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Alta Equipment Offers ‘Latest, Greatest' Tier IV Generators

The units are products of St. Louis-based CK Power, which partnered with Alta to design and package the gen sets.

Fri February 19, 2016 - Midwest Edition
Giles Lambertson

The “latest and greatest” Tier IV Final generator units are now offered by Alta Equipment Company, as the Wixom, Mich., company continues to establish itself as a premier Midwestern equipment dealer.

The units are products of St. Louis-based CK Power, which partnered with Alta to design and package the gen sets. “These generators have the latest and greatest emissions systems, which is important to us because the environment is one of our core values,” said Rob Chiles, president of Alta's construction equipment division.

Chiles said the new generators are far more than simply Tier IV Final-compliant. “They offer superior power, safety features, usability for operators, engine access, fuel capacity, and noise absorption. CK Power has done a wonderful job of designing and packaging these gen sets. They are state-of-the-art.”

The product partnership came after Alta executives looked around about a year ago and determined that the company lacked a rental fleet of generators, both mobile and stationary. The omission was all the more evident because, following an acquisition in 2010, Alta Equipment had become Michigan's Volvo equipment dealer: A fleet of larger generators powered by Volvo Penta engines would organically expand Alta's Volvo presence.

Penta has produced engines since 1907 and first teamed up with Volvo more than a hundred years ago. Furthermore, power plants for generators have been a product of the Swedish company for decades. So introducing CK Power-packaged generators with Volvo Penta engines to the Alta Equipment lineup was a natural move.

Alta sells or rents the Tier IV Final generators, with about 70 percent of the dealer's generators typically being rented. Chiles believes the rental trend will continue with the new units, at least for the time being. “Once the units get more exposure, customers and other dealers will want to buy them. But we rent-to-own equipment; that is part of the value package we offer, so our rental customers can buy the equipment if they choose to do so.”

The dealer offers a wide range of CK Power mobile generators, from single-axle 10 KW units to double-axle trailered units with 622 KW generating capacity. All are Volvo Penta-powered except for some smaller units run off other Tier IV Final power plants. Offering a full lineup of gen sets was important to Alta, Chiles said, “because we don't just want to provide equipment to our customers, we want to provide solutions. To do that, you have to have the full range of equipment in stock to put meaning behind your words and your customer-first philosophy.”

Not every Alta location will have every CK Power generator unit, but they can be quickly trucked in if the market develops for one model or another, said Chiles.

Though Chiles presides over the construction equipment division of the dealership, the generators do not solely target job site contractors. “They are designed to go into manufacturing facilities, residential developments to power up model homes, institutional settings—they all are our market,” he said. “The local community has a 4th of July celebration and all those vendors need to have power distributed among them, and we can provide units to do it. You name it and we are in it.”

The pairing of Alta and CK Power in an equipment deal connects two vibrant family-owned businesses. Alta Equipment was founded in the Detroit area in 1984, principally as a Yale forklift dealer, and has expanded to 700 employees at 19 locations across Michigan, northern Indiana and Illinois.

The company's expansion hit another gear about a decade ago when the economy began to weaken and competing dealerships began to falter. Alta owner and CEO Steve Greenawalt aggressively bet on eventual economic recovery and acquired some competitors. “A lot of people needed to sell because they didn't have the scale to compete,” said Chiles. “They couldn't go any further or didn't feel comfortable expanding—and Alta wanted to diversify.”

Alta Equipment is now a dealer for such leading manufacturers as Link-Belt, Sennebogen, Gehl, Genesis, KPI-JCI, Takeuchi and Volvo. The company acquired 14 equipment dealers beginning in 2007, the latest in April of last year in Calumet City, Ill., when a closed factory was turned into the 19th Alta outlet. To help manage this expansion, Chiles himself joined the firm in 2012 after 25 years in the construction equipment industry.

CK Power also is a growing company, founded in St. Louis in 1929 and evolving into a premier source for engines and power generation solutions. The company manufactures power units and power generation units. The company holds exclusive distribution rights in some Midwestern and Rocky Mountain states for John Deere, Kubota, Volvo Penta, and Kohler engines. CK Power also is a distributor and authorized service provider of Kohler Power Systems.

The product line is constantly evolving. In a company brochure, CEO John Costello describes the company's nimble adjustments to the market this way: “CK is a robust company that adapts to the ebbs and flows in individual industries and economic climate accordingly, allowing our clients to depend on us to be there when we are needed.”

Its adaptations now include introduction of generator units with the sophisticated Tier IV Final engines—which have their skeptics as they come on the market. “Some customers are scared of stumbles in earlier Tier engine introductions,” said Clayton Costello, CK Power's operations manager. “There haven't been any issues at all with our Tier 4 Final units, but some end-users are leery of the engines anyway and will stay that way till they see more Tier 4 Final equipment come out. There just needs to be more education about the engines.”

CK engineers and executives say four principles were kept in front of them as they mated the latest emissions-compliant engines with generators: respect for the environment, product serviceability, customer application and customer support.

Partly because of the cost of engineering mandated emissions regulation features, construction equipment has become more expensive over the last 20 years. However, Alta customers won't feel bitten when they rent or buy one of the latest generation generators: Much of the cost was not passed along.

“We were able to work with CK Power engineering to eliminate some of that increase so customers don't have to absorb it,” Chiles said. “We have taken some of the extra cost out during the design and manufacturing process of the gen sets.”

The Alta Equipment construction division president cites the working relationship with CK Power as an example of the vertical integration that has pervaded the industry.

“The industry has changed so much over the last 10 years,” he said. “There is vertical integration in all things, including with contractors. It all increases the value proposition for customers. We are no different in this arrangement with CK Power. They are great people and we are going to continue to evolve this relationship.”

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