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Crown’s TSP Series turret lift trucks, along with many others in the range, are now available for production with integrated semi-automation technology

Crown Equipment putting the customer first

Crown Equipment’s customer-centric philosophy is shaping the way the company develops its products, as well as how it interacts with its current and prospective customers.

The company, which has been bringing innovation to the New Zealand materials handling industry for more than 40 years, is constantly reviewing and refining all of its customer touch points to position itself at the forefront of customer service in the industry. 

This focus has been driven in parallel to the evolution of its product offerings, which helps to provide customers with productivity improvements, while also ensuring operators receive the latest technology to make their jobs safer and easier. 

Managing director Kieran White says Crown’s customer-focused philosophy has always guided its decisions, but has become a more crucial element in a world where customers are expecting more.
Crown Equipment managing director Kieran White: “Our aim is to be number one in one specific area – customer service”

“At Crown we’ve always had success with building and maintaining strong, productive relationships with businesses, from startup companies through to global entities,” Mr White says. “However, technology is constantly improving, and these days there are better ways of holding a mirror up to your own performance when it comes to meeting customers’ needs.

“At our head office in Auckland we have a dedicated team focused on measuring our customer service performance. Our management, as well as the culture throughout the organisation, is focused on acting on what we learn to make us a better fit for our customers. Our aim is to be number one in one specific area: customer service.

“We see this as being just as important as the new technology and commerce platforms we are rolling out to customers, which include ecommerce, semi-automation and other new technology that will have a strong impact on the interaction between humans and increasingly advanced machinery.”

Online and face to face

Crown has adjusted its ratio of online versus face-to-face sales to bring added convenience to its customers while providing the right advice where it really counts. The company entered New Zealand’s online materials handling sales arena in 2016 with a website dedicated to selling Crown PTH Series hand pallet trucks. 

Following a positive reaction from customers and ongoing research into business-to-business buying preferences, Crown is now expanding its ecommerce activities to include other products that are well suited to this streamlined approach.

The company’s increasing use of online sales has enabled its salesforce to increase its focus on the areas of materials handling that require specialised knowledge and experience to determine best-fit solutions for particular applications.

According to general manager of sales, Shane Crook, creating the right balance of online and face-to-face sales is an important part of the company’s customer focus. “Crown is increasing its online sales presence, and the launch of our website selling hand pallet trucks online was an instant hit,” Mr Crook says.

“Our practices are backed up by experience, as well as industry data showing dramatic changes in business-to-business buyer behaviour, with a large and growing number of customers who prefer to do their own research online for certain products. The convenience of being able to buy our robust hand pallet truck, which works well in any environment, straight from our website with competitively priced shipping has proven very attractive to many of our customers.”

Expert advice

However, many customers must deal with warehouse variables, including size, shape, ceiling and doorway openings, racking systems, mezzanine levels, power capabilities, fire extinguishing systems, and warehouse management systems. Managing these factors requires a trained professional and a company prepared to back its products. Companies which only sell materials handling equipment online are at a disadvantage in these situations which can, in turn, put the customer at a disadvantage.

“Finding the right products to perform materials handling tasks as efficiently as possible, which fit the physical dimensions of the warehouse and racking system and suit the budgetary requirements of the customer, is a job that requires consultation based on solid expertise,” Mr Crook says.

“Now more than ever, the guidance of a genuine materials handling professional is essential to meet operational efficiency and compatibility expectations when populating a warehouse with lift trucks and reach trucks.”

Involving a materials handling expert in warehouse equipment procurement brings the potential to identify areas of the business that can benefit from existing and upcoming technology, including semi-automation and fleet management. An increasingly important element in running a lift truck fleet is the fitment and compatibility of fleet management systems. 
Infolink, Crown’s proprietary fleet management system, has become one of the most important factors in the sale of lift trucks to medium and large businesses

“Crown’s InfoLink® fleet management system has become one of the most important factors in the sale of lift trucks to medium and large businesses,” Mr Crook says. “That is because of its potential to reduce impacts – and therefore damage – while providing valuable information on lift truck usage and improving the overall safety culture within a warehouse.

