An Assembly of Brands - A Closer Look
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SECTION: A Closer Look

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An Assembly of Brands

By Mary Seaman

Article Date: 08-01-2005
Copyright(C) 2005 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.

Formerly ATI, Paladin continues its rapid growth strategy.

Although Paladin is a new name in the construction equipment attachment market, the company, previously known as ATI, is backed by a longstanding tradition. Paladin has grown from a company with a single attachment brand to an assembly of well-known and respected brands. Its rapid growth has made Paladin one of the most talked about names in the construction equipment industry.

Assembling Leading Brands
The company began in 1964. Over the years, it grew by purchasing attachment manufacturers, and the name changed as the company changed. To better define the evolving company, the name was changed from Bradco to American Trencher to ATI Global to Attachment Technologies Inc.; and in 2004, the company name became Paladin.

In the mid-1990s, an investment group on the East Coast acquired ATI. From the mid-90s to 2002, the investment group added a number of brands, including The Major, JRB, McMillen, CP, Badger, and Pengo in 2002. 

Norwest Equity Partners in conjunction with the management group acquired the company from the investment group in October 2003. At that time, the company dramatically accelerated the pace of its acquisition of other leading brands. 

Since October 2003, the company has made seven acquisitions, including Genesis, JRB, Jewell, Sweepster and FFC Attachments. ATI also bought a manufacturing operation in Mexico, now called Paladin-Mexico.

Today, Paladin brands include Bradco, JRB, Pengo, Genesis, McMillen, C&P, Jewell, The Major, Badger, FFC and Sweepster. 

"We grew the company very rapidly from 2003 until today," says Bill Van Sant, Paladin's chairman and CEO. "Paladin is an assembly of well-known and reputable brands. The value is in the brands of our business model. You'll always see the brands lead and Paladin provide support."

The strategy was to help the brands build value in their operations through the application of key operating initiatives generated by Paladin, says Van Sant. The six operating initiatives are lean manufacturing, global sourcing, coordinated procurement, new business development, product development, and information technology.

The Paladin Umbrella
The company is organized into four brand teams, each equipped with its own general manager. Each brand team is autonomous - it has its own product engineering, operating personnel, finance, human resources, sales and marketing.

"Each brand is a stand-alone profit center," says Van Sant. "They have been given full authority to be fast and flexible for the sake of improving customer service."

Each brand team occupies one of five market segments: Light Construction, Heavy Construction, Utility, Demolition Recycling and Forestry. Most teams offer multiple brands.

"Our model," says Van Sant, "is that the brand teams are accountable and responsible for interfacing with customers. They are making the day-to-day decisions to improve customer service based on customer needs." 

Paladin serves as the parent company. The corporate group, which resides in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, provides support to the brand teams and various services to enable better customer service and help the brands be more competitive.
 For example, the director of lean manufacturing is helping brand teams become more competitive through a sound, lean manufacturing process. 

"The corporate group assembled," says Van Sant, "is a seasoned group of leaders that helps our brands raise the competitive bar and provides products and services to our customers in a way our competitors could not.

"We recruited people that can make a positive contribution to our brand teams' efforts and make them more competitive. The company is not a large homogeneous structure; it's a series of smaller brand teams supported by Paladin."

When Paladin first started acquiring attachment companies, it didn't have a growth target in place, instead the company's growth was set on other strategies, such as broad market

"We didn't set a top number - that isn't important," says Van Sant. "What's important is superior customer service and value."

Benefits For Dealers
For dealers, Paladin provides a "one-stop" attachment source. In addition, according to the company, dealers benefit from improved customer service.

Brand teams have full license to develop their own distribution agreements. Where there were agreements prior to the acquisition, they have been converted to Paladin agreements. 

"For the most part the agreements from the past are in place here today through the brand teams," says Van Sant. 

By having multiple brands under one roof, he says, it's easy to rapidly cross-sell across brand teams. According to Van Sant, there are several examples of the heavy group introducing their customers to the light group, enabling a quick response to dealer needs. 

"We bring a very broad set of attachment products through one company," says Van Sant, "and we're finding customers like the one-stop shop for attachments."

Through the company's increased size, Paladin has gained capabilities to provide additional resources that will benefit dealers, such as the ability to draw upon a large product engineering resource. Further, new products will continually be on the horizon as Paladin works to create more efficient products. 

"We're almost into our second year in the new Paladin journey," says Van Sant, "and we've been very pleased with the response. Our effort is to be customer-focused and so far the feedback we have is that we've been fairly successful."

Paladin plans to continue its growth.
"Our plan is to continue to expand the company," says Van Sant. "And we will be adding more attachment brands in the not-too-distant future."

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