Master Craft Industrial Equipment Corporation: Manufacturing Rough Terrain Forklifts

Master Craft Industrial Equipment Corporation (Master Craft) is a leading manufacturer of rough terrain forklifts in the United States. The Georgia-based company finds its niche in the production of machinery capable of handling loads between 5,000 and 27,500 pounds on all types of terrain.

John Haswell founded Master Craft in 1952 crafting dies for metal stamping in the basement of his Detroit home. Within 10 years, the company moved from his basement to the garage and then to a separate building to accommodate its growth. By the time Haswell moved Master Craft into a major manufacturing facility, the company had about 200 employees.

It wasn’t until the 1970s that Master Craft broke into the system manufacture and assembly industry. The company obtained a contract with Ford and was a part of the car and truck manufacturer’s production of truck-mounted backhoes. This move ultimately led Master Craft to its current niche as the industry’s first manufacturer of rough terrain forklifts.

Master Craft moved to Georgia in 1975 to meet a better cost of living and labor, as well as the state’s reputation as a right-to-work state. Initial forklifts produced were only able to handle between 4,000 and 8,000 pounds. The company has continued to improve manufacturing capabilities and increasing the capacity machines produced are able to carry.

Bill Meadows, general manager for Master Craft, travels globally to sell Master Craft products to an array of industries. Each forklift is built to order and produced according to customer needs, application requirements and operational capabilities. The company boasts it is ranked among the top five manufacturers of rough terrain forklifts and holds 11 percent of the market share in North America.

Lifting the World to New Heights

Master Craft specializes in four models of rough terrain forklifts: the MC Series, C- Series, Articulated Loaders and the Poultry forklift, which is designed specifically for the poultry industry. In addition, Master Craft offers other industrial equipment, such as the Truck-Mounted Backhoe and the Tugger II. The Tugger II is a machine used in the manufactured home business that assists in easy mobility during the manufacturing process. Each model has a number of options for clients to choose from based on what the equipment will be used for.

The Master Craft Rough Terrain has several options, making it ideal for working in any environment. Additionally, it has optional four-wheel-drive and a broad lifting capacity. Each model of forklift is supplied with the client’s choice of a Perkins or Caterpillar engine.

For all Master Craft products, the company fabricates masts in-house with high-strength I-beam rails for durability. Companies that subcontract mast production often pass the cost onto the customer. The ability to produce masts for the forklifts allows Master Craft to have greater control of the final product and offer forklifts at a better value in a timely fashion.

Master Craft also takes pride in being a vendor of the Caterpillar Original Equipment Manufacturer group (CAT OEM Solutions) of integrated technology, which allows Master Craft to supply Caterpillar material in nearly every product that Master Craft has to offer. In addition to CAT OEM Solutions, Master Craft is a member of Association of Equipment Manufacture (AEM), American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the American Rental Association (ARA). By participating in these organizations Master Craft continues to increase its ability to improve and provide well designed, strong machines that satisfy customer needs.

Marketing to a Global Industry

Meadows has traveled a lot more lately on behalf of Master Craft to find business for the company; he attributes this to the downturned economy. “There’s just not a lot of business here in the United States,” he says.

Master Craft sells forklifts globally with emphasis on North and South American regions. In addition to broadening the company’s sales base, Meadows is also seeking new industry sectors. He recently has sold a number of forklifts to mining companies.

“I attended a mining show and picked up about $750,000 in business,” Meadows details. “When you think about it mining is the single biggest thing there’s ever been and there ever will be. Several materials needed to manufacture comes out of the ground.”

Master Craft’s customer base was deeply affected by the drop in new home construction. Business is slowly coming back, but the company still needs to diversify. “This used to be a gravy job,” Meadows continues. “You come in, you get orders and you build forklifts. But now, I have to go out and look for customers.”

Despite the challenges, Meadows outlook is positive. He has worked for Master Craft his entire career and is excited to see the third generation of Haswells joining the business. “Manufacturing is coming back to the United States,” says Meadows. “The U.S. is a very productive country.” As the economy continues to improve, Master Craft Industrial Equipment Corporation intends to come out on top.