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Snorkel ceases US production

Snorkel’s US production facility at Elwood in Kansas is ceasing production at the end of May with the loss of 200 jobs. It leaves the company with a small production facility in New Zealand which is currently building a range of scissor lifts, truck mounts, trailer mounts and telescopic booms. The total number of people employed at the facility in New Zealand is understood to be less than 50. Stephen Light, Omniquip’s president and CEO visited the facility in November last year and said then: “The manufacturing facility in New Zealand is impressive. The quality procedures are equivalent to any of our production facilities, and this is evident in the quality of the finished products delivered from the plant. These world class manufacturing skills, combined with the current exchange rate situation, create some great export opportunities."

He added: “The SRT2770 (rough terrain 27' scissor lift) manufactured in this facility is an award-winning product that is now being exported throughout Asia and Europe” and, somewhat prophetically, added: “The Australasian operations will definitely be playing a more crucial role in our global approach to the growth of Omniquip products."

Snorkel’s operations in Europe have had a chequered history in recent years. June 1st last year saw the company open its own subsidiary in Germany after an absence of about three years. The launch was accompanied with the statement that although Snorkel had left its German customers without representation for three years “this will never happen again” (See Kran & Bühne August/September 2001 p 23).

Four months later it was announced that Snorkel was closing its doors in Germany with the loss of jobs. Since January 1st this year German customers have once again been without an official representative.

The situation in the rest of Europe has been clearer with companies such as Heli in Belgium, Francelift in France and APS in the UK continuing to act for Snorkel.

Dave O’Dell, vice president of sales and brand management with Omniquip, told that the company had received approaches from several parties in recent months asking whether it would be possible to purchase Snorkel: “These were referred to Textron and we have no further comment on the matter”.

O’Dell stressed that although production was ceasing at Elwood, a number of staff would continue to be employed to provide parts and technical advice. “European customers can continue to obtain parts and New Zealand built product from our European dealers” said O’Dell adding that Omniquip Parts Worldwide would also continue to support the products.

The future of the Snorkel product is unclear and both Textron and Omniquip declined to comment on the subject. However, it seems likely that the Omniquip division will be sold shortly to private investors. The sale is expected to be simultaneous with, but separate from, other Omniquip divisions, namely Lull, Scat Trak, Sky Trak and Snorkel.

* OmniQuip is part of Textron Inc, which is ranked 154 on the 'Fortune 500' list and is also one of 'Fortune's Global Most Admired Companies'. Textron Inc boasts revenue of US$13 billion, more than 60,000 employees, manufactures in 27 countries and is the owner of leading brands such as Bell Helicopter, Cessna Aircraft, E-Z-GO Golf carts, Textron Automotive Company, Cushman, Jacobsen and Ransomes Turf care products, Greenlee, Ryan, Steiner & Brower products and Textron Financial.

Omniquip was bought by Textron Inc in mid 1999 and became a group within Textron's Industrial Segment.