By D.Ann Shiffler01 March 2017
Over the past couple of years, Daniel Pitzer has become a mainstay in the U.S. crane market and a genuine friend to many Liebherr crane owners in North America. In a short time he has earned the respect and trust of customers and competitors, and he has done so with an easy and friendly demeanor. Pitzer comes across as smart and sincere.
Pitzer’s rise through the ranks at Liebherr has been steady. He started with the company 11 years ago fresh out of college when he was hired as a trainee in the sales department at Liebherr-Werk Ehingen GmbH (LWE) in Germany, Liebherr’s mobile and crawler crane division and manufacturing facility. Within a year of being introduced to the sales, service and production departments he was promoted to sales manager. In this job he supported area sales managers in the English-speaking countries with their daily activities. In time he focused on supporting sales in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Turkey. In 2015 he was promoted and transferred to the United States to lead LWE’s division for the region, which back then was known as Liebherr Cranes Inc.
In 2016, with the formation of Liebherr USA, Company, he concurrently began serving as one of the three managing directors for Liebherr USA, Co. and as divisional director for the Liebherr Mobile and Crawler Cranes division in the United States. As one of the three managing directors he works hand-in-hand with Torben Reher and Peter Mayr to provide strategic direction for the newly formed organization.
At a divisional level, he is responsible for the overall business strategy, company operations and the sales and marketing of the mobile and crawler cranes division in the United States. “Our product range comprises mobile cranes, crawler cranes (350 tons and up) and the new range of rough terrain cranes that will be launched at ConExpo,” he said.
Pitzer seems to truly enjoy working in the United States for Liebherr.
“I’ve always felt very close to the American culture, the people and the country in general,” he said. “My first travel experience to the United States was in 1994. A trip that led me to come back in 2001 to work at a summer camp and then to return to live on the West Coast for a year while pursuing my MBA. Today, I work and live in Virginia with my wife and our two children. I consider this an amazing opportunity for us as a young family.”
Even before he started working for Liebherr, Pitzer said he had a great admiration for the crane industry.
“It always kept me interested and I was definitely hooked when I was able to operate and drive a crane for the first time during my traineeship at Liebherr,” he said. “I share the same passion and interest that our customers have for our products and our industry, and I feel honored to work for the best manufacturer there is. Serving and supporting our customers and contributing to Liebherr’s efforts to build its presence and expand its footprint in the United States is more than just a job for me.”
Pitzer enjoys the Liebherr’s North American customer base and he has made many friends among the loyal legion of Liebherr owners. He believes that Liebherr distinguishes itself in the market by staying close to its customers.
“Our mobile and crawler cranes are sold directly to customers through our division; this allows us to stay close to our customers and build long lasting relationships at all levels,” he said. “Our customers are our main focus and can rely on a highly specialized team of professionals whether they require assistance in the field, service or technical support. At Liebherr, we are fortunate to have very loyal customers and employees who are committed to helping their companies succeed. Our products are built on quality, innovation and safety; Liebherr continuously invests in technology and never stops working on developing intelligent solutions to the challenges our customers face.”
Above all, Pitzer is as loyal to Liebherr customers as they are to the brand. We caught up with Pitzer to talk about his company and what’s ahead for the crane industry. He provided articulate, thoughtful responses to our questions.WHAT DO YOU THINK BUILDS BRAND LOYALTY?We are a 100 percent family-owned company. Our company’s core values and corporate culture are defined by the family values. They have been passed down from generation to generation and aim to be a consistently trustworthy business partner for our customers. Liebherr employees all over the world work with exceptional determination to uphold this claim. The continued success of the company lies in the teamwork, dedication and enthusiasm of its most valuable resource – its more than 41,000 employees worldwide. Just as Liebherr is focused on developing the world’s best products and technologies and offer the highest quality of customer service, the company is also committed to recruit, develop, reward and retain its employees. I believe this is a commitment that ultimately lead to greater customer loyalty and competitive advantage. HOW DO YOU CHARACTERIZE THE NORTH AMERICAN MARKET FOR CRANES IN 2017?My personal projection is that after three years of experiencing a gradual decline in the new crane market for all terrain cranes in the United States, we have seen the bottom and I anticipate the demand for new cranes in the U.S. will increase this year. I am an optimist by nature, and by listening to the industry and looking at our consumer’s confidence in general, paired with an unemployment rate at historical lows and along with expected increase in government spending such as infrastructure and energy projects etc., I might not be far off with my prediction. The upcoming ConExpo-Con/Agg show, followed by the SC&RA Annual Conference, should help us gain a better perspective of what this year will bring for the industry.THERE IS LOTS OF TALK ABOUT THE LIFESPAN OF A CRANE, ALTHOUGH A RECENT STUDY IN THE UNITED STATES SUGGESTs THAT CRANE AGE HAS LITTLE TO DO WITH ACCIDENTS OR SAFE OPERATION OF A CRANE. HOW DOES A MANUFACTURER LIKE LIEBHERR APPROACH CRANE LIFESPAN?According to Mr. Hans-Dieter Willim, general manager of the design department at Liebherr-Werk Ehingen: Liebherr mobile cranes are built according to the European Standard EN 13000 and ANSI B30.5 for a limited number of load cycles. The theoretical number of load cycles according to EN13000 is 63000 with a light load collective. This means a big number of light loads and a small number of heavy loads. What does this mean in the real world? If a mobile crane is checked regularly for cracks in the bearing steel structure and is maintained properly, there will be no fixed life time. With an increasing amount of load cycles the regular checks must be increased as the risk of a crack is increasing. If a mobile crane is used for cycling work like unloading ships the lifetime of the crane will be reduced accordingly. In summary, there is no fixed life time of a mobile crane. The real life time depends from the work the crane has done. The life time ends if the repair and maintenance costs supersede the price of a new crane.WHAT CRANE IN THE LIEBHERR PRODUCT LINE ARE YOU MOST EXCITED ABOUT?I have a passion for cranes in general, that leaves me with no particular preference for just one specific model. I just love seeing our cranes on job sites all over the country no matter where I travel. I am very excited about how we have grown our presence here in the U.S. and we are constantly working on initiatives and strategies to offer our customers even more products while enhancing their aftersales experience. The new Liebherr rough terrain line for example is part of this strategy to support our North American customers.WHAT HAS BEEN THE RECEPTION TO THE NEW ROUGH TERRAIN CRANE?We have received very positive feedback and excitement from our customers since we previewed the 100-ton LRT 1090-2.1 and 110-ton LRT 1100-2.1 last October at our Liebherr-Werk Ehingen factory in Germany. The commitment from ALL Erection and Crane Rental to take 15 units of the LRT 1090-2.1 bears witness to this.The new range of rough terrain cranes have been designed with safety in mind. “The safe alternative” scored high with customers in general, not just for those who use rough terrain cranes on refinery applications. It is great to see that we are now in a position to offer our customers a one-stop shop for their lifting needs. I would like to encourage everybody to come and see our LRTs at ConExpo and to check out the features including the extra wide operator’s cab.WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO IN YOUR LEISURE TIME?There is really just one thing – I like to spend as much time as I can with my family. They are my work-life balance and my source of energy. On the weekends we enjoy the Chesapeake Bay area and we love to go fishing or to have barbecues with other families.