People like building materials manufacturer Brendan Quinn from Maryland are very much aware that the USA is a growth market. After all, his industry is booming. With its global reach, the KION Group wants to harness the potential of North America’s upturn. Quinn is happy to confirm that KION products are a reliable choice.
People like building materials
manufacturer Brendan Quinn
from Maryland are very much aware
that the USA is a growth market. After all, his industry is booming.
With its global reach, the KION Group wants to harness the
potential of North America’s upturn. Quinn is happy to confirm
that KION products are a reliable choice.
The red truck is covered in so much dust that you can hardly make out the Linde logo. With a pallet of heavy cement blocks on its forklift, the truck rolls across the yard at Ernest Maier Block, a manufacturer of concrete blocks in Bladensburg in the US state of Maryland. Driver Jerome Chew skilfully places the pallet on the wide bed of a delivery truck, then steers the forklift towards his next load. ‘Lindy’, as Chew and his colleagues affectionately call the forklift truck, stirs up concrete dust with its tyres. Thudding noises come from the machines in the open building across the yard, where the compressor hisses and the cement conveyor clatters away. This Ernest Maier factory alone produces between ten and eleven million concrete blocks every year. Following the economic difficulties of the financial crisis, the construction boom now taking place in the USA needs materials to keep it going.
“Each block is good as cash”
“What makes us stand out from other companies is the service we offer. We take charge of the whole supply chain personally – that includes loading up and unloading – whereas our competitors have to rely on outside help. Things can sometimes get broken, which rarely happens to us,” says Brendan Quinn, the 42-year-old CEO of the family-owned company that dates back more than 80 years and has German roots. He carefully hand-picked his 125 or so employees. “We need forklift truck drivers who are just that little bit better than the rest. For me, every concrete block represents hard cash. So, if one of them falls off the truck, it is as if you are ripping up dollar bills,” continues Quinn. That’s why he pays much higher wages than most mid-sized companies, as well as making contributions to health insurance and pension funds – which are by no means a given in the USA.
It’s no wonder that Quinn feels a bit like the “mayor of a small town,” as he puts it. His arrival represented a major career change, switching from banking to the concrete block business aged just 23 years old. “I wanted to do something more tangible. And this is a business that deals with people,” he adds. Things weren’t going so well for the company, based near the capital Washington, as the founding family had overstretched themselves in terms of their investment in the business. Quinn helped get the company back on track, a few years after his arrival he was running the company – and expanding it.
President Obama came to visit
News of his success story reached the White House, and in October 2010 President Barack Obama even came to visit Ernest Maier Block, where he gave a talk on the future of America’s economy. Obama described “bricks and blocks” as essential to America’s recovery from the recession, and said that he was very proud of this company.
Since the US economy has moved back into growth, business has also begun to boom in the all-important construction industry. Ernest Maier is doing better than ever: twelve men work in two shifts per day, six days a week. At the main plant in Bladensburg they’re running out of space to dry and store the blocks.
The only answer was to start piling them up. Of course, that’s only an option if you have sturdy equipment. “We put our forklift trucks through so much, they’re worked really hard. That’s why we chose Linde trucks, which can lift higher and take more punishment,” explains Hank Keeney, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at Ernest Maier. He added that Linde had proven highly reliable in terms of maintenance too. There are two forklift trucks in use on the yard, which have a phenomenal 30,000 operating hours under their belts. Other trucks would have given up the ghost after only half that, he says. “Linde is the Mercedes of the forklift world.”
Linde forklifts are in use everywhere at Ernest Maier, not only for loading and unloading delivery trucks. They are also invaluable when moving the still-damp blocks from the production machine into the hot kilns. Whilst other manufacturers have long since automated this step of production, Brendan Quinn stands by tried-and-tested methods to produce the grey stone blocks. “We are still a bit old-fashioned in that respect,” explains the CEO. “We find that humans on forklift trucks have fewer breakdowns than machines on rails.”
Making further inroads in growth markets.
The KION Group has its eye firmly on key growth markets for its products such as China and North America. It is taking an active approach – with the right brand strategies, the right, competitive products, the right sales models and the right local partners.
The Strategy 2020 is focused on the North American market, consisting of the USA (the world’s second-largest single market), Canada and Mexico. In the coming years, the KION Group aims to considerably improve its share of this market, which stands at about one per cent.
The Company has a solid basis on which to build. In the USA, the KION Group operates a production plant in Summerville, South Carolina, with an annual capacity of over 10,000 trucks. It also has a nationwide network of around 60 dealers with more than 100 sales outlets.
Under the umbrella of KION North America, the brand companies Linde and STILL are to continue serving the requirements of the US, Canadian and Mexican markets with a comprehensive, customised and complementary product portfolio. The medium-term plan is to establish a fleet management system and offer financing.