The jewels in the crown of Crown Equipment are electric-powered forklift trucks used for maneuvering goods inside warehouses and distribution centers. Among the industry's largest OEMs, the company manufactures a variety of narrow-aisle stacking equipment and hand pallet trucks. Its lift truck equipment can move 4-ton loads and stack pallets nearly 45 ft. high. Crown Equipment sells its products globally through dealers and distributors. The company, founded in 1945 by Carl and Allen Dicke, has evolved from making temperature controls for coal furnaces to building 85% of the parts for its material-handling equipment. The Dicke family controls Crown Equipment.
Under the leadership of its founders' third generation, the company aims to maintain its competitive presence by expanding its own parts manufacturing capacity and expertise. The effort strengthens Crown Equipment's quality control efforts, as well as enables some pricing advantages. It also fuels faster product development by allowing in-house oversight of prototype projects. As a result, Crown Equipment's portfolio has grown. During recent years the company introduced its Hamech brand of internal combustion forklifts (using liquefied petroleum gas, gas, and diesel) for heavy-duty jobs, representing its first step into the industrial market. Crown's technology research and development (R&D) also extends to fuel-cell powered lift trucks, which are in prototype stages. The related R&D for this segment is supported by the company's Fuel Cell Research Center in Ohio.
Crown Equipment is riding the wave of eco-friendly technology and practices, too. The company has won a series of grants from the State of Ohio's Third Frontier Fuel Cell Program, which provides $1 million to research, test, and develop new applications for fuel cells in lift trucks. Crown aims to equip its lift trucks with fuel cell battery replacement power packs, thereby eliminating the labor for replacing a depleted battery, battery-changing equipment, and room for charging and maintenance. The move toward green opportunities follows a branding deal with Komatsu Forklift USA (a subsidiary of Komatsu) that promises to broaden Crown's customer base. Crown has agreed to sell Komatsu internal combustion lift trucks in the US and Canada.
While Crown can provide a fleet of material handling equipment to a company, it can also help that company get the most bang for its buck. Crown has developed several fleet management support systems including Crown FleetSTATS (improves fleet performance), InfoLink (wireless fleet and operator management systems), and Access 1 2 3 system (monitors forklift performance).
Through its SureSpec system, Crown can offer much more than a one-size-fits-all lift. SureSpec allows customers the opportunity to customize a material loader to its needs and specifications. Because the company makes the majority of its equipment parts, such as motors, drive units, and electronic modules, it has better control over the customization process than other companies relying on third-party providers. Continuing on the supply side, Crown Equipment is purchasing some parts from China. It also opened a manufacturing plant for hand pallet trucks there, and plans on increasing its introduction of new products as well as sales and service outlets.
In addition to China, the company also operates plants in the US, Australia, Germany, and Mexico. It additionally owns or runs more than 200 dealer locations throughout North America, Europe, and Asia/Pacific. Crown began catering to the São Paulo region in 2012 by opening its first company-owned Crown Lift Trucks in Brazil for customers entering the lift trucks retail market. The move follows Crown's European expansion earlier in the year when it opened its first company-owned branch and administrative office in Spain, the fifth largest market in Western Europe and a strategic region for Crown.