Managing Mecalac’s New Frontier
Industry veteran Peter Bigwood joined Mecalac in September 2019 to spearhead the French-based compact equipment manufacturer’s entree into North America. While establishing a new brand in a highly competitive market is always challenging, few could have imagined the upheaval caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Still, Bigwood is pleased with both Mecalac’s progress in securing a market foothold, and the company’s prospects as the construction industry gradually regains its footing. He shares some thoughts with PDa readers on his new company and what it will offer contractors as they get back to work.
What attracted you to take on the role of General Manager of Mecalac North America?
Innovation. Mecalac products are like nothing else on the market. The company focuses on solving common jobsite problems and creatively developing products to improve safety, versatility and efficiency. Mecalac offers a new dynamic, a point of differentiation and potentially new market segments and applications. Who wouldn’t want to be part of growing such a unique and exciting brand?
Then there’s also the challenge. Mecalac is well-established in Europe as a global designer, manufacturer and distributor of compact construction equipment for urban environments, and a recognized industry-leader in many of their product categories. However, they only recently made a significant investment in North America by establishing a headquarters and dealer network. Bringing these innovative, highly differentiated products to a new market and helping educate new audiences on their unique functionality was the perfect opportunity.
And, of course, I don’t just want to grow the business. My goal is for Mecalac to achieve the same level of success it has accomplished elsewhere. But the rules are a little different in the North American market. Challenging myself to meet Mecalac’s international success in the U.S., Canada and Latin America seemed like the perfect opportunity to put my more than 30 years of experience to the test. I have to say, so far, so good.
For those who may be unfamiliar with Mecalac, can you give us a quick company profile?
Mecalac was founded in France in 1974 and has since grown to include sales offices, distributors and customers in more than 87 countries. —excavators, loaders, backhoe loaders, site dumpers, and compaction rollers—that Most Mecalac machines are designed for multifunctionality, built to reduce the number of machines needed on the jobsite.
What’s more, the company is internationally renowned for its innovative, customer-focused technology. We challenge the traditional way of doing things and try to make the impossible possible, enhancing productivity, profitability and safety with our innovative solutions. Mecalac owners need to be willing to approach tasks in a new way. And if you do, it really pays off!
North America is a very large and lucrative, but also competitive market for construction equipment. What will help set Mecalac apart?
To put it simply, there’s nothing on the North American market like Mecalac equipment. Their design teams use the information gathered from end-users to create multi-functional products that allow our operators to get more work done with fewer pieces of equipment. The result is game-changing machines poised to completely alter how contractors look at construction equipment.
For example, Mecalac incorporates ease-of-use benefits into all of their equipment, including a high level of visibility or the ability to fill the tank like you would fill your car. Additionally, Mecalac is the only manufacturer to offer a quick coupler as standard. The coupler — which took years of engineering creativity to develop — is deceptively simple and virtually eliminates the risk of dropping an attachment.
Safety features are another differentiator. Excavators, site dumpers and the rest of the product lines offer direct and safe access to the cab, reducing the risk of injury while entering or exiting the equipment. This is key because studies show that about half of all jobsite injuries occur when stepping in or out of the cab.
It all comes back to innovation. Soon, North American contractors will realize Mecalac offers them a way to do more than they ever thought possible with a single, multi-operational machine.
What is Mecalac doing to “introduce itself” and raise its profile in North America?
While global conditions have slightly amended our introductory fanfare, we have still been working diligently to grow our North American presence. The cancellation of tradeshows has been a disappointment. The ConExpo/ConAgg crowd witnessed our captivating 20-minute, precisely choreographed demonstrations that highlighted the mobility, productivity and versatility of Mecalac equipment in a number of common jobsite applications. But we were unable to get in front of other audiences in a similar fashion over the course of the year.
However, trade shows were ever only a small part of our plan. A strong dealer network is the key to raising a brand profile, so finding the right North American partners was top priority. Mecalac’s relationship-based philosophy means it only enters a market when it has the right support in place and has identified partners who share its values and are excited about its products. These partners believe in the Mecalac approach and share our vision for reshaping the way contractors work. Like us, they have a passion for finding new solutions and servicing customer needs in a way few companies do.
We welcomed five North American dealers to our network in 2020. These dealers significantly expand our coverage across the eastern U.S., as well as provide a toehold on the West Coast and in several key Canadian markets. These partnerships increase access and customer support for existing Mecalac customers and help bring the company’s innovative lineup to new regions.
As we move into 2021, we will continue identifying and partnering with new dealers. In fact, talks with several potential additions are already underway. We’re excited about our growing North American network and look forward to increasing access to Mecalac products and services across the continent.
The last year has been a pretty bumpy ride for everyone. How do you see the North American market recovering and unfolding in the coming months?
2020 was a challenging year for contractors and equipment manufacturers around the world, including Mecalac. Not the ideal circumstances for entering a new market. However, Mecalac’s innovative product lines have struck a chord with U.S. and Canadian contractors, making our North American debut a resounding success.
Despite positive movement at the end of 2020, we expect the construction market will remain unpredictable and turbulent well into 2021. Decreases in demand resulted in many of our industry peers restructuring/downsizing. There’s little reason to believe that the situation in 2021 will suddenly stabilize. However, we believe our crawler skid excavators and swing loaders are ideally suited to help the North American market bounce back by streamlining jobsites and injecting game-changing productivity. We are fortunate to be in the part of our growth cycle where adding new dealers — despite uncertainty in the market — is a key driver of increased sales. End-user interest in Mecalac, through social media or simply word-of-mouth, has inspired more dealers to reach out to us, which makes our job that much easier.
Any thoughts on if and how the post-pandemic construction equipment market will differ from “before times”?
We were already on this path, but being able to do more with less will be vital moving forward. How contractors bid, staff and equip jobs will be streamlined for both safety and budgetary reasons. Multi-purpose machines that can do more than one job and do them well can reduce traffic and the number of operators necessary for a job — helping meet social-distance guidelines while keeping labor costs down.
Industry-leading power-to-weight ratios will also be important, especially for urban jobsites where a smaller unit able to lift above its weight class means a smaller footprint and less room required to maneuver. Products like Mecalac’s MCR series that can not only do more, but often do it better, aren’t the wave of the future — they’re the tools contractors need right now.
What advice would you offer demolition and waste hauling contractors as they try to navigate the “new normal”?
Demolition and waste handling contractors are a hearty group. Most have experienced the ups and downs of changing economies and the challenges of ever-changing policies and regulations. Adaptability is an industry requirement. And it’s a trait that will be critical in navigating the current economic conditions. Whether it’s looking for tools that allow them to diversify their business — offering new services or tackling different projects — or solutions that help them reduce fleet costs and safety liabilities, adaptability will lead to continued success in this economy or any other. I have every confidence that they will, as they have so many times before, emerge stronger, wiser, and better than ever.