One on one with Manitowoc's Bob Hund
By Shiffler D.Ann25 June 2013
Bob Hund’s career success can easily be tied to one of his favorite adages: “The best product wins.”
A 25-year veteran of the construction equipment industry, Hund says he has “done a little bit of everything” in this business. With two engineering degrees and a MBA, he has worked in product development, manufacturing, dealer management, marketing and product support. Today he serves as executive vice president of Manitowoc Crane Care, an independent business unit that operates as one of five profits centers for Manitowoc Cranes.
Hund got his start in the industry with Caterpillar, where he worked for 18 years in locations such as North Carolina, Malaysia and Germany in a variety of roles. He worked his way up through the Caterpillar career ladder quickly, applying ingenuity and strategic planning to the jobs he was assigned. In January 2007, he made the jump to Manitowoc Cranes, where he began making an impact from the start, first as vice president of marketing. Once he had learned the ropes of the crane manufacturing realm, he was tapped to lead the Crane Care division.
The challenge of leading one of the company’s profit-making divisions is right up Hund’s alley. A competitor by nature, he enjoys the rapid pace of customer service and product support, and he is deeply committed to Crane Care’s mission.
“From my perspective, aftermarket is a big challenge,” he says. “Manitowoc has a global zeal and we want to be there for everyone who owns a Manitowoc product. We want to be everywhere, whether it’s South Africa, Alaska or Patagonia in South America. The challenge we have is to provide first world support to every remote part of the world. Whether it’s resources or funding, or simply finding available people to do the kinds of things that need to be done to support our cranes; we stretch ourselves to be the company that serves all our customers wherever they are in the world.”
Hund believes that Crane Care is ultimately why customers buy a Manitowoc or Grove crane.
“Our mission statement for Crane Care is: ‘Customers choose Manitowoc to get Crane Care services,’” he says. “Even though our products have superior design and proven reliability, we in Crane Care believe buyers choose our brand because of our commitment to provide superior services to every corner of the world. Our goal is to provide the same level of support that we provide in Nigeria that we provide in New York.”
Catching up with Hund is not an easy task, as running a division that provides support around the globe means he is often on an airplane or in another country. He slowed down enough to chat with me in Munich, Germany at the Manitowoc booth during the Bauma 2013 tradeshow.
What do you see as your greatest career accomplishment?
You know, I read this question and I realized that it takes a lot of reflection. Looking back over my career, my greatest accomplishment was creating and implementing a revised product development method at Caterpillar. It was a strategy for developing new machines at Cat and it was along the lines of collaborative product and process management. It involved working with suppliers, designers, manufacturing engineers and the factory, all at the same time. You do it all at the same time, in different phases. It’s developing new products in a collaborative process.
At the time, we were struggling to come out with a new series of trucks and motor graders simultaneously. It was me and my staff of 12 people, and we sequestered ourselves for six months. Our challenge was, ‘you guys figure out how we are going to get this back on track,’ and that’s what we did. That’s probably my most significant career accomplishment. The simultaneous and collaborative nature of that type of work of dealing with people in different functions is something we learned to do.
One adage, or saying, that I like is: Reasonable people equally informed almost always agree.
With the nature of our work, sometimes we can actually agree to disagree. If someone is unreasonable, you have to get away from them. As long as you talk it out, as long as everyone is equally informed, you’ll likely come up with the same answer or solution to the problem. Whether you are designing a new product or taking care of existing products in the aftermarket, as long as everyone is informed in that process, you will probably come up with same answer. It’s all about effective communication, especially good listening skills.
Going back to working collaboratively, you can succeed as long as you collaborate enough and involve the right people. You can expedite product development or implement quality improvements through this process.
What’s your take on the economic picture as it relates to manufacturing/distributing cranes?
I think there is some significant regional variability. Since the downturn officially ended, some parts of the world are up and some are some still down. For example, in the Middle East, Dubai is down but Saudi Arabia is up. I have the unique perspective of being in a global business and we serve all geographical regions.
