(L- R) are Clayton Parker, sales; Garland Miles, sales manager; and Jim Smelgus, president, Atlantic Equipment.
In scrap handling facilities from coast-to-coast, the distinctive green machines from Sennebogen are one of the industry’s most familiar sights, loading trucks and barges, feeding shredders and stacking bale.
Today, Sennebogen is recognized everywhere. But 10 years ago, it was a different story.
“When we began selling Sennebogen, we were taking in a machine that nobody had ever heard of,” recalled Garland Miles, sales manager of Atlantic Equipment & Supply Inc., based in Hampton, Va. “Sales were not easy. We were going to the expense and the time to basically give customers a machine and hope we could convert it into a sale once they could see how it worked and why we were promoting it to them.”
In 2012, Atlantic has been celebrating its 10th year with Sennebogen after winning the manufacturer’s “Dealer of the Year” award as the top selling distributor in 2011.
Constantino Lannes, president of Sennebogen LLC, said, “It’s a pleasure to have this opportunity to recognize the great work Atlantic Equipment has been doing for us for so many years. They show what can be accomplished if you develop and serve the territory well.”
Rooted in Equipment Service and Repair
Jim Smelgus, president of Atlantic, founded the firm as an equipment repair and service business more than 20 years ago. When Erich Sennebogen arrived from Germany looking for someone to help launch his family’s material handlers in America, Smelgus’ focus on service and parts dovetailed perfectly with the company’s blueprint for long-term success.
“These weren’t the first true material handlers we had seen,” said Smelgus. “But most scrap yards were still using cable cranes and antiquated excavators that were converted with some kind of grapple. Being first doesn’t always mean better. The first line of material handlers to come here failed because of service.”
Atlantic entered the equipment sales business with customers’ confidence that Smelgus and his team would stand behind the product. Sennebogen’s plan was to reinforce that confidence with reliable parts supply and excellent application support. Smelgus noted that Sennebogen’s nationwide sales success is still rooted in its commitment to the service side of the business. After establishing a base in Charlotte, N.C., Sennebogen built a 54,000 sq. ft. parts warehouse and training facility in the nearby town of Stanley. Recently, Lannes announced expansion plans that will nearly double its size to 100,000 sq. ft. by the end of 2012.
“What they have done to improve the product in just the past 5 years has been phenomenal,” Smelgus said. “It just goes to show you that they are very committed to the North American market and they have listened carefully to both the dealers and their customers. Through that, you can see why so many equipment customers have become Sennebogen customers.”
Support Leads Sales Growth
According to Garland Miles, the second key point in Sennebogen’s growth strategy was to avoid growing too fast.
“Erich Sennebogen’s game plan from the get-go was to focus on quality and service. He didn’t start off dumping machines with low-ball prices, he did it the old fashioned way: by proving the machine was a good one.”
The company set a policy that it would not sell a machine until a servicing dealer was in place locally and the complete parts list was on the shelf.
The Atlantic team took an active part in helping Sennebogen refine its program for the U.S. market. Smelgus’ fluency in German helped to establish a close friendship with the founder of the family firm, the late Erich Sennebogen Sr.
“Erich Sr. was very personable and as down-to-earth as anyone could be. He was very open-minded to our experience with the material handling industry in the U.S., so it was a learning experience for both of us.”
A Winning Strategy
The gamble ultimately paid off as Sennebogen emerged as a highly trusted brand, not only in America’s scrap yards, but in river ports, waste handling, mills and forestry applications as well.
“The scrap business is a real fraternity,” Miles observed. “If one guy does something, the others know about it; word just spreads.
“Sennebogen was an unknown then but once when you got around to telling them it was a non-computerized system, that’s when they stood up and took notice. Especially when the customer had a shredder in the yard. For other machines with a computer onboard, all the fluff would just make a mess of the connections and the normal mechanic had no way to fix them. The simplicity of Sennebogen means that our techs can at least walk their mechanics through some of the less complicated issues in order to keep them operational. With a few minutes on the phone, we can get them up and running, then they turn around and make us look good to the people buying the equipment.”
Repeat Sales Sustain Growth
The foundation that Atlantic helped to build with quality and service led the dealership to its highly successful sales year in 2011. Serving a territory that includes Maryland and Virginia, Atlantic still finds new opportunities to expand its customer base.
“Most of those early prospects in the scrap business that didn’t get on board with us 10 years ago have since become Sennebogen customers,” said Miles. “Since most of the scrap processed here is going to export, up to 90 percent of it, we recently took on container tilters so we can deliver a complete top-loading solution for yards shipping through the Port of Baltimore.”
At this point in Atlantic’s sales strategy, Smelgus and Miles agree that, “… repeat business is our claim to fame…” With commitment to service as their cornerstone, Atlantic and Sennebogen look forward to seeing every sale from past turn into satisfied customers for the future.
Sennebogen has been a name in the global material handling industry for more than 60 years. Based in Stanley, N.C., within the greater Charlotte region, Sennebogen LLC offers a complete range of purpose-built machines to suit virtually any material handling application. Established in America in the year 2000, Sennebogen LLC has quickly become a leading provider of specialized equipment solutions for recycling and scrap metal yards, barge and port operations, log-handling, transfer stations and waste facilities from coast to coast. A growing network of distributors supports Sennebogen LLC sales and service across the Americas, ensuring the highest standard of professional machine support and parts availability.
For more information, call 704/347-4910 or visit www.sennebogen-na.com.