“A materials handling professional who visits a site to gain an understanding of a company’s practices is able to make a judgement on how much a company can benefit from its use and make recommendations for its implementation. 

“Further to that, these systems initially require fine-tuning onsite to get the full savings and safety benefits they are capable of providing.”

While online sales can add convenience to the purchase of simple products, companies that operate as a ‘one-stop shop’ for materials handling needs add another dimension of simplicity for dealing with what can be a complicated task.

“In addition to helping you find the right lift truck for your conditions and setting them up with fleet management systems, we can also train operators with the skills required in a materials handling environment, either onsite or through our extensive branch network throughout New Zealand. We have six full-time Competenz registered trainers across the country that are dedicated to Crown,” Mr Crook says.

“We believe in the convenience of the products we offer online, and our ecommerce activities reflect Crown’s customer-centric approach. It’s an important complement to our sales channels.”

Automatic for customers

Crown’s customer-centric approach is also guiding the rollout of its semi-automation technology into the New Zealand lift truck market.

Throughout the Crown global regions, Crown’s technology business development strategy focuses on integrating new technologies into mainstream organisations in a measured fashion. It was created to provide improved operator management, safety and productivity that fully tested semi-automated solutions can offer, while shielding customers from the potential disillusion that can follow the hype and excitement associated with technological advancements.

The strategy has resulted in a semi-automated product suite consisting of Crown’s Auto Positioning System (APS) and Auto Fence operator-assist for very narrow aisle (VNA) equipment. These will be offered alongside Crown’s award-winning Quick Pick Remote (QPR) order picking technology, which is already proven to provide significant case picking productivity in applications where materials flow optimisation is understood.

However, according to Chris Ansell, Crown Pacific Rim director of technology and business development, the company’s approach is not about ‘technology for the sake of it’. Instead, Crown will be assessing interested customers’ businesses for the best solutions to their current and future materials handling needs. 

“Our aim has always been to provide customers with an equitable return on investment from every one of our products, whether it be a hand pallet truck or a turret stock picker,” Mr Ansell says.

“Some companies advertise their automated materials handling products as ‘must haves’ for businesses, without explaining that they are not necessarily the silver bullet they are searching for to provide optimal warehouse efficiency. Therefore our approach in discussing automation with our customers will be to first find out where they stand with material flows.

“In many cases we have been able to advise customers on how to extract more performance and efficiency from non-automated lift trucks, instead of taking on the commitment of an automated solution,” he adds. “Once we’ve established that automation is the right path to increased productivity for a particular customer, we will work with them to come up with the best solution for their needs.”

Currently, Crown has designated the MPC 3000 Series and GPC 3000 Series pallet transporters and the TSP Series turret lift trucks for production with integrated semi-automation technology.

People power

While Crown has invested considerably in semi-automated solutions, the company expects humans to remain an important part of materials handling well into the future.

“At Crown we’ve always believed that higher levels of productivity can be achieved through attention to design, ergonomics and user interfaces,” Mr Ansell says. 

“Automated solutions currently make up less than 2% of the global market, but we’re expecting that to grow steadily over the next decades and our future offerings will accommodate this trend with thoroughly developed solutions. However, none of our projections suggest that humans will be removed from the equation in materials handling.”

Crown built its reputation through great customer service, and its increased focus on its customer-centric culture is what the company’s management believe will allow it to be seen as number one. 

“At Crown we don’t take any form of interaction with customers for granted,” Keiran White says. “More than ever, being able to listen to customers properly, find the best solution which makes them the most profit, while supplying and maintaining it as effectively as possible, is crucial for our mutual success. Working with Crown is a collaboration which, to us, begins as soon as we answer an enquiry. 

“We have always used customer feedback to improve our operations, but it’s now a systematic part of our procedures, management and culture. It’s become both a science and an art here at Crown,” Mr White concludes. 

“We know that customers are expecting and demanding more. We’ve got the technology, infrastructure, products and experience to deliver this, as well as the passion and drive to serve customers better than the rest.”

For further information, visit www.crown.com

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