The demand for efficient heavy construction equipment is propelled by several factors across the United States, Canada, and indeed, globally. Urbanization, with the need for building construction and infrastructure systems, is just one factor driving this demand. Activity in the oil and gas, mining, agriculture, and forestry industries is another.
According to Market Research Future (MRFR), the market for heavy construction equipment will likely increase by 2021, with technological advances in machinery playing a vital role in market demand. This trend is good news for General Equipment & Supplies (GES), headquartered out of Fargo, North Dakota.
Established in 1984, General Equipment & Supplies sells heavy construction and aggregate equipment to the construction, mining, and oil exploration industries, as well as to municipal governments. The company fabricates, rents, sells and services this equipment.
GES has approximately 250 employees who service eight locations in the Midwest, comprising eighty percent of the company’s business. Its sister company, General Aggregate Equipment Sales, has two locations in Canada: one in Manitoba and the other in Saskatchewan.
General Equipment & Supplies offers quality equipment from Komatsu, JCB, Kobelco, Superior Industries, Major Wire and Link-Belt cranes, to name a few. More importantly, the company “provid[es] quality products to our customers and offer[s] them solutions to their problems,” according to Jon Shilling, President and Chief Executive Officer. “We have many manufacturers that we deal with, so we make every effort to determine what our customers’ needs are and address the issues they need resolved. We go about trying to find the appropriate solution to those needs, regardless of the make, model or brand of equipment we have ready to sell.”
Discerning the customers’ needs requires planning, with a focus on developing the best solution for each project. To achieve this goal, the company always communicates with, and trains its people to ask relevant questions of their customers regarding service, parts or sales. “We are about diving deeper into the customer issue at hand before we even begin to start offering potential fixes to their problem.”
The proactive approach, with diligent fact-checking, means that the company can readily diagnose an issue and provide the best possible solution to the customer. General Equipment & Supplies strives to become “a partner in the solution,” rather than solely focusing on the sale.
In any successful company, skilled, reliable and passion-driven employees are crucial. GES “hires, fires and promotes based on our core values,” explains Jon. “We believe that every member of our team brings value to this company. We’re constantly striving to put the right people into the right seats within our organization. We talk about that all of the time; it’s part of our Traction process.”
Jon believes anyone can attain the skills required for each particular job. “However, you cannot train personality, drive or integrity.” For this reason, the company seeks individuals who live by their core personal and professional values. Once hired, employees “can be trained with the skill sets that they need for the positions we’re trying to fill.”
North Dakota State College of Science’s (NDSCS) Komatsu program instills this philosophy in its students in the diesel technology program. The five-semester program in Fargo leads to an Associate of Applied Science Degree (A.A.S.). General Equipment & Supplies partners with Komatsu which, in turn, collaborates with the college.
The company’s Director of Workforce Development, Ann Pollert, visits and actively recruits students and parents. Once ideal candidates are selected, potential hires are interviewed “multiple times for on-site visits before we actually determine if they’re the ‘right fit’ for our program.” Pollert suggests that students also consider other programs to make sure GES meets their career goals.
General Equipment & Supplies offers on-the-job training as well as training at its manufacturers’ facilities. Apprentices work with seasoned technicians on the aggregate side and visit job sites to “ensure that these [students] have the most up-to-date, accurate knowledge possible provided to them, so that they can go out to our customers with the fastest and best possible solutions.”
GES prides itself on its partnerships with customers, communities, businesses, and manufacturers. The employee team is an integral part of this partnership as well. “We want [our customers] to know that no matter what the relationship they have with us, we want to be a true partner in their success.”
Technology is constantly evolving and innovation is a vital part of the company. “We’re continuously looking for new technologies to find the very best advances out there,” explains Jon, “to ensure we’re providing the best solutions and, of course, the best efficiencies to our customers to ensure their long-term success, as well as our own. We want to make sure that we have the best technologies and that we’re their go-to dealership when they’re looking to find the absolute best technologies available.”
General Equipment & Supplies expanded into Iowa and is expanding into Nebraska, picking up two lines in both states. “We’re a full-line Superior dealer in both territories,” continues Jon. “We have expanded into Urbana, Iowa, which is about fifteen minutes north of the Cedar Rapids area. We’re continuing to work toward adding a location in Nebraska when it makes sense.”
According to a March 2019 Zion Market Research report, the global heavy construction equipment market will grow significantly between 2019 and 2028. Jon explains that in the United States, one of the facilitators of this growth is the upsurge in infrastructure projects. “In the Midwest, farming is a big indicator of how the economy goes. Farming is slowly on the rise here again and certainly out in western North Dakota.” Energy and oil field industries are significant aspects of this steady growth. “I also believe that technology will be what continues to drive projects in the construction industry.”
Technologies such as drones on job sites, geographic information systems (GIS), and integrated machines are changing the heavy equipment arena, says Jon. “We basically have an operator remotely monitoring a machine [such as] our Komatsu intelligent machines.”
Since it is difficult to find experienced personnel in the labor force, a dozer with GPS-integrated equipment can do most of the work for the operator. “I think that is going to continue to drive the construction industry as well.”
At one time, equipment required highly-skilled operators, and although this is still an option, there are new technologies that “allow you to put maybe a little less seasoned operator in there that can gain the knowledge as the machine helps them to do the work.”
Jon says that most of the company’s sales and rentals business comes from “either the aggregate rock crushing side or the infrastructure side of the business where we’re providing loaders, dozers, excavators, and cranes to the construction industry.”
The company has “certified technicians in all of our branches, and we also have some that are located as resident technicians that live where there are non-branch needs. They can be dispatched closer to customers in more rural areas.”
The company provides several service trucks to visit project sites daily. “We’re sending twenty to thirty service trucks out throughout our branches that go out and service all makes of equipment, even those we don’t carry, when the customers are unable to bring it into our shops.”
As for the future, Jon would like to see General Equipment & Supplies “continue to grow and expand within our territories, becoming one of the premier providers of aggregate and construction solutions in the Midwest and Manitoba and Saskatchewan.”
This will be accomplished by, “continuing to live by our core values, making sure we have a sought-after company culture and employing the very best people in the industry,” he says. “If we take care of our people, they, in turn, will continue to take care of our customers, which, ultimately, keeps those customers coming back to us,” ensuring the continued success of GES.