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If you were to ask the employees of A&O Forklift in Edmore, Michigan, “How’s business?” They would reply, “Great!”
In fact, the manufacturer has doubled its production during the last four years and there is no evidence to show that won’t continue to grow indefinitely. Owner Brian Kulling said that the company is on pace to produce 250 forklifts by the end of 2015. Previous production highs topped off at 140 in 2012 and 180 in 2013.
Kulling acquired the company in 2012 from a gentleman who was manufacturing customized lifts for beekeepers and orchards. Beekeepers continue to be a major customer. They represent about 80 percent of the company’s business.
Kulling credits the current success to the beekeepers market as A&O continues to add new beekeepers to its list of customers and holds on to the beekeeper repeat business.
The customer list also includes scrapyards and apple, blueberry and cherry orchards.
The company averages constructing one forklift a day. It offers four models –- the turbo, the XL, the XRT and the XT. Price of the vehicles range from $25,000 to $43,000 depending on how sophisticated the customization work. Each forklift also features a Kubota diesel engine, which can be serviced at a number of engine centers throughout the country.
The company will paint the forklifts any color a customer wants, including pink.
The forklift maker now has dealers in Chile, Canada, Australia, and Georgia in the U.S.A. and a sales and service center in Modesto, California. A&O is doing well in California with one of its customers being the largest almond producer in the state.
For one employee, Jerry Burns, A&O is a family business. He works along side his two sons Landan and Drew. Drew has worked there for about two years and Drew has been an employee for about one year. Both assemble the lifts.
According to Kulling, most of the employees became aware of the company by word of mouth. He also gets a lot of people walking in looking for work. He would rather start the hiring process through email, he said.
Kulling noted that he is looking for workers who have skills in welding. “We can’t find enough welders. It’s higher paying. It’s a skilled job. Basic mechanical skills for assembling machines are also valuable,” he said.
He concluded that the company hardly ever turns over workers. “We’ve never laid anyone off. We just keep growing,” he said.
Based on an article written by Elizabeth Waldon that was published in: