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  1. #1
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    Default ALF on the comeback trail???????

    Manufacturing a comeback: American LaFrance CEO says business 'steadily improving' after fits and starts

    By John McDermott , Katy Stech

    A fresh executive team at American LaFrance LLC in Summerville is being driven by an urgent mandate: Accelerate the long-stalled turnaround of the 179-year-old firetruck manufacturer.

    After yet another reshuffling of top management, the storied maker of customized alarm-blaring emergency vehicles is now under the direction of a new no-nonsense chief executive officer, Torben von Staden, who doesn't seem hesitant to shake up the company.



    Photo by Wade Spees

    Repair work is one source of revenue for the American LaFrance firetruck plant in Summerville.

    Von Staden, who most recently helped salvage several businesses from the automotive scrap pile for American LaFrance's owner, has recruited a team of industry experts to get the firetruck company back on track nearly three years after it emerged from bankruptcy.

    But the new leadership faces uncertain economic times. City and county budgets, which pay for 90 percent of municipal emergency vehicle orders, are straining under shrinking tax bases. Firetruck orders at American LaFrance hit their lowest point in recent history last year, forcing the company to operate with a fraction of the employees it once had.

    Beyond the financial consequences, there's the legacy of American LaFrance, which is an institution within the tight-knit firefighting community. Its antique vehicles made decades ago are displayed in numerous museums, and working models are revved up for parades down Main Streets throughout the country.

    Von Staden said the company finally has gained its financial footing, noting that orders hit their lowest point just as he arrived last summer. He wouldn't say how many vehicles they produced last year but described the demand as 'steadily improving.' Asked if the company is profitable again, he grinned but declined to elaborate about earnings and other pertinent details of the business.

    'We're not going to discuss specific financial information,' he said.

    Heartache

    What already has been disclosed is that American LaFrance has not produced the Cinderella-type ending that Wall Street troubleshooter Lynn Tilton had in mind when her investment firm, Patriarch Partners, snapped up the company in 2005 from truck-manufacturing giant Freightliner LLC.

    Tilton said her interest in the business, aside from its moneymaking potential and loyal customer base, was heightened by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York. From her office, she watched as firefighters entered the World Trade Center towers and other burning buildings that day, some never to return. The experience cemented her affinity for struggling manufacturing businesses that supply gear to the military and emergency responders, she said.

    'When I had the opportunity to buy this company, it was important for me to be able to serve ... those who serve us,' Tilton told The Post and Courier in a 2006 profile.



    Photo by Wade Spees

    American LaFrance no-nonsense CEO Torben van Staden says he’s a business troubleshooter, not a car guy.

    But American LaFrance has proven to be much more troublesome than she originally envisioned. Tilton acknowledged as much in a Wall Street Journal article last month that reported she had slashed revenues by half at the Summerville-based manufacturer in an effort to improve its profit margins.

    'That was a purchase I made more with my heart than my head,' she said.

    Vehicle orders at American LaFrance peaked in 2006 with about 500 firetrucks and 850 support trucks — enough work to keep 1,300 workers on the payroll across the country. It was mostly downhill after that.

    The company encountered complaints about quality of some of its trucks, a slowing economy and a problem-riddled inventory control system, all of which pushed the company to seek protection from creditors in early 2008.

    Von Staden arrived last year, a full two years after American LaFrance exited bankruptcy in May 2008, to find a company that he said had languished partly as result of a revolving door in the corner office. The top executive position at American LaFrance had changed hands seven times during the previous three years.

    'There were so many (problems), I couldn't name what the biggest ones were,' said von Staden, who describes himself as a fixer of bro

    ken companies, not a car guy.

    Colorful owner

    Tilton hired von Staden originally to help her firm venture into the ravaged automotive supply industry. At the time, parts makers found themselves squeezed between vendors that supplied them with raw materials and the big carmakers, he said.

    Sensing an opportunity, Patriarch acquired three struggling Detroit manufacturers in 2005, then put in vigorous policies to get them profitable again. The companies slashed payrolls and closed all but seven of their 20 manufacturing plants. They were then merged into Global Automotive Systems LLC, which operates smoothly today, von Staden said.

    Bumpy ride
    American LaFrance LLC

    Founded: 1832. It is the oldest fire apparatus manufacturer in the U.S.

    Headquarters: 1090 Newton Way, Summerville, near Jedburg Road and I-26.

