Doug Friesen has worked in the heavy equipment industry since 1998, but his journey to the top actually began in the automotive industry more than two decades earlier, when he accepted a position as an assembly line worker with General Motors.
It wasn’t a glamorous job, but Friesen was willing to start at the bottom for a chance to make it to the top. “I was desperate to get a start and was willing to start at the bottom for that chance,” he said.
Doug Friesen spent 21 years working for General Motors and Toyota, and it was while he was at Toyota that he honed the lean manufacturing skills that would in time bring him to the heavy equipment industry.
“In 1998, JCB called me and shared that they were opening their first manufacturing plant up in Savannah, Georgia,” Friesen said. “They were seriously interested in introducing lean manufacturing to their operations and were looking for candidates with this direct skill. My years at Toyota uniquely qualified me for just that type of position. I was impressed with the JCB organization and it did not take me long to say yes to the challenge. I joined JCB as the vice president of operations and was responsible for starting the company’s manufacturing operations in North America.”
While at JCB, Friesen gained exposure to the sales and marketing, operational, and parts and service segments of the business. From there, he was recruited by Terex into the position of general manager and vice president of the company’s North American crane division and was tasked with using his lean manufacturing skills to help turn the division around. In that role, Friesen saw Terex products from design to the sales and marketing stages. His success led him to accept the position of general manager and vice president of Demag Cranes, and finally to a role at Terex headquarters where he served as an officer of the company, responsible for global lean systems, global purchasing and global safety.
In July 2017, Friesen joined SANY America as CEO and is working furiously to establish SANY as a brand of choice for North American customers. He reports directly to SANY’s president and chairman, and enjoys unprecedented support from the team at the company’s Chinese headquarters.
“We are completely aligned in our mission for SANY North America,” Friesen said. “I have been given the best support and the necessary resources to carry out this mission, which is a blessing because we can move fast and with purpose.”
Looking back, Friesen is glad about his decision to move from automobiles to heavy equipment: “I have often said that moving from the car industry to the heavy equipment industry is the best move I ever made. For the first time, you can actually get to know your dealers and customers. The car industry was too big – the heavy equipment industry is small and quaint in comparison. I’ve made lifelong friends from all over and I truly enjoy working together to try and find solutions or that unique formula that makes our dealers and customers successful.”
To others who may be considering working their way up in the industry, Friesen has this advice:
“No matter where you are in this industry, there are no limitations. You can achieve what you believe. Don’t forget where you came from; this has a double meaning: One, stay humble and don’t forget how you started, and, two, at every position along the way, remember the issues and struggles you faced, and how what you do contributes to the whole of the organization. I have found that when you take care of the organization, the organization will take care of you.”