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Leading Lights - June 2016

Dane Anderson presided over WASP Inc’s acquisition of FAST Manufacturing last year – resulting in the newly-merged businesses being renamed FAST Global Solutions.

He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management and began his career with KPMG, before moving to MOCON Inc. In 2006, Anderson took over as Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer for HiRel Systems LLC, a manufacturer of electronic components and power supplies for various industries, including military, medical and avionics. In 2010 Anderson became president and Chief Executive Officer of WASP Inc, then the world’s largest manufacturer of non-powered ground support equipment for the airline and air cargo industry, as well as being a manufacturer of conveyors for the parcel delivery industry. In May 2005, WASP Inc acquired the aforementioned FAST Manufacturing, a maker of agricultural sprayers and liquid fertiliser equipment, beginning the manufacturers' transition to FAST Global Solutions in September.


Since its merger and name-change the company has been growing – what are your objectives for the rest of 2016 and how do you plan to achieve them?

When we acquired FAST Manufacturing last year it allowed us to grow our capacity, not just in manufacturing space and employee-owners, but also in our ability to turn over more products even faster for our customers around the world. One remaining challenge, though, is getting those products to our European and Asian customers. There’s been a growing demand for the quality of GSE we provide, but the time and expense of shipping from the US makes it difficult to meet some international needs. As a result, we’re pursuing manufacturing space in Europe or Asia, where we plan to begin operations within the next year. The new location will allow us to fill orders in Europe and Asia quickly, saving customers money on shipping costs.


What can you achieve as FAST that wasn’t possible for the two pre-merger companies on their own?

We grew by over 30% last year; a large portion of that growth stems from acquiring FAST Manufacturing and the additional capacity that provided for our existing product lines. Thanks to the acquisition, we can fulfill orders for 500, 1,000 or 1,500 dollies, bag carts or other items faster than ever before. Most customers can count on receiving significant quantities of GSE within five to eight weeks of placing an order. The demand for our GSE has been growing exponentially in recent years. Some of that growth comes from the evolution of e-commerce, while some comes from a post-9/11 rebound in the industry. A number of our customers have had our equipment, which they bought under the name of WASP Inc, for 20, 25 or even 30 years. It’s time to replace entire fleets with products that will easily last just as long. Now, we can produce those replacement units faster. Adding to our team also helped us develop a programme to forecast equipment needs more proactively alongside our customers. Our GSE experts partner with them to evaluate GSE requirements across their many locations, then plan for the future so that products are manufactured and ready to ship immediately.


What has customer reaction to your new set-up been like?

The reaction has been phenomenal! In this day and age we all want things ‘now’. This acquisition gives us the capacity to respond to our customers’ needs immediately. We have a number of loyal customers who have thousands of our units in their fleets, some with over 10,000, and they’re pleased that we now have the capacity to provide a stocking programme for their custom GSE. We’re also getting great feedback from new customers.


And internally, how have your teams been adjusting? What have been the hardest and most rewarding parts of the changes taking place?

There’s always an adjustment period after acquiring another company, from cultural differences to learning how to manufacture new products. As we’ve brought everyone together as one team, though, we’ve noticed even higher morale and increased pride in their work. Because of our Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP), our employees, who are all owners, feel invested in the products they design, manufacture and sell. Now with our larger team, that pride seems to have multiplied as they achieve goals faster and see the results of their hard work used all over the world.


What are you most excited about as a company now? New products, new markets or anything else?

As I mentioned, we’re actively looking to add a manufacturing facility in Europe or Asia in the next year. As part of that, we’re continuing to develop products specific to those regions’ needs, such as ergonomically-designed, side-tow dollies rather than the front-tow designs common in North America. Our team of more than a dozen engineers is hard at work on new developments in non-powered GSE that we’re anxiously awaiting to introduce to these markets, too.


What do you think the air cargo industry as a whole needs to focus on in the coming months?

Safety continues to grow in importance as airlines, air cargo companies and ground-handling companies look for more ways to prevent strains and injuries on the tarmac. Ground handlers manage millions of tonnes of cargo each year, and their employers know they perform better with ergonomically designed equipment. It also helps their bottom lines. We just signed a contract with an airline that spends millions of dollars in workers’ compensation claims each year. They tested our European Dolly and decided to replace their entire fleet with it. They’re confident it will prevent injuries and  save money. I think our European Dolly demonstrates our commitment to provide innovative solutions that improve safety and increase profits for customers around the world.  >>

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