Editor’s note: JLG Industries, McConnellsburg, Pa., has become one of the star performers for its parent company, Oshkosh Corp., Oshkosh, Wis., with significant equipment sales revenue increases in 2013 under the direction of Frank Nerenhausen, who took over as president of Oshkosh’s access segment and JLG in June 2012. Nerenhausen, who was born and raised on a farm in Oshkosh, Wis., says he remembers seeing Oshkosh military vehicles in a July 4 parade when he was a kid, eventually toured the company and started working there as an intern in the early 1980s. With degrees in finance and management information systems and an MBA in marketing, Nerenhausen started working his way through the organization, holding a variety of positions before becoming president of the commercial segment in 2010, leading to his current position with JLG. He recently talked with Rental Management about his role with the company, the challenges facing access equipment manufacturers and more. An edited version of that conversation follows.
RM: It’s been more than a year since you were named president of JLG. What is your charge as the leader of the company?
Frank Nerenhausen: My first assignments at leading businesses for Oshkosh were much different. Those businesses were faced with significant economic challenges and we were in more of a turn-around situation. Together, with some very good people, we turned those businesses around into profitable market-leading companies. JLG is in a much different phase. This business already is a strong and growing global market leader in our industry. My mission here is to facilitate future success by establishing an aggressive vision of what we can be as a company, then empower our employees with the right tools to execute our strategy. Our strategy, which we call “MOVE,” focuses on providing our customers with value-added products and support throughout the lifecycle of those machines.
RM: What convinced you to take this position with JLG?
Nerenhausen: I am very fortunate to have had the career I have had with a great company like Oshkosh. Throughout my 27 years with this company, I have always been challenged with new opportunities to build companies and the teams that make them great. Honestly, I could have retired at any of the businesses I was involved with, but when I was offered the opportunity to run JLG, I was more than honored and humbled at the same time. JLG is an exciting company with a great group of people. We are a highly ethical company aligned to our customer’s needs. This is where I wanted to be.
RM: How would you describe your management philosophy and how does that impact JLG?
Nerenhausen: Very early on in my career, I realized that businesses will not succeed on the strength of any single individual or computer program. It really takes the combined efforts of the entire team. If you have the right vision for the team, everything is achievable. If you provide the right tool set and have the right people on board, great things happen. That is, in essence, the role of leadership. We don’t do all the work ourselves and we do not make all the decisions. We have a great group of empowered employees who are focused on our top priority — our customers. They have a vision and follow it through with execution. That works well here. We have a large group of professionals with determination and drive.
RM: What have you learned about the access and aerial lift equipment business since you became president of JLG?
Nerenhausen: I’ve been learning a lot. I’ve probably learned about only 20 percent of what I need to know. Our customers are great and continue to teach me more about their businesses, which is very helpful and appreciated. This is an exciting business because we are putting people in safe working environments at height. We all can be proud about that. We are building machines that provide a safe and productive environment to help our customers get their job done and build infrastructure around the globe. I am a self-proclaimed equipment junkie and am passionate about the gear we design and build. I am getting trained on the machines. I want to get into that much more and be able to handle the controls of everything we build.
RM: What do you see as the latest trends and innovations in the industry?
Nerenhausen: Fundamentally, customers want equipment that is available to rent and not in the shop. Customers want to continue to reach up and out, further and further. Our product strategy is to develop new products for those customers and continue to fill gaps in our portfolio. In emerging markets, they need products that have reliability, but simplicity as well, so it is more of a value approach to those markets. To meet that need, we have recently introduced a line of RS scissors and booms that are specifically tailored to these markets and value-oriented customers. Tier 4 regulations are coming up, too, and that is a big issue in aerial equipment. To think we are just dropping a Tier 4 engine into our equipment would be underestimating the amount of effort that goes into our Tier 4 compliant products. It’s a considerable investment to bring one of these engines into the marketplace seamlessly. Post-sale, we look to our service and training programs, along with our other Ground Support® resources, to mitigate the impact of new technology on our customers.
RM: How does the rental channel fit into JLG’s current strategy?
Nerenhausen: It’s a huge component of our strategy and our business. When you look forward as rental penetration increases, we will grow with the rental industry. With the scale of our business and the way we set up our aftermarket business, Ground Support, to support the rental channel, we are always looking for improvements and listening to customers. The rental channel continues to be a key component of our growth strategy. The rental channel also is in different stages of development around the world. How that adoption increases and how rental evolves around the globe will be important to us.
RM: Are you now selling more equipment into the rental channel than you were before?
Nerenhausen: Yes, because of the organic growth of the market, we are selling more to rental. The best way to answer this is that as rental penetration increases, our position is broad and deep, so we grow with the rental channel.
RM: What is JLG’s sales pitch? Why should a rental store buy JLG equipment?
Nerenhausen: From my point of view, we offer a number of key attributes — top quality products and best-in-class services. We have the best quality equipment. We focus on the lifecycle cost of the machine. We have the best aftermarket resources — parts, service and training — for our customers throughout the lifecycle of our products that is second to none. We are taking care of our customers with online services and hands-on maintenance through our Ground Support teams. All of this enhances productivity of the JLG machine with the primary owner and subsequent secondary market buyers.
RM: Have there been any problems with availability of product or backlogs?
Nerenhausen: Overall, the past year has been very well managed, which started with more stable order patterns matched with production levels that kept lead times reasonable throughout the year. We can then plan and order more evenly, so that the supply chain is predictable.
RM: What are your chief concerns for JLG today? Is there anything that keeps you up at night?
Nerenhausen: There is a concern that I have for JLG and it is something I remind our employees of at almost every meeting. One of the biggest challenges to successful companies is success itself. Prosperity can breed complacency and that is not the mode we can afford to be in. Our customers demand that we progressively innovate and continuously improve as a business. We also are part of an international industry with some pretty sharp and determined competitors just waiting for us to fall off our game. That is not going to happen on my watch.
RM: What do you consider to be the company’s main achievement or innovation since you took over?
Nerenhausen: Some of the biggest things are the releases of new products and the little things that don’t make headlines, like different diagnostic tools that make life in the field easier each day. We have an online sophisticated training tool that makes life for the customer easier, versus the expense to attend a face-to-face class. I am proud of the products we have released throughout 2013 in our telehandler and aerial lines, and I’m proud of those smaller elements to make our lines easier to operate and maintain.
RM: What do you hope JLG accomplishes over the next three years?
Nerenhausen: Clearly, we have aspirations for continued global growth and market leadership. This will come with intensive focus on our customers and the relentless execution of our strategic plans. I believe this combination will continue to drive value in our products and services and customers will reward us with their business. I feel we have the right chemistry at JLG to do some amazing things over that time frame. I look forward to exceeding our customers’ expectations.