    Local employment: The company would not disclose the size of its Summerville payroll. It had about 500 local workers before going through its financial reorganization in 2008.

    Owner: Lynn Tilton's Patriarch Partners, a private equity and investment firm. It is considered one of the largest woman-owned businesses in the country.

    Manufacturing locations: Summerville and Ephrata, Pa. It also has operations in Los Angeles.

    Background: Germany's DaimlerChrysler AG moved American LaFrance to the Charleston region from Cleveland, N.C., in 2002, projecting it would hire 800 employees within two years and crank out 4,500 fire trucks, ambulances and other custom vehicles annually. It never approached those numbers. DaimlerChrysler put the business up for sale in 2005, and Patriarch bought it later that year. It moved its headquarters and main assembly plant from North Charleston to Summerville in mid-2007. The company filed for bankruptcy protection in January 2008 after having lost $104 million over the previous two years. It also blamed a difficult transition between owners. It emerged from bankruptcy a few months later.

    Website: www.americanlafrance.com

    He said Tilton is still hopeful for a similar outcome for American LaFrance.

    'What she wants here is what she wants for a range of companies: to take a broken or frail company that would otherwise vanish — to take it to greatness,' he said.

    As some local officials have learned, Tilton's personal style can attract as much attention as her investment acumen and portfolio of 74 companies that have estimated revenues of more than $8 billion and 120,000 employees. The Wall Street Journal article included a photograph of her in a tight black leather jumpsuit — which it describes as her typical office attire — with long, platinum-blond hair and high-heeled boots. The article described racy office decor that features whips and handcuffs from friends, daggers and new age paintings.

    The tough-talking investor's feminine touch shows up on Patriarch's website, where a delicate tree branch in front of a purple background maps out her business ventures. The bottom of the page promotes her blog: 'From Dust to Diamonds.'

    'I would say she is a uniquely brilliant businesswoman and a brutally honest person,' said von Staden.

    Expert advice

    Von Staden said that he and Tilton agree that even companies with great products can founder or fail under weak leadership. So since last summer, he has brought in a team of experts to help with the turnaround effort at American LaFrance, where the executive team includes a chief operating officer who formerly worked as a senior manufacturing executive at Toyota. Another top officer came from Freightliner, which sold the company to Patriarch.

    Together, they are still cutting from the business what von Staden referred to as 'dysfunctionality.'

    One example is the faulty computerized system that helped contribute to the bankruptcy filing. American LaFrance marketing director Richard Ball recalled how technological glitches wreaked havoc with the factory's inventory flow.

    'It's like if you bought a computer at home, and it tells you to buy 35 gallons of milk and then 35 pounds of peanuts,' he said.

    The fallout of that episode is still evident in parts of the Summerville plant. Between two aisles, employees have stacked seemingly endless rows of silver 90-gallon fuel tanks that now are to be shipped to a buyer who purchased them at a deep-discount auction last year.

    Ball still vividly recalls the glut of ladders that came through the door.

    'They were everywhere,' he said. 'I thought we could build a ladder to the sun.'

    Von Staden said the system isn't quite right. Even after the overordering problem was fixed, the computer program was designed for large assembly lines that don't deal in custom orders. Just another problem to tackle, he said.

    John P. McDermott of The Post and Courier contributed to this report.


  2. #2
    Forum Member islandfire03's Avatar
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    Talking

    I won't be holding my breath waiting for them to become the leader in Emergency vehicles any time soon.
    I wish them well!

  3. #3
    Forum Member CaptOldTimer's Avatar
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    Default

    I have heard that story before!

    I think my grand children could run a business better than they have, and of course how ms tilton could.
    Last edited by CaptOldTimer; 11-07-2011 at 03:12 PM.
    Stay Safe and Well Out There....

    Always remembering 9-11-2001 and 343+ Brothers

  4. #4
    Forum Member GTRider245's Avatar
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    Default

    They are still the Dodge of fire apparatus. The ones I looked through at FRI looked just like our 2000 model. No thank you.
    Career Firefighter
    Volunteer Captain

    -Professional in Either Role-

    Quote Originally Posted by Rescue101 View Post
    I don't mind fire rolling over my head. I just don't like it rolling UNDER my a**.

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    I think an all new product line would be a great start except for LTI. Their current cab/chassis is very poorly designed and their quality is poor.

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    Why can't they go back to the quality of the Cnetury series and earlier? If they'd build apparatus like they used to, pretty much bulletproof, then deal me in. But from what I've heard about the modern ALF, I'd have to say no deal.

