The material handling and logistics industry keeps the United States’ economy moving. Literally. Our country has a vast network of ocean and river ports, hundreds of thousands of miles of highway and freight rail, and countless distribution centers and intermodal hubs. Nearly every commodity manufactured and sold, passes through this incredible and constantly evolving system.
As products move from point to point, they are handled by people operating a range of different equipment, including forklifts, pallet trucks, order selectors, reach trucks, container handlers, jumbo forklifts, turret trucks, mobile railcar movers, yard trucks, and heavy-duty trailers. Some items may be handled by AGVs, aka automated guided vehicles, or robotic-powered forklifts. Conveyor and VLMs, aka vertical lift modules are used to move product rapidly. Some items may visit a wrapping machine before being placed in rack or on a mezzanine. There are even rack systems that utilize gravity or rollers to still keep product moving even after it has been put away. Expensive and controlled items may be secured by wire partitions.
Distribution centers (aka DCs) where products are stored in large quantities have sheltered loading docks with levelers and trailer restraint systems. Some have high-speed and fire-rated doors that drop automatically in the event of a fire. Many large DCs provide electric personnel vehicles to their employees, so they are able to more easily move from one area to another. The retail industry uses balers to condense and recycle high volumes of cardboard scrap.
So our point? Eastern Lift Truck Co. sells and supports ALL of this equipment. In today’s blog post, we are talking with Ed Henry, Eastern Lift Truck Co.’s Corporate Parts Manager. Ed and his team provide parts sales and support for everything mentioned above and so much more.
Interviewer: Ed, thanks for agreeing to talk with us today. When did you first become involved in the material handling industry?
(Ed Henry's responses listed in italics):
Ed Henry: I had been working for Waukesha (engine manufacturer) in the mid-1980s. It was in 1986 that John Pruitt offered me a parts job at Eastern Lift Truck Co. I can remember the year pretty well because I had just gotten engaged to be married, the previous year, in 1985. So, these were important years for me.
Wow, so you’ve been in the industry for 34 years now! Please tell us a little bit about your experience working at Eastern Lift.Sure. It’s been a great experience. I’ve worked under John, Mike and Dan Pruitt. While each of them has had their own unique style of management, they all strive for excellence while keeping the work atmosphere enjoyable and family-like. I’ve always been surrounded by talented and supportive people.
We imagine you have seen some changes over your career. Tell us about some of the change you’ve experienced.When I started at Eastern Lift, we had just one location – Maple Shade, NJ. Mr. Pruitt’s tenure as President was ending and Mike Pruitt was taking on more and more responsibility. We began to grow, adding people and locations. Mike saw the need for someone to help make sure our new parts departments were standardized and efficient. The position of corporate parts manager was created & offered to me. Today, we have 15 locations. Each one has its own Parts Manager and while they report to their respective Branch Manager, I am still directly involved, reviewing reports and procedures, assisting with vendor or back-order issues. I try to help improve our efficiencies in areas such as profitability and inventory.
You mentioned inventory. You've told us that Eastern Lift maintains about $8 million-dollars-worth of parts inventory. Managing all that sounds like a daunting task, especially when we tout that we can provide parts for nearly every make and model out there.
Yeah, it can be. Some people may still think of us primarily as a forklift parts provider. But the truth is we source and sell parts for all different types of equipment, not just forklifts. I’ve always told our Parts Managers to not place limits our offerings and capabilities. If a customer needs help sourcing a part, we’ll do our best to source and sell a quality component.
Tim Wheeler, our long-time Parts Manager in Baltimore, MD coined a phrase that we like. It goes something like this: "If it rolls, slides, floats or glides, we can get parts for it!" That pretty well sums it up, doesn’t it?
Yes, it does. Tim likes to be out on the water, fishing, when he’s not working. So, I think that may be another reason he added the “floats” part. (laughter)
To read the rest of this interview, please continue to the next blog post
(Photo of Ed with his beautiful family - wife Val, and daughters Marissa, Meaghan and Loren.)