Crown Equipment Corporation

Crown Equipment Corporation
Crown Equipment Corporation
Type Private
Founded 1945
Headquarters New Bremen, Ohio, USA
Products Lift Trucks
Revenue $1.6 billion (2009)
Employees 7,200 worldwide

A privately held, family-owned U.S. company, Crown Equipment Corporation is the fourth largest[1] manufacturer of powered industrial forklift trucks in the world. According to industry reports, Crown had $1.6 billion[2] in worldwide sales revenue for fiscal year 2009. Crown has appeared at least ten times on Forbes’ list of the largest private companies in the United States. In 2008, the company ranked 269th on that list.[3]

Based in the small community of New Bremen, Ohio, Crown got its start manufacturing first temperature controls for coal-burning furnaces and then television antenna rotators. It diversified in several directions before finding its niche in the material handling industry. Its lift trucks are used in a variety of applications, such as transporting goods through the narrow aisles of warehouses, distribution centers and manufacturing facilities.

Corporate headquarters: New Bremen, Ohio, USA. Additional corporate offices in Munich, Germany; Sydney, Australia; and Suzhou, China. Number of employees: 7,200 worldwide. Estimated sales revenue: $1.6 billion in 2009. Distribution: Fifty Crown owned branches and forty-five independent dealers in the United States. Incorporated: 1945 as Crown Controls Corp. became Crown Equipment Corporation October 15, 1988.



Carl and Allen Dicke and Carl’s son Jim Dicke founded Crown Controls in 1945. In 1952, when Carl died, 31-year-old Jim Dicke became president. Jim Dicke II was president from 1980 to 2002 and is the current CEO. Jim Dicke III is Crown’s current president.

Manufacturing facilities

Crown manufactures 85 percent of the parts used in its lift trucks, producing components ranging from wire harnesses to electric motors. Crown’s lift truck manufacturing facilities include over 1,500,000 square feet (140,000 m2) in west central Ohio. Crown also has manufacturing facilities in Kinston, North Carolina, and Greencastle and Connersville, Indiana. It has manufacturing, distribution and sales operations in Australia, Germany and Mexico. Since April 2006, Crown has been manufacturing hand pallet trucks in a 150,000-square-foot (14,000 m2) facility in Suzhou, China.

All Crown manufacturing facilities – including the small components, motor, mast and final assembly plants, as well as engineering, purchasing, design, distribution center and tool rooms have obtained ISO 9001:2000 certification [4] Crown received the State of Ohio Governor's award for Outstanding Achievements in Pollution Prevention in 1992.[1] In 2004, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) designated Crown a Waste Minimization Partner, publicly recognizing the firm for its voluntary efforts. As part of EPA’s National Partnership for Environmental Priorities[2] (NPEP) program, Crown set a partnership goal of eliminating chromium from its paints. Crown reduced its hazardous waste emissions by more than 300,000 pounds by removing chromium (in the form of ammonium dichromate as a flash rust inhibitor) from water-based paint formulations. By installing a new powder coat paint line, Crown eliminated more than 65 percent of wastewater from its water curtain paint booths, cutting more than 200,000 pounds of wastewater and sludge. The results included reduced air emissions, a better work environment and a savings of $65,000 a year.[5]

Crown products and services

Crown manufactures narrow-aisle and very narrow-aisle stacking equipment, narrow aisle reach trucks, counterbalanced trucks, high-level stockpickers, turret trucks, walkie stackers, work assist vehicles, hand pallet trucks, powered pallet trucks, rider pallet trucks, and LP gas trucks.

In 1972, Crown introduced its first rider stand-up counterbalanced (RC) truck, which featured a side stance position that allowed the driver, standing sideways, to see both forward and backward by turning his head. Prior to the Crown RC Series, operators who wished to travel in reverse had to operate the controls from behind their backs.

In 1980, Crown introduced its RR Series rider reach trucks, designed for the narrow aisles of warehouses and distribution centers. The RR truck won the “Design of the Decade” award from the Industrial Designers Society of America in 1990.[6] Crown’s TSP 6000 Series (Turret Stockpicker), which enables warehouse storage on shelves dozens of feet above the floor, won a 2007 international “best of the best” Red dot design award[3]. The TSP 6000 also received a Silver IDEA Award from the Industrial Designers Society of America, the GOOD DESIGNTM Award[4] from the Chicago and Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design and the iF product design award from the International Forum Design in Hanover, Germany. (photo by industrial newsroom)

Crown’s ST/SX 3000 Stacker Series received a Gold IDEA Award in 2007[5], presented by the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA). The X10 handle, which is also used on other Crown products, won a GOOD DESIGNTM award from the Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design in 2004.

Crown's Wave Work Assist Vehicle, brought to market in the late 1990s, is designed to transport, put away or retrieve loads, replacing handcarts, rolling ladders and warehouse ladders in both warehouses and manufacturing, maintenance and retail facilities.

