UK-based Boughton Engineering last year signed an agreement to ‘Europeanise’ the American McNeilus front-end loader (FEL) range. But as Malcolm Bates reports, there’s more to it than that...
How keen is sales director Steve Price to get the message across that Boughton Engineering intends to go places in 2018? Here’s a clue – it’s still only 8.00 am, I’m in his office in Wolverhampton, UK, and I’m already on my second cup of coffee.
We’re both on a mission. Me to ensure that I get the exclusive Boughton/McNeilus story into this issue of ‘Collection & Handling’. And Steve, because after several months of ‘de-bugging’ and making sure that systems designed for mounting on US-built truck chassis work just as well on chassis designed for operations throughout Europe (and other global markets influenced by European standards), he’s finally ready to announce ‘Phase Two’ of the agreement. And that is?
Well, ‘Phase One’ was to re-establish the McNeilus brand in the UK market. That’s now coming together nicely. Phase Two is to make the most of the work done in 2017 and use the expanding production facility in Wolverhampton, UK, as a launch pad for McNeilus products into markets outside of the UK. Which is why I’m here.
Waste Management World magazine had been pushing Steve Price to make a grand announcement for a couple of months. Something that would make a dramatic headline. But he was not having it. “Wait until we’re ready”, he’s been telling me.
It’s not, he explains, the way that the parent Skan Group does things. Skan Group took over the historic Boughton brand in 2011 and since then, both the product range and the annual production figures have increased dramatically.
Steve Price is not keen to give me precise production figures (that’s not the Skan Group way, either), but he does confirm that additional skilled manufacturing staff are being recruited to meet the production targets for 2018 – and that further additional production facilities are being finalised. He shows me the plans.
STEADY, SUSTAINABLE GROWTH
Part of Steve Price’s caution is based on the fact that the skip truck and hooklift (Ro-Ro) market is ultra-competitive and some of the other players are often – how
can I put this diplomatically? – guilty of ‘massaging’ their own sales figures. And that’s definitely not the Skan Group way. We’re joined by Group Deputy Chairman Richard Skan, who is keen to explain what the Skan Group actually does stand for. “Our business ethics is all about steady, sustainable growth,” he explains. “That way we can ensure a high quality back-up service for our existing products and any new range addition is in place before we start to sell into a specific market.” You think every manufacturer of equipment that is sold into the waste industry does that? They do not.
The Skan Group, through the Boughton brand and Oldbury Trailers subsidiary, has a number of significant contracts (which, for security reasons, I’m not able to tell you about), building high-quality products for demanding operations, which must be delivered to schedule. The back-up has to be in place from day one – and until the very last unit is retired from active service.
This is the business ethics that Boughton is now ready to bring to the wider waste and recycling markets outside of the UK. It makes sense. Boughton already has a close relationship with all the European truck chassis manufacturers. The company also has an existing customer base that includes a couple of large, multinational waste contractor PLCs with operations in several European and International markets.
For them, Boughton has the capability to be a ‘One Stop Equipment Shop’. The UK-built facility obviously benefits from the currently low exchange rate for the Pound Sterling (GBP), while the availability with McNeilus FEL range suitable for both three and four-axle chassis adds a new dimension to the mix. This not only adds significantly to the product range, it also provides us with a clue as to what is coming next ...
LOOKING FOR NEW MARKETS
This year, 2018, should see further expansion at Boughton on two levels. Deliveries of new four-axle FELs are now being made to UK-based customers, with leading UK contract hire/rental provider Riverside Truck Rental having taken the first six units. Gaining EU ‘Whole Vehicle’ type approval on (initially) Volvo and Scania chassis (MAN and Mercedes are coming shortly) also puts Boughton in a strong position to mount and deliver new units to customers throughout a wider Europe and Scandinavia, just as soon as suitable lo
cal dealerships are signed-up to provide that vital back-up that Richard Skan was talking about earlier. “We’re already talking with some potential distributors, but we are still looking for further candidates for some markets,” Steve Price explains.
A STRONG MARKET POTENTIAL
And on the second level? Again, Steve Price is not prepared to give precise details before all the elements of Phase Two are in place, but a look at the McNeilus website will confirm that this well-respected US-based brand also produces heavy ‘industrial duty’ rear end loaders (RELs) suitable for loading skiptruck-style waste containers up to 6m3 capacity in one hit – as well as being able to load other conventional wheeled bins and containers. And he confirms that the agreement with McNeilus covers both FEL and REL product lines.
“We can see a strong market for heavy-duty RELs in the growing independent waste contractor market – especially from existing users of skip trucks and hooklifts looking to widen the service offer to customers. But we do not have any plans to market smaller domestic waste collection vehicles,” he confirms.
Why is this so interesting? Because Steve Price is one of the most experienced professionals in the business. And he acknowledges that while the production of skiptrucks and hooklifts is currently at an all-time high, there is concern that the humble skiptruck – which in real terms only spends half of each shift loaded and can only pick up one laden skip per journey – is threatened by increased traffic congestion.
He agrees that for a growing number of waste and recycling organisations, the ‘carbon footprint’ and need to project a ‘green image’ are increasingly important elements in winning any new contract. So the question is, could there be a new alternative product that features a multiskip/container collection capability, to enable the operator to plan a ‘round trip’? This could help keep the vehicle out of busy urban rush hour traffic, reduce unladen mileage and therefore further increase productivity.
Steve Prices smiles. I think what he’s trying to say is, “When there is, Boughton will be one of the first manufacturers to have such a unit available.” But until then? Boughton McNeilus FELs – and shortly, the industrial RELs – might be worth a closer look.