Steelwrist’s Christian Yanes hopes to have a steady stream of visitors to his sandbox this summer.
The general manager of the Swedish-based manufacturer is running the company’s newly launched North American operations from Berlin, Connecticut, where dealers and their customers are invited to get a first-hand experience using the company’s tiltrotators, and various attachments and hydraulic quick couplers.
“It’s an important investment, and a lot of people will, of course, have a difficult time investing the money without having tried it,” Yanes says. “So the idea is that we’re going to have here in our headquarters in Connecticut a big sandbox with a machine in it where potential customers are welcome to come and play around and try it. Once they’re on the machine, then they really understand the benefits of it.”
The hands-on approach is all part of an effort to get the word out to equipment dealers that Steelwrist is open for business in North America.
Founded in 2005 by Stefan Stockhaus and Markus Nilsson, Steelwrist is widely known throughout Scandinavia, where the use of tiltrotators is standard on most job sites.
“Every machine (in Scandinavia) has a tiltrotator,” Yanes explains. “If you come to a job site without a tiltrotator in any of those markets, you’ll be sent back home. It’s like coming without a bucket. You won’t be able to do much.”
In the U.S. and Canada, however, the tiltrotator has been slower to take hold, and Steelwrist, after crossing the pond last year, is “still scraping the surface of letting people know who we are and what we do,” says Yanes.
“The actual tiltrotator product, per se, has been around for at least 30 years, so it’s not a new product,” he says. “I think the slow adoption of tiltrotators in North America has to do with labor costs. When labor costs are high, the tiltrotator can put that labor somewhere else, generating profits in other parts of the business. Instead of having so many people around the machine helping the operator, the operator becomes more self-sufficient.”
The tiltrotator is attached to the end of an excavator arm. Using a hydraulic quick coupler, it can swiftly attach and release the various attachments that Steelwrist also offers, including buckets, hydraulic compactors, grippers, grapples, sweepers, asphalt cutters, grading beams and pallet forks, all in a matter of seconds – turning a single excavator into a multipurpose tool that needs very little maneuvering or manpower to get the job done.
“You have a 360-degree bidirectional rotation, so you can rotate the bucket in any direction, and then the tiltrotator has a total of a 90-degree angle in tilt,” Yanes says. “The combination of those two functions allows you to position the bucket pretty much anywhere you want it, reducing, of course, the movement of the machine because instead of having to relocate the machine to dig where you want, the machine can stand on the same spot and the operator is still able to make all the movements he requires.”
With less movement of the machine around the job site, the user saves money on fuel, as well as wear and tear on the machine.
“Also, of course, it increases safety because you’re not moving a large excavator back and forth,” says Yanes. “It also improves the machine’s efficiency because you are able to do the job faster and to do jobs that you were unable to do before.”
While the tiltrotator quick coupler design itself is based on an open standard, what sets Steelwrist’s version apart from the competition is its low weight and safety features.
“We’re providing a very compact solution while not making the machine weaker, and also a very light solution because we’re using cast steel instead of a welded solution or cast iron,” Yanes says. “So it’s a lighter product with a more compact body that still offers a 90-degree tilting angle. We would normally beat our competitors when it comes to building height and weight of the product.”
Steelwrist’s hydraulic quick couplers also include a front pin lock for safety purposes.
“I compare it to an airbag on a car,” Yanes explains. “It’s always there. You don’t need to do anything with it, but when something goes wrong, the front pin lock will prevent the attachment from dropping.”
North American dealers have been particularly welcoming to Steelwrist, thanks to the wonders of social media, says Yanes.
“Customer interest is coming mostly today from end users seeing the product in YouTube or Facebook videos, and calling the dealers and saying, ‘Hey, I really want this.’ That’s what’s triggering business.”
Yanes credits the social media savvy of company CEO Stockhaus with making the push to digitize more of the company’s marketing efforts.
“Our CEO back in Sweden sees the benefits of social media,” Yanes says. “We have some videos where we have over a million views. A product like ours is very difficult to sell on a brochure or on a picture. The advantage of social media is posting the video and people being able to share it.”
Yanes, who has worked for Steelwrist in several different European countries, loves how much excitement the company’s tiltrotator is generating in the U.S. and Canada.
“Everybody, when they see it here, when I’m showing the product to new customers, they’re like, ‘Wow, why didn’t we have this before? This is amazing. How could we do the job without this?’ It’s a question every Swedish operator asks themselves whenever they leave Sweden and go on holiday and they see how other people are working without this kind of tool.”