If Dodge hadn't gotten to it first, the slogan “Grab Life By the Horns” could easily be the perfect motto for aerial lift specialist Kropp Equipment. The company doesn't sit back and rest on its laurels, but instead strives for constant improvement for the customers' benefit. And even if an innovation is difficult to implement, Kropp Equipment's leaders will swim upstream to make it happen.

When company president, Al Kropp, and vice president of sales, Tom Cavanaugh, saw the need on jobsites for scissorlifts with welding and generating capabilities, they took their drawings and ideas to Skyjack. Collaboration between the two companies began in November 2005, and finally, by June 2006 they had a prototype machine. “It took us about nine months of convincing them it could be done and then finally we got one out,” says Kropp. “Now we own about 20 of them, and they've really taken hold.”

Engineered exclusively for Schererville, Ind.-based Kropp Equipment, the scissorlift enhances the rental's value to the customer and increases versatility on the jobsite. It enables contractors to use their electric tools 30 feet in the air, without having 200 feet of power cord stretching across the jobsite to the power source. The feature also prevents contractors from creating their own crude makeshift platforms for holding generators and other equipment. Not only are there cost-saving benefits to the customers, but added convenience as well. “Think about it: You don't have to move the generator every time you move,” Cavanaugh says. “It's incorporated right into the platform.”

Although it took an investment of time and money for Kropp Equipment to convince Skyjack of the project's worthiness, it's just one of those steps that the rental company takes regularly to do what's best for the customer.

“For special users there are special needs, and as long as you can provide that special need, the customer response is very positive and continuous,” says Kropp.

It seems that no task is too large or too small for the company to tackle. Several years ago the company began sticking decals with the customers' company names on equipment that would be out on rent for more than a week. The decals have been a huge hit with contractors. The rental company has a decal machine in each of its facilities and if it temporarily stops working, the employees hear about it immediately because customers now expect that perk. The decals give the customer a little bonus recognition and advertising, and help both the customer and the rental company keep track of equipment. “We wanted to let people know that this is a little added service, and you wouldn't believe how the customers just love it,” Cavanaugh says.

At Kropp, the name of the game is to make the customer more productive. They've found it's worth spending a bit more money to increase customer productivity, for example, supplying hydraulic generators rather than belt-driven ones because they don't slip. “Yeah, it costs more, but in the long run, the customer doesn't have the problems and that's what you want to do, you want to eliminate the problem,” Cavanaugh says.

Another example: Cabs on the company's material handlers are enclosed and heated. The cost of purchase is higher, but the payback is they get rented more frequently.

Even if the customers don't directly see the innovation, they certainly benefit from it. The company recently implemented TomTom portable navigation systems in company vehicles and trucks. After seeing delivery times running over, Kropp made the decision to use the technology to ensure that delivery drivers could find the jobsites more quickly. Sites can be tough to find because many deliveries are made to alleys behind buildings, not major intersections. The navigation system leads drivers directly to the end location, finding the best route and giving the driver direction as he drives. Kropp says the system has had great results.

Al Kropp's son and vice president Kurt Kropp runs the day to day operations at each of the company's locations. Kropp Equipment is located in Schererville, Ind., Streamwood, Ill., and South Beloit, Ill. The company opened a new location in Waukesha, Wis., on Jan. 19.

Submit rental company innovations for consideration in RER to Brandey Smith at bsmith@rermag.com.