What’s the latest with Crane Care?
In the after-market we are seeing steady growth, and we are also getting some incremental growth out of our Encore remanufacturing and structural repair program. We have some special marketing programs but the growth areas we see other than the organic growth in our business is in Encore.
Some people wonder if remanufacturing steals from sales. We rarely see someone who decides to remanufacture rather than buy a new crane. Sometimes they choose to remanufacture because they want to keep a certain crane in their fleet or because it’s too new to replace. It’s usually a preference because of asset utilization or they like the way a particular Manitowoc product works, for instance in a particular duty cycle application.
We are starting to hear rumblings about the issue of hiring skilled workers and also about attracting younger workers into the crane and rigging industry. What’s your take on this problem?
Crane Care is a big division; we have 1,000 people working for us, and we need skilled service technicians. And our dealers have close to 2,000 technicians. Everyone in the industry wants to employ the best skilled technicians out there. New technicians come in and experienced ones leave, sometimes to our customers. While that’s not really bad for us, it does mean we must have in place effective and efficient training programs.
Because our products are unique and to be safe we want them to always be repaired back to their original design and safety standards, we prefer our technicians trained the way we want them to be trained, so we do much of the training ourselves. We have a plethora of training centers around the world. So for us, in terms of skilled labor, superior training is a constant challenge and something that is a priority. We have training centers on practically all continents, from New Delhi, India, to Brazil, all around the world.
We do have some labor problems in some areas around the world where we need technicians. Our solution is to develop and grow our own people. If we do lose them to our own customers, it’s not such a bad thing. We are keeping it in the family, the Manitowoc family.
We are fortunate with our dealers and our customers. I don’t know if any other OEM that has as many trained, skilled service and parts technicians around the world like we have. We see this as an important investment. We measure the utilization of our technicians and they are almost always 100 percent utilized.
What is your favorite thing about your job?
In my career, I have worked primarily on three continents, Asia, Europe and the United States. What I really like and
enjoy is dealing with all the different customs and cultures around the world. We are in the same industry, [our colleagues around the world] in the lifting industry, but we are all different. I enjoy the diversity. It’s not only intriguing, but it’s interesting. I thrive on cultural diversity. I really enjoy that, to see how people act, behave, work and communicate around the world and all in the same industry.
What’s the hardest part of your job?
I’ve thought about this and I would say it’s traveling when you don’t want to travel. Like traveling when your kids have an event at school that you don’t want to miss. It kills you to have to travel sometimes. But it’s part of the job. It’s all about successfully achieving a work/life balance and fortunately Manitowoc has been very good to me.
We get to set our own schedules and make our own decisions. Sometimes, there are conflicts. But really, traveling when you aren’t feeling well is the worst.
If you could give advice to your 25-year-old-self, what would it be?
Learning different languages early is important. Also, develop skills to create long-lasting customer relations early. Technical people, and I consider myself to be technical, are a little more introverted. If you want to develop good customer relations to a point where the customer will speak openly to you to the extent that they know you, you have to learn to how to develop relationships of trust with people. If you can develop this early, you will be much better off. Basically, develop skills to create long-term customer relationships.
You have mentioned a couple of your favorite adages/mottos? Do you have others?
The best product wins.
The man with the details wins.
If you don’t make dust you eat dust (imagine cowboys on horses).
I like that one. If you aren’t making dust you are eating it and that applies not just to the people selling your product but it also applies to product support. You can’t just wait for the phone to ring. Go out there and pursue customer loyalty early.
The wisdom is that sales sells the first crane and service sells the second. With Crane Care, we want to sell the first crane. We want people to say, ‘we want to buy the crane because of the benefit of Crane Care service.’
What do you like to do when you have some downtime?
I like to play with my kids and spend time with my wife. Oliver and Lilly are twins and they are six years old.