    I'll always be a huge fan of the old school ALF's, unfortunately their track record as of late has been pretty lack luster to say the least. I hope to buy the old '75 model Century series that my old department has when they auction it off one day. It won't be anytime soon though, it's still used as a reserve engine as it out performs a lot of the newer engines that were bought in the '90s to replace it as a frontline engine.

  7. #7
    Forum Member Rescue101's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sven73 View Post
    Manufacturing a comeback: American LaFrance CEO says business 'steadily improving' after fits and starts

    By John McDermott , Katy Stech

    A fresh executive team at American LaFrance LLC in Summerville is being driven by an urgent mandate: Accelerate the long-stalled turnaround of the 179-year-old firetruck manufacturer.

    After yet another reshuffling of top management, the storied maker of customized alarm-blaring emergency vehicles is now under the direction of a new no-nonsense chief executive officer, Torben von Staden, who doesn't seem hesitant to shake up the company.



    Photo by Wade Spees

    Repair work is one source of revenue for the American LaFrance firetruck plant in Summerville.

    Von Staden, who most recently helped salvage several businesses from the automotive scrap pile for American LaFrance's owner, has recruited a team of industry experts to get the firetruck company back on track nearly three years after it emerged from bankruptcy.

    But the new leadership faces uncertain economic times. City and county budgets, which pay for 90 percent of municipal emergency vehicle orders, are straining under shrinking tax bases. Firetruck orders at American LaFrance hit their lowest point in recent history last year, forcing the company to operate with a fraction of the employees it once had.

    Beyond the financial consequences, there's the legacy of American LaFrance, which is an institution within the tight-knit firefighting community. Its antique vehicles made decades ago are displayed in numerous museums, and working models are revved up for parades down Main Streets throughout the country.

    Von Staden said the company finally has gained its financial footing, noting that orders hit their lowest point just as he arrived last summer. He wouldn't say how many vehicles they produced last year but described the demand as 'steadily improving.' Asked if the company is profitable again, he grinned but declined to elaborate about earnings and other pertinent details of the business.

    'We're not going to discuss specific financial information,' he said.

    Heartache

    What already has been disclosed is that American LaFrance has not produced the Cinderella-type ending that Wall Street troubleshooter Lynn Tilton had in mind when her investment firm, Patriarch Partners, snapped up the company in 2005 from truck-manufacturing giant Freightliner LLC.

    Tilton said her interest in the business, aside from its moneymaking potential and loyal customer base, was heightened by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York. From her office, she watched as firefighters entered the World Trade Center towers and other burning buildings that day, some never to return. The experience cemented her affinity for struggling manufacturing businesses that supply gear to the military and emergency responders, she said.

    'When I had the opportunity to buy this company, it was important for me to be able to serve ... those who serve us,' Tilton told The Post and Courier in a 2006 profile.



    Photo by Wade Spees

    American LaFrance no-nonsense CEO Torben van Staden says he’s a business troubleshooter, not a car guy.

    But American LaFrance has proven to be much more troublesome than she originally envisioned. Tilton acknowledged as much in a Wall Street Journal article last month that reported she had slashed revenues by half at the Summerville-based manufacturer in an effort to improve its profit margins.

    'That was a purchase I made more with my heart than my head,' she said.

    Vehicle orders at American LaFrance peaked in 2006 with about 500 firetrucks and 850 support trucks — enough work to keep 1,300 workers on the payroll across the country. It was mostly downhill after that.

    The company encountered complaints about quality of some of its trucks, a slowing economy and a problem-riddled inventory control system, all of which pushed the company to seek protection from creditors in early 2008.

    Von Staden arrived last year, a full two years after American LaFrance exited bankruptcy in May 2008, to find a company that he said had languished partly as result of a revolving door in the corner office. The top executive position at American LaFrance had changed hands seven times during the previous three years.

    'There were so many (problems), I couldn't name what the biggest ones were,' said von Staden, who describes himself as a fixer of bro

    ken companies, not a car guy.

    Colorful owner

    Tilton hired von Staden originally to help her firm venture into the ravaged automotive supply industry. At the time, parts makers found themselves squeezed between vendors that supplied them with raw materials and the big carmakers, he said.

    Sensing an opportunity, Patriarch acquired three struggling Detroit manufacturers in 2005, then put in vigorous policies to get them profitable again. The companies slashed payrolls and closed all but seven of their 20 manufacturing plants. They were then merged into Global Automotive Systems LLC, which operates smoothly today, von Staden said.

