Norco Equipment was formed quietly in the spring of 2008, when a team of industry insiders slowly began building the company’s foundation while they defined their game-changing business philosophy. According to Bill Van Sant, chairman of Norco LLC, the parent to Norco Equipment, the group began by acquiring companies that were creating highly original customer-focused equipment for niche industries that were clearly in search of new ideas.
“Norco Equipment was founded on two key principles,” said Van Sant. “First, we will only manufacture value-engineered and differentiated products that deliver the reliable performance customers need at a price they can afford. Second, we will recruit people who have the knowledge and passion for their industry to provide the kind of service support that can help our dealers and customers succeed in their business.”
The result is a “customer-first” culture that Van Sant and his executive team are nurturing throughout the Norco organization, from product design to dealer service.
“In today’s economic environment,” Van Sant said, “building your business model around the customer is really a game-changing concept.”
Norco’s philosophy of innovation centers on Lou Holtz’ often-quoted “Platinum Rule” — an update to the traditional Golden Rule.
“We are usually told we should ’treat others like you want to be treated.’ At Norco we say, ’treat customers like they want to be treated,” said Van Sant.
In today’s tough economy, customers are looking to their dealers and manufacturers for more help with their business, while many OEMs are tightening up dealer service and aftermarket support to keep their own costs in check. Putting the customer first at Norco Equipment means restoring a high level of personal service to high value products.
“We are in a great position to make a difference,” Van Sant explained, “simply because we aren’t carrying any baggage from the past. We don’t have old habits to overcome. We have the freedom to make our investments where they do the most good for the customer.”
As an example, Van Sant cited the new Puma and Dynamic equipment lines that Norco Equipment is now introducing.
“We assembled a complete bioenergy product line, bringing together equipment from different specialized companies and giving them a new home under one roof. The Puma and Dynamic lines make us the first OEM to offer a complete ’stump to chip’ solution for this market. The individual products are well made and well proven, but under the new brands they are now part of a complete business solution for contractors.”
The Puma and Dynamic lineups offer a similar capability for cut-to-length wood processors and firewood operations. Customers in each of these businesses are working to develop an integrated production process that suits their local operation and market.
“Instead of ’innovating’ for its own sake,” Van Sant continued, “we are investing in the right personnel to go into the field and help them put together customized solutions.”
A Different Approach Requires a Different Culture
Leading the “customer first” crusade at Norco Equipment are Don Dubey, president and CEO, and Chuck Dull, senior vice president sales and marketing — two men building on a lifetime of achievement in the equipment industry. Supporting them is a team of industry professionals providing a high level of expertise with varied equipment technologies and processes. While bringing together a broad collection of small companies to form a larger organization, said Dubey, Norco Equipment is determined to continue operating like a small company.
“Our people are empowered to make decisions quickly,” he explained. “They have ingrained knowledge of the equipment and their customers’ businesses. We can utilize their field experience to provide the attention to detail and superior service that a customer would expect from a small company. At the same time, our field staff and dealers can offer their customers the peace-of-mind that comes from being backed by the resources of a large company. We are giving our people the mandate and the confidence to treat customers the way they, not the company, would like to be treated.”
A Fresh Start and a New Name
Norco Equipment has assembled a lineup of products for the emerging bioenergy sector. It has taken it a step further by reengineering the equipment and reintroducing it under a new shared brand.
“We took a long and hard look at the opportunities in bioenergy and related markets, driven by rising demand for alternate forms of power generation,” said Dubey. “To meet the demand for pellets and liquid biofuels, we knew contactors would be investing in tree harvesting, chipping, grinding, and screening equipment. We also could see that there wasn’t a single OEM able to support the entire process with equipment or expertise.”
Contactors entering the new industry had no choice but to shop around and try to assemble production systems on their own.
“Norco Equipment is positioned to help customers simplify their purchasing and improve their process with a coordinated approach,” said Dull.
Norco Equipment’s newly branded Puma line offers contractors a single source for harvesters, forwarders, CTL processors and firewood processors as well as complementary chippers, grinders and trommel screens from the Dynamic equipment line — another new Norco Equipment brand.
“There is nowhere else a forestry/bioenergy operator can acquire a complete ’stump to chip’ solution like this, complete with end-to-end factory service support,” said Dull.
