So you’re a contractor in the market for a wheel loader. The local dealership of any leading construction machinery manufacturer is always a good place to start, especially if you’re inclined to buy or lease new, fully supported equipment. Then again, maybe the upcoming onsite or online auction will have a decent used piece that will more economically fill the loading requirements at your gravel pit.
A new entity, IronDirect, says it will offer the best of both worlds. Sure enough, an early visitor to www.irondirect.com was instantly presented with a new Chinese-sourced Lonking CDM858N 4-cu-yd wheel loader, co-branded IronDirect, available for $151,960. Then a click of the “surplus items” tab: a larger 2012 Caterpillar 980H wheel loader open for bids.
Officially launched Sept. 15 after a year-long ramp-up, IronDirect is a subsidiary “marketplace” of the D.C.-based, publicly traded Liquidity Services, which manages and sells inventory for business and government clients around the world under a number of e-commerce platforms.
The IronDirect key, says Tim Frank, president of Liquidity’s new construction equipment arm, is the availability of value- and premium-priced equipment and attachments, from both new and long-established brands. “It’s more about products that haven’t been able to come to market,” says Frank, “because the distribution channel doesn’t allow them to.”
IronDirect cuts out “unnecessary cost and inefficiency from the traditional captive-distribution sales model,” says Frank, an equipment industry veteran who has held previous positions at various leading manufacturers. His experience includes three of the “big five” in North America that he says dominate the continent’s dealer space. With a direct sales model, explains Frank, IronDirect can fill the representation void for other equipment brands in the North American market, including China’s Lonking and Shantui, which are already on board. Conversely, he adds, leveraging Liquidity’s success in assorted e-commerce markets, dominant American brands looking to make inroads in overseas markets can likewise be represented. “We built the company to be scalable,” he says.
But IronDirect is not built upon the smoke and mirrors that some equipment buyers in the traditional construction space often associate with e-commerce, referring to the difficulty for potential buyers to inspect and get a feel for the equipment via their computer screens or mobile phones. This summer, ENR visited the IronDirect customer experience center in Asheville, N.C. There, yellow iron and complementary products are not only on site and available for customer trial and purchase, but also are put through a battery of tests and component upgrades by staff to ensure that they are indeed ready for the market, and in turn designated and marked “by IronDirect.”
In some cases, equipment is actually co-branded with the IronDirect designation; for example, Shantui by IronDirect. In other cases, where the brand already has a market presence, IronDirect acts as the purchase platform or, if you prefer, the dealer partner, but not necessarily with branding on the machine.
The cumulative effect, says Frank, will be the largest equipment line with the most product types in the world. “Premium or value, whatever the price point is, we will be the most economical way to buy that equipment.”
IronDirect claims it can save the buyer up to 50% throughout the equipment’s life cycle by being the single source throughout acquisition, financing, service, parts, extended warranty and trade-in.
“We provide savings over the entire ownership by creating a turnkey solution to procure, finance, manage and dispose of the asset,” says Frank, pointing to a marketing-style circle graphic that spins from equipment purchase to asset management to investment recovery and then back around, again and again.
“That circle,” the circle of market life in the equipment-management world, if you will, “is our business,” he says. “Whether it’s for premium brand, value brand or any other brand of equipment, that’s what the customer wants.”
Among the IronDirect business elements, Service Your Way offers customers the choice of a preferred local-service provider for equipment-warranty repairs, selecting an IronDirect-authorized service partner for the work or doing the repairs in their own facilities. In turn, they are reimbursed for parts and labor.
All parts can be ordered directly via the SmartEquip portal and are same-day shipped from the company’s 450,000-sq-ft parts warehouse in Columbus, Ohio. An Android and iOS app, DirectAssist, connects machine operators to IronDirect’s technical service, parts specialists and engineers to address any situation caused by a faulty part.
Built into every machine designated “by IronDirect” is the company’s proprietary telematics system, DirecTrac. It monitors, tracks, reports and analyzes real-time equipment and operator use.
“The reason why we put telematics on every machine,” says Frank, “is that we are directly involved in every service event on that machine.”