    Bumpy ride
    American LaFrance LLC

    Founded: 1832. It is the oldest fire apparatus manufacturer in the U.S.

    Headquarters: 1090 Newton Way, Summerville, near Jedburg Road and I-26.

    Local employment: The company would not disclose the size of its Summerville payroll. It had about 500 local workers before going through its financial reorganization in 2008.

    Owner: Lynn Tilton's Patriarch Partners, a private equity and investment firm. It is considered one of the largest woman-owned businesses in the country.

    Manufacturing locations: Summerville and Ephrata, Pa. It also has operations in Los Angeles.

    Background: Germany's DaimlerChrysler AG moved American LaFrance to the Charleston region from Cleveland, N.C., in 2002, projecting it would hire 800 employees within two years and crank out 4,500 fire trucks, ambulances and other custom vehicles annually. It never approached those numbers. DaimlerChrysler put the business up for sale in 2005, and Patriarch bought it later that year. It moved its headquarters and main assembly plant from North Charleston to Summerville in mid-2007. The company filed for bankruptcy protection in January 2008 after having lost $104 million over the previous two years. It also blamed a difficult transition between owners. It emerged from bankruptcy a few months later.

    Website: www.americanlafrance.com

    He said Tilton is still hopeful for a similar outcome for American LaFrance.

    'What she wants here is what she wants for a range of companies: to take a broken or frail company that would otherwise vanish — to take it to greatness,' he said.

    As some local officials have learned, Tilton's personal style can attract as much attention as her investment acumen and portfolio of 74 companies that have estimated revenues of more than $8 billion and 120,000 employees. The Wall Street Journal article included a photograph of her in a tight black leather jumpsuit — which it describes as her typical office attire — with long, platinum-blond hair and high-heeled boots. The article described racy office decor that features whips and handcuffs from friends, daggers and new age paintings.

    The tough-talking investor's feminine touch shows up on Patriarch's website, where a delicate tree branch in front of a purple background maps out her business ventures. The bottom of the page promotes her blog: 'From Dust to Diamonds.'

    'I would say she is a uniquely brilliant businesswoman and a brutally honest person,' said von Staden.

    Expert advice

    Von Staden said that he and Tilton agree that even companies with great products can founder or fail under weak leadership. So since last summer, he has brought in a team of experts to help with the turnaround effort at American LaFrance, where the executive team includes a chief operating officer who formerly worked as a senior manufacturing executive at Toyota. Another top officer came from Freightliner, which sold the company to Patriarch.

    Together, they are still cutting from the business what von Staden referred to as 'dysfunctionality.'

    One example is the faulty computerized system that helped contribute to the bankruptcy filing. American LaFrance marketing director Richard Ball recalled how technological glitches wreaked havoc with the factory's inventory flow.

    'It's like if you bought a computer at home, and it tells you to buy 35 gallons of milk and then 35 pounds of peanuts,' he said.

    The fallout of that episode is still evident in parts of the Summerville plant. Between two aisles, employees have stacked seemingly endless rows of silver 90-gallon fuel tanks that now are to be shipped to a buyer who purchased them at a deep-discount auction last year.

    Ball still vividly recalls the glut of ladders that came through the door.

    'They were everywhere,' he said. 'I thought we could build a ladder to the sun.'

    Von Staden said the system isn't quite right. Even after the overordering problem was fixed, the computer program was designed for large assembly lines that don't deal in custom orders. Just another problem to tackle, he said.

    John P. McDermott of The Post and Courier contributed to this report.
    Hold that thought. I'll post a link tomorrow with a slightly different outlook. T.C.

  8. #8
    Forum Member Rescue101's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by firefightinirish217 View Post
    Why can't they go back to the quality of the Cnetury series and earlier? If they'd build apparatus like they used to, pretty much bulletproof, then deal me in. But from what I've heard about the modern ALF, I'd have to say no deal.

    I'll always be a huge fan of the old school ALF's, unfortunately their track record as of late has been pretty lack luster to say the least. I hope to buy the old '75 model Century series that my old department has when they auction it off one day. It won't be anytime soon though, it's still used as a reserve engine as it out performs a lot of the newer engines that were bought in the '90s to replace it as a frontline engine.
    The Century's were, IMO, Alf's finest hour. Later Alf's
    , NOT so much. T.C.

