If your public works department owned just one wheel loader, excavator, and bulldozer and all the right attachments, your team could get virtually everything done.
They’re pretty basic machines, or should be. In their attempt to offer the latest technology, ergonomic design, and regulatory-compliant engines, manufacturers constantly tweak designs. The result is a bewildering array of options that makes a municipal purchasing manager want to bang his head against the wall.
By making air-conditioned cabs, attachment-ready hydraulics, and telematics standard, a new U.S. company is greatly simplifying the specification process and selling equipment for 20% to 40% less (over the machine’s lifetime) than brands like Caterpillar, Deere, and Komatsu.
Owned by Liquidity Services, a global seller of surplus assets that also owns GovDeals, IronDirect.com makes, inspects, finances, sells, and leases Chinese brands Lonking (excavators and wheel loaders) and Shantui (dozers). They’re huge, well-established companies with customers on every continent except North America.
Engines, transmissions, pumps, valves, drive motors, and other major components made by companies like Cummins, Kawasaki, and Rexroth are shipped to China, placed into a Chinese-made machine body, and shipped back to the U.S. IronDirect inspects machines at the factory and port of entry; owner activates warranty with delivery inspection.
Like Amazon.com, the company doesn’t have U.S. distributors, so you don’t get to kick the tires. But you can check out each piece of equipment via video on the company’s website or, like Hamblen County Morristown (Tenn.) Solid Waste Operations Director Dan Winter, visit the Asheville, N.C., headquarters.
Public agencies that service the machines can potentially make money; parts cost 30% less than retail but you’re reimbursed the full retail price. Or you can have your local dealer, regardless of brand, handle routine maintenance and repairs. If the dealership hasn’t already agreed to work with IronDirect, the company qualifies the location within 72 hours.
"They said women would never buy shoes without being able to try them on first; Zappos.com hit $1 billion in sales two years before it planned to," says IronDirect President Tim Frank. He’s worked for Caterpillar and Volvo and was most recently CEO of Sany America, a Chinese company that’s the world’s fifth-largest construction equipment manufacturer. He recruited colleagues from other equipment manufacturers to design a distribution platform that lowers lifetime cost without sacrificing quality or support and launched IronDirect in 2015.