John Sneddon

Local Industry Profile
- 29 Mar 2007 ( #303 ) - RICHMOND, VA
6 min read
John Sneddon, 46, is president of Jungheinrich Lift Truck Corp, of Richmond, Virginia, the US subsidiary of Jungheinrich AG. He told News journalist Roger Renstrom in Chicago this year, that he sees Jungheinrich making greater inroads in the North American market.

Jungheinrich wants a higher profile for its products in dealers' portfolios. For some multi-brand dealers, "we have been used as a niche player", Sneddon said in an exclusive interview.

"That is not where we see ourselves as all. We need sales and technical people [at dealerships] to be selling our product."

Sneddon is evaluating the dealer network to achieve strong coverage across the continent. "We want to work with dealers and share expectations," he said. "We are still developing strong distribution networks" and communicating Jungheinrich's desired future prospects with each dealership. Some consolidation and restructuring may occur.

Plans call for an increase in the number of mainline dealers - possibly to 70 this year - and filling "any white spots on the map" depicting open territories, he said. The North American subsidiary has 65 mainline dealers; 60 in the US, three in Canada and two in Mexico. The dealers operate more than 120 locations selling Jungheinrich class 1, 2 and 3 forklifts with Canadian dealers also offering class 5 trucks.

"We know we have a good product, and we believe it is one of the more technically advanced in the marketplace," Sneddon said. "Our target is to build an organisation and infrastructure that matches the quality of the product."

John Sneddon presenting the Golden Gabelstapler award to one of its highest selling dealers. JM Equipment president Audie Burgan receives the award at ProMat 2007 in Chicago.
John Sneddon presenting the Golden Gabelstapler award to one of its highest selling dealers. JM Equipment president Audie Burgan receives the award at ProMat 2007 in Chicago.
In addition to his in-person field visits, Sneddon has established an advisory council of 10 dealers for twice yearly meetings. Council members met in Richmond last April and participated in a tour of Hamburg, Germany, manufacturing facilities and a forum during an October 29-November 1 trip.

It is "too easy for a manufacturer to become distant to what dealers face day to day", Sneddon said.

In a broader initiative, 220 dealership-connected sales representatives and 45 Jungheinrich product people from Richmond and Hamburg attended a November 15-17 Atlanta, Georgia, sales and training event that included product displays and demonstrations of each class of Jungheinrich forklifts. "Some people were surprised by the extent of the product range," Sneddon said.

Last year, Jungheinrich added a product manager and several specialists in Richmond and, in Fresno, California, a fourth stock holding site. Other Jungheinrich North American stock holding sites are in Richmond; Cincinnati, Ohio; and Elk Grove Village, Illinois, near Chicago.

Jungheinrich's global expansion

Hamburg-based Jungheinrich AG's history dates back to 1953. It established the North American headquarters in 2000 in an existing, now-crowded Richmond facility and began offering a full line of forklifts to the market. Jungheinrich, which concentrates manufacturing in Germany, claims ranking as the world's fourth largest supplier of industrial trucks, warehousing and materials flow technology. Limited assembly and market customising occurs in Richmond.

The North American subsidiary began designing forklifts specifically for the North American market in 2002, but the entity needed much more. In 2002, "we really were here under the guise of Multiton" MIC Corp, Sneddon said. Jungheinrich AG acquired Multiton in 1976.

As Jungheinrich was growing in Europe, the parent company opted for a strategic development to dramatically expand operations simultaneously in North America and Asia.
In 2005, Jungheinrich introduced its EKS 314 order picker and ECR 327 end rider models in North America.

The pace picked up in 2006. Jungheinrich integrated the Multiton business into its core product lines and phased out North American use of the Multiton brand name ( News #290).

The business invested in a 17,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art spare parts distribution warehouse in Richmond and introduced the ETR 320 pantograph reach truck to the North American market. It agreed to private label Exide Technologies' GNB Industrial Power division batteries, with Exide serving as the primary supplier of batteries for Jungheinrich forklifts sold in North America.

Last January, the company launched the ETR 314 double-deep reach truck after final field trials. At ProMat 2007, Jungheinrich exhibited its new EFG D30 rotating cabin truck with a 180-degree turning range. Among other equipment, the EFG D30 is undergoing evaluations with three end users, each with three locations, through the Automotive Action Group tour.

Sneddon's background and perspectives

Sneddon was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, and trained in Edinburgh as an electrical engineer. He received the City & Guilds Institute qualification in 1980 and the Higher National Certificate in 1981 and began working in his chosen field.

In 1983, he joined Jungheinrich UK Ltd, in Manchester, UK, as service manager in the northwest region, and was general manager when he left the UK subsidiary in 1999.

He took a position as Yale brand sales director for Nacco Materials Handling Group, in Birmingham, UK, but soon he returned to Jungheinrich, this time as managing director of the firm's Dublin, Ireland, subsidiary.

In 2005, Sneddon was promoted to his present position in Richmond.

He arrived in the US on March 20, 2005, and became personally aware of the country's "vast" size and population of 300 million. Sneddon noted contrasts from his previous posting. "We loved living in Ireland," he said. "There are 3.5 million people, and you can drive everywhere."

In adapting to the North American market, Sneddon began learning about the basic sales, financing and equipment differences from European practices. He is nonjudgemental about the "different ways of doing things" but recognises three particular variations. Manufacturers tend to sell directly to end users in Europe and through dealer channels in the United States, he said.

In Europe, manufacturers handle most financing. In the US, each manufacturer has a relationship with a funding partner to provide intermediate financing. A reach truck operator in Europe is seated with the mast moving backward and forward; a reach truck operator in the US stands with a fixed reach carriage on the truck. "They are different, but no one is better than the other," Sneddon said.

Sneddon travels about one week a month and, so far, has visited about 20 per cent of Jungheinrich's North American dealers. He has spent time in various destinations in the US, Canada and Mexico and begun to understand regional differences. In dealing with the parent company, he goes to Hamburg two or three times a year.

Sneddon and his wife, Brenda, are adapting to their new lifestyle. Their younger son, Jamie, 23, is a technical apprentice at Jungheinrich, in Richmond. Another son, John, 25, holds a sales position in Scotland.

Sneddon's golf hobby is on hold because of time constraints, but he still tracks European sports. "I thank TV for the soccer channels", for broadcasting matches of teams with which he is familiar.

As an observer, "I have tried to get into American football", he said. He attended an October 2 game at Philadelphia's Lincoln Financial Field and saw the home team Eagles defeat the Green Bay Packers, 31-9.
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