  9. #9
    Forum Member Rescue101's Avatar
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  10. #10
    Forum Member FyredUp's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rescue101 View Post
    The Century's were, IMO, Alf's finest hour. Later Alf's
    , NOT so much. T.C.
    I did like the Century's, in fact I rode on one on a past POC FD.

    But I liked the look of the Century 2000's a whole lot more. I always thought it retained the classic ALF look with a more modern feel to it.

    My feel is ALF is doomed. They will disappear like so many other proud and historic manufacturers. They seem intent on destroying themselves with their management and past business practices.
    “The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing, and becomes nothing. He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he simply cannot learn and feel and change and grow and love and live.” Leo F. Buscaglia

    This place gets weirder and weirder every day...

  11. #11
    MembersZone Subscriber BULL321's Avatar
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    Oh the good old days when ALF still made a truck worth a Damn!
    Attached Images Attached Images  
    Stay Safe
    Bull


    “Guys if you get hurt, we’ll help you. If you get sick we’ll treat you. If you want to bitch and moan, then all I can tell you is to flick the sand out of your slit, suck it up or get the hell out!”
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    http://sylvafiredeptnc.tripod.com

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    Quote Originally Posted by FyredUp View Post
    I did like the Century's, in fact I rode on one on a past POC FD.
    I rode to my first structure fire at Dalton on the old '75 ALF Century Eng. 11. E-1, a POS 1993 E-one Hush was in the body shop (long story) and E-11 was running in its place. The old girl outperformed every modern engine we had on scene at the time. The only engines that out perform that old engine are the newer Sutphens that they started buying in 2001.

    I'll always love that ALF, my daughter loved that engine as well. Anytime she visited me at the station she just had to climb all over it and sit in the driver's seat before she left, haha. Good times.

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    Default Just an observation

    Rescue; In reading the Link you have provided, It appears that the Claimant in this case want to enforce a 8 million dollar penalty clause type of judgment in this case, due to the defendant not delivering on time and when promised. And this Surprises you why?

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    Forum Member Rescue101's Avatar
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    Just a little jog that I don't think we are out of the woods yet. I don't have a dog in THAT race. T.C.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BULL321 View Post
    Sylvia gets first yellow fire truck in Nation
    Should've also been the last.

    FM1
    I'm the one Fire and Rescue calls, when they need to be Rescued.

    Quote Originally Posted by EastKyFF
    "Firemens gets antsies. Theys wants to goes to fires. Sometimeses they haves to waits."

  16. #16
    MembersZone Subscriber BULL321's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FIREMECH1 View Post
    Should've also been the last.

    FM1
    Hello, there is no "I" in Sylva! Now that was just down right rude!

    Sylvia is the lady at church that plays the piano.
    Stay Safe
    Bull


    “Guys if you get hurt, we’ll help you. If you get sick we’ll treat you. If you want to bitch and moan, then all I can tell you is to flick the sand out of your slit, suck it up or get the hell out!”
    - Capt. Marc Cox CFD

    Nothing in life is so exhilarating as to be shot at without result.
    -WINSTON CHURCHILL
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    Quote Originally Posted by Skysthelimit View Post
    Rescue; In reading the Link you have provided, It appears that the Claimant in this case want to enforce a 8 million dollar penalty clause type of judgment in this case, due to the defendant not delivering on time and when promised. And this Surprises you why?
    Actually, the judge threw their request out the window due to ambiguous language. The decision was in favor of Patriarch.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rescue101 View Post
    What great example of a BS shakedown lawsuit. Would be great to have those RT Jedburg bozos for landlords.

    Nice to read where a judge made an intelligent decision.

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    Quote Originally Posted by FIREMECH1 View Post
    Should've also been the last.

    FM1
    Actually the color is fine ...... The fact that it was a damn Pioneer is the problem.
    Train to fight the fires you fight.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFireEducator View Post
    Actually the color is fine ...... The fact that it was a damn Pioneer is the problem.
    A friend of mine owns a Pioneer II tiller (ex Pittsburgh Pa.) one of only 9 Pioneer tillers ever made. Occasionally he will ask me to help him by driving one end or the other to hither and yonder and back. I always choose to tiller- because the front is about the worst non-drivable rough riding sumbitch I have ever had the displeasure of driving!!!!!!!

    And no, the color of the Sylvia truck is all wrong.
    "Loyalty Above all Else. Except Honor."

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