“Dynamic” Innovation for Customers On the Move
While the recent economy has created difficulties for most traditional equipment markets, Van Sant said the industry shakeup has opened doors for Norco Equipment.
“Contractors have gone looking for opportunities to replace former revenue streams. Many are turning to niche industries and specializations that didn’t exist before. Our products were created in response to the changing needs in these areas. For instance, the equipment in the Puma lineup serves distinct new segments operating within forestry industry.
The Dynamic brand, meanwhile, focuses on new niches that have emerged as the recycling and demolition industries continue to grow and diversify. With these specialized businesses comes the demand for more specialized equipment and solutions for more increased revenue stream opportunities. With a little customization, grinders, chippers and screens found in biofuel operations are making their way into waste processing facilities and demolition sites, where densifying and grinding material is increasingly part of daily operations.
Until now, these niche industries have been served by entrepreneurial insiders who applied their insight to design machinery uniquely suited to its task. Norco Equipment’s start-up strategy was to seek out the best of these and get them working together.
“What these companies needed was strong leadership, marketing expertise, a common vision and the financial resources to grow,” stated Van Sant. “In most cases, we still have the original founders on board. Their industry knowledge is crucial to Norco Equipment’s strategy of delivering value to customers.”
A common theme of each acquisition made by Norco Equipment is that the equipment produced by each company was well-made and purpose-built, with no frills.
“Our Puma and Dynamic brands simply offer high quality machines with customer-friendly features at an affordable price,” commented Dull. “Our value-engineering promise means we don’t invest engineering resources in bells and whistles. Our engineers are challenged to make basic equipment more productive, more reliable or more cost-efficient to manufacture and service. If it doesn’t add value for customers, we don’t do it.”
Dubey pointed out that, while the Puma and Dynamic lines were all built around existing, field-proven equipment, Norco Equipment is continuing to invest in product development.
“We didn’t just paint the guarding and change the name on the side of the gear,” he said. “We are taking the next step to ensure consistency across the line, to simplify servicing and make sure every piece reflects our brand values.”
Walking the Talk
Norco Equipment’s “less is more” approach to product design also is reflected in its staffing. Like its customers who move quickly on the opportunities they see, Norco Equipment is built to move quickly too.
“We set about hiring the right people and putting a strong support infrastructure in place,” Dubey continued. “We have a very experienced team of sales engineers and business consultants on the front lines. They are out there with our dealers and customers to develop solutions for their productivity challenges. And they also have a very direct line back to the factory to make things happen. We are relying on the quality of our people, not our number of people, to create success.”
To deliver on the brand promise of aftersales service and support, Norco Equipment has developed regional centers coordinated through a central support center, located in Oconto Falls, Wis. The regional centers are charged with handling all customer sales, parts support, and field service functions. The central support center provides diagnostics support for the regional centers, dealers, and end-users along with warranty administration, certified training, and product orientation for end-users. Certified training programs and product orientation are key services that small equipment companies can rarely afford, but Norco Equipment sees this level of service as a prime example of its “game changing” business philosophy.
This is where the Norco Equipment team steps up to the plate,” said Dubey. “Supporting the Norco Equipment product lines regionally with superior parts and service, expert application support, plus all the resources of the Central Support Center — these capabilities will truly set Norco Equipment apart in the markets we serve.”
Norco Aims to ’Change the Game’
Norco Equipment markets the Puma and Dynamic equipment brands for forestry, bioenergy, recycling, demolition, solid waste and related industries. Its strategy of investing in respected niche manufacturers has consolidated the product lines and capabilities of companies including Lane, K2, G&R, ADC Global and Dynamic. Through its parent, Norco LLC, Norco Equipment also enjoys a close channel to Norco Attachments.
However, the chairman of Norco LLC, Bill Van Sant, feels that the scope of the product lineup alone will not be Norco Equipment’s key to success. Along with the equipment, Norco Equipment brings together a vast wealth of industry expertise. Operating as an integrated, multi-line OEM, he said, Norco Equipment has the resources to fulfill its promise of “treating customers the way they want to be treated,” with responsive service and application support.
“We are serving very unique market niches, often in new business operations and with new business operators. We not only offer them a full range of equipment for their complete production process, we have the right people and expertise to help them make their processes profitable,” he said.
“That’s the game changer.”
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