Bronto Skylift at 50: CEO looks ahead
By Euan Youdale09 December 2022
In the 50th anniversary year of Bronto Skylift, the company’s CEO Lasse Orre, speaks with Euan Youdale about the direction the company is taking.
Bronto Skylift has gone through some significant changes in recent years, including its acquisition by Japanese firefighting vehicle mount specialist Morita Holdings in 2016.
Lasse Orre took over as CEO from Bronto Skylift’s previous managing director Harry Clayhills in December 2019, with a long career in international business.
Being at the helm of Bronto Skylift, which holds an esteemed position as one of the few very large truck mounted platform manufacturers, Orre is looking to take the company into the next half century, following its launch in 1972, with a move into digitalisation and internationalisation. This is all set to boost the company’s current annual revenues of €112 million.
Creating an employee-led culture
A key area of development as far as Orre is concerned is in employee development. As Lasse simply puts it – “people are important”.
Indeed, since he started in the role back in 2020, there is a greater depth to the management team, with a wider experience from outside of the company and backgrounds in different business types.
However, there are 425 employees at Bronto Skylift and the desire to create an increasingly employee-led business is at the heart of Orre’s development goals.
As he explains, “There as a new direction in the human resources department to “focus on wellbeing and company values.”
Product standardisation and modularisation
When it comes to the equipment, standardisation and modularisation is the way forward. Even when it comes to relatively large equipment like the truck mounts that Bronto Skylift produces, ranging from the relatively compact 35m unit to its 104m working height giant.
Digitisation is also taking equipment into a new realm, not just helping with the day to day running of equipment.
“It’s about the life cycle service. That’s what’s important to customers. It is not just the hardware, it is about taking care of the whole lifetime [of the equipment].”
How outsourcing benefits equipment manufacturing
From a manufacturing point of view the company is moving to more outsourcing to increase flexibility. This includes components and some assembly work.
“We are extending the relationship with key suppliers. So that when we develop new generations, they can support us more.”
This allows internal production to be streamlined so there is a real focus on the key areas of equipment development and manufacturing. “We produce the core product and outsource the non-core business.”
Indeed, as part of the transition, the production of the company’s access equipment has moved away from its longstanding home in Tampere to the coastal town of Pori, which also carries out welding work and fixed assembly.
Equipment support and lifecycle services
Expanding on the lifecycle service philosophy that kicks in following production and sale of the equipment, Orre adds that there are a range of important elements that go together to create the ideal scenario.
“This ranges from training, spare parts, along with the need for effective data and preventative maintenance.
“We produce a lot of data and we are looking to use more of it to improve uptime.”
Ensuring a strong group organisational structure
In 2016, Bronto Skylift’s former owner Federal Signal Corporation, based in the US, sold the fire service and industrial truck mounted platform business to Morita Holdings Corporation, based in Japan.
To support this there are always two employees from Morita working at Bronto Skylift in Finland, in three-year stints. As Lasse explains the current pair are coming to the end of their three-year tenure and will be replaced soon.
Indeed, Morita, despite concentrating on the firefighting sector, supports Bronto’s access business. “They have stated to us that this is a key commitment going forward.”
Why service partners are so important
As Orre adds, there are more global opportunities for the access business, accounting for around 50% of total revenue.
And, as he explains it is crucial that support is understood by its growing supplier base. “Our service partners need to understand that there is that commitment.”
Part of the next step is for Bronto to broaden its skills in the key activities that remain at the company’s premises.
For example, it is setting up a training centre in Tampere to educate its customers via video so that they do not have to visit the site in person.
Increasing market share
The company is undertaking a market study to establish which countries it wants to develop.
One of the potential growth markets is China, which is expanding quickly, while another is Japan, were there are currently just 10 Bronto Skylift units.
The US, on the other hand, is already expanding at a good rate. Bronto has established a Branch in Orlando, Florida. The plan is to expand its presence there.
The company is seeing success in the country, including a working height record. TGM Wind recently placed a large order for several Bronto units, including the first 341ft working height Bronto S341HLA in the US.
It also means that with the S341HLA delivery, Kardie will be the sole owner of North America’s tallest aerial platform.
However, there are no immediate plans to increase the range above or below the company’s existing working heights. But as Orre points out, it’s not so much about size, but how the products are being used.
“We are happy with the range from 35m to 104m. the key is better standardisation across the range, rather than expanding.”
Bronto Skylift launched a new hybrid system at this year’s Bauma (Click here to read AI’s Bauma review).
The new lithium battery-powered Hybrid Pack (pictured above on a Bronto S35EM) is designed to be a simple and cost-effective way of making large truck mounts hybrid, said the company, allowing the equipment to be operated emission-free and noise-free.
It represents a move away from the use of lead acid batteries by the company, thanks to the better weight to energy ratio that lithium batteries offer.
At bauma, the Bronto Hybrid Pack concept was paired with the compact Bronto S35EM, which is designed for use in tight spaces like city centres. The Bronto Hybrid Pack will keep the S35EM running for full working day on an average worksite, says the company.
Once the new system has been approved by customers of the S35EM, following possible further updates, it will be expanded to other Bronto models.
The target is for the Hybrid Pack to be made available as a retrofit, however, as many of the units are customised, a case-by-case evaluation will be required to ensure compatibility.
New customer portal
The Finnish manufacturer also introduced the new Bronto One customer portal at Bauma that will replace the company’s Skyliftfleet system.
Bronto One is based on cloud technology and is significantly different to other systems in the market, says the company, as it offers an open interface for integration with other systems, for example customers’ own ERP solutions.
All Bronto aerials equipped with a modem will automatically be fully connected to Bronto One. However, fleets often include other types of equipment too.
In addition to better, more comprehensive fleet management, Bronto One offers personnel training logs, self-learning material and access to a hub with hundreds of solutions and guidance information.
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