Engcon – Breaking New Ground
Engcon are transforming the simple excavator into the Swiss Army knife of the construction site. We find out how they are doing it.
Engcon was founded by Stig Engström in 1990, where it quickly built up a reputation for its signature product, the tiltrotator.
“It is like a wrist for the excavator, so it can tilt and turn and manoeuvre,” explains Krister Blomgren, CEO of Engcon. “What the product does is make the work more efficient and flexible and gives the operator better comfort and a safer working environment because you don’t need people down in the ditch with tools. As well as that, with the labour shortage we are having in the world, we believe this is a product that will help.”
The company started from humble beginnings, struggling to find business until it unexpectedly took off in 1997 across Sweden, Norway, and the Nordic countries. That success story continued until 2008 when half the company’s revenue disappeared in one year due to the financial crash. Since then Engcon has been working expand into the European market, including Germany, the UK, Netherlands and France and beyond.
“It has been taking off more and more in the Netherlands and France, the UK a little bit too, so now we are looking to North America, Australia and South Korea,” Blomgren says.
The secret to their success is the transformative role their tiltrotator has is taking the excavator from a simple digging tool to, in many ways, an entire toolbox.
“We turned the excavator into a tool carrier. Instead of only being able to dig we make it possible to switch tools, with a fully hydraulic pick-up system so you can switch hydraulic tools without getting out of the cab,” Blomgren explains. “The excavator is turned into a one-man band more or less, replacing five different machines. You can do it with one driver and one machine with all the different attachments to transform the way people look at digging. And ‘Changing the world of digging’ is our slogan.”
Changing the World of Digging
It is a bold slogan, but of course, changing the world is never easy, especially in construction, where people tend not to take to change easily.
“The biggest challenge is that it is a conservative business. Trying to get people to understand that this is the change we need to go through is hard,” Blomgren admits. “Also with the UK you have huge rental fleets and it is normally much harder to persuade them to change. It is easier to convince an owner-operator that this is the way you should work, but with rental work you are telling them they will rent out fewer machines so they will lose money.”
However, Blomgren remains convinced that even the rental companies will eventually see which way the wind is blowing.
“They will be more or less the last ones to join this trend. So we are working with owner-operators to persuade them of the benefits of the product, and then when we get enough of them, also the building companies will start demanding that you must have a tiltrotator on the machines on their worksites and then the markets really start taking off,” Blomgren tells us. “Engcon’s plan is that we will have tiltrotators in building sites across the world. Market penetration is good in Netherlands, Nordic countries and parts of France, but across the world, it is maximum 2%, so we have just seen the beginning of our journey and we are working more and more with OEMs, who are showing interest in the tiltrotator and our systems.”
Blomgren is optimistic about the future of the tool, explain, “Over the next five to ten years we expect to spread out with excavators replacing a lot of other machines. That is the trend manufacturers like Volvo see. We believe we will have great growth and that will not only be us but our competitors too, with new competitors coming in but the market is so big there is room for everybody. We are not competing with each other, we are helping each other to convert more people to tiltrotators for excavators.”
A Safe Set of Hands
The company’s industry-changing products provide a strong motivation for the company’s staff, as well as an appealing prospect for new talent.
“It is, of course, a challenge to find the right people for the company but with the way we look at things we are on a mission to change the world of digging. So we have a good reason to get up every morning,” Blomgren says. “We do a lot of things for our employees. We have a health programme with some coaches, we try to provide benefits around that to keep people healthy and also if you are looking at our location we are in the middle of Sweden in a small town and we are the biggest company in that town so that helps us keep our co-workers. But it can be a challenge to recruit people to move to this city.”
To attract those people Engcon is using the same innovation that marks out its products.
“It is something we are working on, to make it a more attractive place to live in and promoting it outside the region,” Blomgren says. “The lifestyle, and that you are living close to the mountains and the forest. Those are a big appeal. We have the business idea that it is possible to have those top-notch specialists that live somewhere else and travel up to work here for a few days and then work from home.”
Another area where Engcon is looking to apply innovation is the sphere of safety. While safety has always been a critical issue in the construction industry, Engcon has chosen to look to another industry altogether for ideas.
“We looked at the car industry where, like the construction and excavating sectors, most accidents that occur are 90% operator mistakes or errors,” Blomgren tells us. “What we want to do is create a situation like the one with cars, where you are building in functions that will reduce operator errors. Cars have a radar to help with breaking or stopping the car if you don’t see an obstacle, we are trying to develop solutions like that and make it standard. If you are renting a car everything is in the same place, and we want that to be the same for operators. That is something we are really working hard on. We believe every person who gets killed because of this is one too many, so we want it to be as safe as possible with warning systems, quick couplers and other things that help the operator.”