Manitowoc’s new CEO discusses leading the company through pandemic challenges
Manitowoc's new president and CEO, Aaron Ravenscroft, believes continuous improvement is fundamental to the company's next phase of growth.
Although new to the role of president and CEO, Aaron Ravenscroft is not new to Manitowoc or the crane business. In fact, Ravenscroft has followed the industry from the earliest years of his career as an analyst at an investment bank. After leading several industrial equipment manufacturing companies prior to Manitowoc, Ravenscroft joined the company in March 2016, first leading its mobile cranes business and then, in August 2017, taking on the additional responsibility of managing the tower cranes business.
During his time at Manitowoc, Ravenscroft set the foundation for future growth. He has been focused on investing in new products, improving product quality and customer service, while simultaneously strengthening the company's operations. The result has been more durable, reliable cranes and a suite of services that support Manitowoc customers and dealers at every stage of the customers' ownership experience.
Looking Up spoke to Ravenscroft about his thoughts on the new role and what the future might hold for Manitowoc.
Looking Up: How does it feel to take on the role of president and CEO at Manitowoc?
Aaron Ravenscroft: It is a great honour to lead such a fantastic company with strong brands and loyal customers. Over the past few years I have worked closely with Barry Pennypacker (Manitowoc's previous President and CEO, who announced his retirement earlier this year), so in terms of timing and understanding what needs to be done, the transition has been pretty seamless and we are in a great position to see the company into the future.
I'm very grateful to Barry for all he did and the foundation he built. Under his leadership, we reinvigorated our product development and transformed our operations through The Manitowoc Way. Because of that, we're now set to move into our next phase of growth, and I couldn't be more proud or excited to be leading our company into the future.
LU: What do you like most about the crane business?
AR: One of my favorite things is the personal relationships in the business. I have regular interaction with all kinds of people in the industry: our employees, customers, dealers, investors, suppliers and more. We stay in touch. We talk, we email, we text. Connectivity is very important for the industry.
This is a business that is all about confidence and building relationships. I especially love working with our customers and seeing how Manitowoc cranes help improve their businesses. The crane industry is a small, often times family-owned world and that really appeals to me, as I have a wife and four kids, aged 16, 14, 12 and 8. Family is the most important thing in the world and being part of an industry that feels like one big global family is a real privilege.
It's also a real joy to see the fruits of our labour. There is nothing more rewarding than visiting a stadium built by a Grove all-terrain crane; a wind farm assembled with a Manitowoc crawler crane; or a skyscraper built with a Potain tower crane. Our products are visible to the world, and they are literally building the communities where our children will live. How many folks can say that they helped rebuild the Notre Dame Cathedral? This is what makes Manitowoc special.
LU: With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, how has Manitowoc been doing in these difficult times?
AR: Our first priority at all times has been the health and safety of our employees across the world. While we have faced an unprecedented global crisis, I am incredibly proud of what our team has achieved, as we continue to deliver new cranes, parts, and services to customers in a time of essential need.
While the COVID-19 situation continues to cause complications, we are managing our operations well, and our balance sheet and the company's liquidity are healthy. We have the strength and structure to see us through the difficult months that remain, and we are already planning for things getting better.
LU: What are your priorities as you begin your time as President and CEO?
AR: I only have one real priority and that is to prepare the company for the post-COVID-19 situation. Of course, this starts with managing the health and safety situation created by COVID-19 we have at present, as we need to manage this day-by-day. However, this is only the starting point - it's an entry fee to the game. I'm confident that a vaccine will be approved and distributed over the next 12 months. The world will build herd immunity to this terrible illness, and we will return to some version of normal. As the COVID-19 cloud lifts, business will pick-up; construction projects will boom; and our business is going to be hectic.
We need to be prepared to take full advantage of this rebound - which means we need to continue to launch new products, accelerate our all-terrain crane product launches and our development of cranes from our plant in China. We need to gain market share in the German tower crane segment, utilizing our budding rental fleet. We need to be prepared to secure acquisitions. I strongly believe that capitalizing on the eventual rebound of the industry will set Manitowoc on a new path of growth over the next 10 years.
We need to be mentally prepared to compete to win. The crane business has been very tough since the 2009 crisis. Over the last 10 years, we played to survive - we stumbled out of the financial crisis, and we fought like mad dogs to become a sustainable crane company after the spin-off of the Manitowoc Foodservice division.
Today, we have a strong balance sheet, our product lines are significantly improved, our quality (while not good enough yet) is substantially improved, and we are a far superior company. We have a team and a culture that's been battle hardened. My number one priority is to unlock Manitowoc's true potential and lead the company through a phase of strong growth.
LU: Will new product development continue at the same pace?
AR: New products are the lifeblood of our business, so we will always invest in innovation. COVID-19 has not slowed down our innovation pipeline and we have leveraged new approaches to be efficient. For example, instead of meeting face-to-face, our product development teams are meeting virtually, and we have found other new ways to communicate with our customers to ensure our cranes are meeting their needs.