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An Inside Look at the Material Movers

Since the day Equipco (Division of Phillips Corp.) opened its doors in 1944, the company's name has been nearly synonymous with Hyster forklifts. While that statement is still accurate, it is much too narrow a definition for a company that has kept pace with advances in technology and other industry shifts. Today, Bridgeville-headquartered Equipco delivers material handling solutions that help companies save hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Equipco logo

"Downtime is the biggest money waster for businesses," says Carl Swanson, Owner and President of Equipco. "We make the operations manager's job easier by shrinking the square footage allotted for parts and making production more efficient." Equipco also helps companies do a better job of controlling expenses by reducing excess inventory.

It takes little time to detect passion in Carl Swanson's voice. In fact, passion is a word he interjects frequently, whether he is talking about serving clients, investing in employees or keeping local dollars close to home. That commitment to local business is exactly why Equipco stepped up as the first charter member of BuyPittsburghFirst in 2009. "BuyPittsburghFirst helps companies like ours win business that would otherwise be going out of the state or out of the country," explains Mr. Swanson. Now, with access to the combined networks of BuyPittsburghFirst and SMC, he foresees even more opportunities to keep local dollars in western Pennsylvania. "It's going to be a grand marriage," he adds.

Equipco's management team has found other ways to invest in the future of local industry. The company, like so many others, is projecting a painful shortage of experienced trade workers over the next handful of years. Equipco's response has been to support local trade schools by donating equipment and lending its expertise to advisory boards. This commitment reflects another of Mr. Swanson's life philosophies: "Problems are opportunities."

Equipco's business model is one of single-source responsibility. The company employs professionals across numerous disciplines, so clients can rely on Equipco for analysis, product recommendation, delivery, and installation, as well as training and service support.

Equipco building

Equipco's Sales Manager, Don Heberle, provides an easy-to-remember summary of the value Equipco brings to the table. "Whenever a company needs to move, store or dispose of material, we have a solution."

Full warehouse design, says Mr. Heberle, is something clients don't always consider when it comes to cost savings. To help reduce costs, Equipco offers customized resources that improve inventory management and increase the efficiency of production. "We've worked with clients who thought they needed to build a new facility. Once they found the right combination of mezzanines, automated storage, mobile racking or carousels," he notes, "they discovered that their existing square footage was sufficient."

Fleet Management is another solution Equipco considers when analyzing a client's material handling costs. "Regular maintenance and planned replacement optimize the life of the equipment," says Heberle. By relying on Equipco's structured program, clients have been able lower operating costs, and in some cases, even reduce fleet size.

As part of its service commitment, Equipco has an established network of more than 40 manufacturer-trained, certified technicians ready to provide same day service across the tri-state area. Each technician has immediate access to a large inventory of parts, which speeds responsive service and decreases costs. Mr. Heberle emphasizes the importance of these factors in eliminating downtime. "Our clients' profits depend on their ability to move materials, and our job is to provide quick solutions when they need us."

In addition to delivering comprehensive material moving solutions, Equipco remains the oldest continuous representative of Hyster equipment. Clients can still rent or purchase what some call "the basic beast of burden" in the material handling industry, the forklift. Forklift capacities can range from 2,500 to 105,000 pounds, and their operators receive thorough training that aligns with OSHA mandates.

Mr. Swanson, Equipco's owner, explains that he and his employees still celebrate the sale of a new piece of equipment. "I'm still a peddler at heart," Mr. Swanson insists. Though he has been with Equipco for 48 years, including his 30-plus year stint as owner, he hopes he never becomes fully removed from the forklift side of the business. "I'm still going to jump up and down when we get new orders," he claims. Obviously, passion is still part of doing business with Equipco.

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