information and the flexibility to respond to the changing needs of our customers.”
AT A GLANCE
WHO: Lift Truck Center
WHAT: Supplier of a comprehensive line of industrial and rough terrain forklifts, warehouse racks and shelving, forklift parts and services, forklift rentals and aftermarket support
WHERE: Corporate offices in Wichita, Kan. and Springfield, Mo.