Alwyn Smith, president of the U.S. division of Barloworld Handling – the world’s largest independent Hyster lift truck dealer – says the globally recognized and respected brand of its parent company, Barloworld, is one of Handling’s key strengths. The parent firm is headquartered in Sandton, South Africa, and has operations in Europe, the United States and the rest of Africa. “Our ability to leverage resources from an international network of Barloworld companies, all focused on service and solutions for the customer, allows Handling to deliver unmatched value to our clients,” he says.
Barloworld Handling specializes in new and used lift truck sales, services and parts, short- and long-term rentals, operator and safety training, fleet management and other material-handling solutions, Smith says.
“Our principal supplier, Hyster, has the best and widest range of lift truck models in the industry,” he adds. Along with Hyster, Barloworld Handling offers Capacity trailer spotters, Rail King rail car movers, Sellick rough terrain lift trucks and JLG, Genie and Skyjack aerial platforms and manlifts.
Barloworld Handling’s history of quality service is also a distinguishing factor, Smith says. “We have a reputation of servicing our lift trucks the right time the first time thanks to our certified well-trained technicians,” he says.
Barloworld Handling’s office in Charlotte, N.C., is its U.S. headquarters. That office began in 1943 as a distribution business called Wrenn Brothers. It became a Hyster forklift franchise before becoming a part of Barloworld in 1979. The company now has 30 branches in eight states in the Southeast.
Before Smith became president of the U.S. operations in July, he worked for the parent company since 1983, in its South Africa offices. Before his promotion, he served as financial director of Barloworld Logistics.
He took time to speak with U.S. Business Review about some industry trends he’s noticed, challenges the company has faced and its future plans.
U.S. Business Review: How have you adapted to industry trends?
Alwyn Smith: Products and services are becoming more sophisticated, and technology is playing a much larger role in the industry than ever before. But one of the most pervasive trends over the last few years seems to be the homogenization of products and features from lift truck brand to lift truck brand.
As a result, we’ve seen a movement towards aftermarket services and support as the primary competitive differentiator among lift truck providers. A key focus of this movement has been the ability of equipment dealers and manufacturers to provide integrated handling solutions to meet a variety of their customers’ business needs.
Barloworld has stayed ahead of these trends with a number of enhancements to our service programs, including the use of telemetry technology in our customers’ fleets to maximize the use of underutilized equipment, to provide diagnostics for maintenance and repair, and to identify and track drivers and their productivity on the job. We were also the first in the U.S. lift truck market to introduce a customer-based remote direct parts ordering system with tailored pricing.
USBR: What is a recent challenge the company has faced and how did it overcome it?
AS: We recently won a very large contract despite heavy competition from two of our biggest competitors – one who happened to be the incumbent forklift provider of the account. The customer’s decision came down to one critical element – partnership – not price or other purchasing criteria.
We showed patient determination in harvesting and cultivating the relationship with the account. Our track record of supplying long-term value propositions to customers paid off.
USBR: What sets Barloworld apart?
AS: Our durability in the face of ongoing change in the industry and the particularly strong customer relationships our branches have on a local level are two differentiators that stand out.
USBR: Can you describe your corporate culture?
AS: Building and sustaining long-term relationships with our customers is a priority at Barloworld Handling. You’ll find this same relationship-driven attitude pervasive throughout the organization.
USBR: What is your vision for the future?
AS: Building on Barloworld’s successful track record of growth, I’d like to see us continue to take full advantage of our strong presence in the United States to expand into markets and segments with high growth potential for our principles. We’ve set our sights on becoming the market share leader through integrated material-handling solutions, and we’re moving full-steam ahead.