Fuel cell development

In March 2008, the state of Ohio awarded Crown nearly $1 million in grant funding to conduct fuel cell research.[6] Crown’s research will address the technical and commercial barriers to using available battery replacement fuel cell power packs in industrial lift trucks. The study will facilitate the creation and growth of fuel cell-powered material handling equipment for use in warehouses and distribution centers. Crown will review the performance of each combination of its lift trucks with fuel cell power, to identify modifications needed to allow the lift truck to perform as intended while complying with industry standards. The Ohio Department of Development and Ohio’s Third Frontier Commission[7] are providing the grant.


In January 2008, Crown entered into a branding agreement with Komatsu lift trucks to distribute internal combustion lift trucks in the United States and Canada.[8] This brand of internal combustion lift trucks is marketed under the name Hamech (pronounced Hay-meck).


In December 2009, Crown marked the availability of its first company-manufactured internal combustion (IC) forklift with the release of the Crown C-5 Series.

The Crown C-5 features an industrial engine that was jointly developed with John Deere Power Systems (John Deere), a proactive approach to engine cooling and radiator clearing via an on-demand cooling system, and design innovations that supposedly improve operator visibility, comfort and productivity.[7]


In 2006, Crown’s training approach, called DP QuickStart, earned an Award of Excellence for Outstanding Instructional Product from the International Society for Performance Improvement[9] (ISPI). Under the Demonstrated Performance (DP) instructional method, lift truck service technicians must show they have mastered one core skill needed to service an industrial lift truck before moving on to learn the next one. With DP QuickStart, which replaced lecture-based training sessions, technicians study and practice at their own pace while completing training modules.

Early history

The company traces its evolution to the 1920s, when it manufactured and sold temperature controls for coal-burning furnaces as the Pioneer Heat Regulator Company. That market disappeared as the nation turned to gas heat. In 1945, the company was changing focus and became Crown Controls Corp. In 1949, as a market for television emerged, Crown began producing television antenna rotators. For two decades, starting in the late 1950s, Crown’s survival and growth were supported by subcontract work, manufacturing mechanical and electrical components for private industry (e.g., Baldwin Pianos and IBM) and the U.S. government, especially the military.

Crown entered the material handling industry with niche products in which the major players had no interest. After shipping its first model in 1956, Crown developed several specialty lift trucks, including stockpickers and order pickers for the U.S. government, a hamper-dumper truck for the U.S. Postal Service, and trucks for carrying caskets for funeral parlors.[8] Crown later decided to stop making so many one-of-a-kind trucks and developed two lines of E-Z Lift Trucks: an H series (hand-operated) and a B series (battery-operated). In 1959, when its lift trucks had annual sales of about $50,000, antenna rotators had annual sales of $700,000[9], but the transition to the lift truck business was under way. Crown stopped manufacturing the rotators in late 2000.

Crown hired Deane Richardson[10] and David B. Smith[], of RichardsonSmith, to design a medium-duty hand-controlled pallet truck, which went on the market in 1962. That pallet truck won a design excellence award from the American Iron and Steel Institute in 1965. Good design became part of Crown’s corporate strategy.[10] Crown focused on niche markets, which didn’t affect competitors whose bread and butter were gas trucks and electric rider trucks. In 1970, Levitz, the furniture discounter, placed an order for 67 Crown stockpickers, which got momentum for sales going. That year, Crown joined the Industrial Truck Association[11] and opened a plant in Australia.


  1. ^ "Modern Materials Handling Top 20 Lift Truck Suppliers," August 2010.
  2. ^ “America's Largest Private Companies, #269 Crown Equipment,” Forbes, November 3, 2008.
  3. ^ Murphy, Andrea and Reifman, Shlomo. “America's Largest Private Companies,” Forbes, November 3, 2008.
  4. ^ "Design,Development and Manufacture of Material Handling Equipment," ISO 9001:2000, Certfication No. 10611, Certificate of Registration, National Quality Assurance, U.S.A.
  5. ^ U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “Crown Equipment Corporation eliminates chromium, expands NPEP project and saves over $65,000 annually.”
  6. ^ "Ten Most Successful Industrial Designs of the Decade," Industral Designers Society of America, IDSA Design Perspectives, January 1990.
  7. ^ Osenga, Mike, Editor, "Crown Launches First IC Forklift," Diesel Progress North American Edition, November 2009, Pages 14-18.
  8. ^ Chapter 8, “Crown Breaks into the Lift Truck Market (1956-72),” from By Design by Pat McNees.
  9. ^ Bidwell, quoted on p. 71, By Design. In a 1968 report to Crown, the Booz-Allen consulting firm predicted an end to the market for antenna rotators. They sold steadily for three more decades. Crown stopped producing them in October 2000.
  10. ^ Design Management Institute Case Study. Crown Equipment Corporation: Design Services Strategy. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Publishing, 1991; “What’s a Pretty Truck Like You Doing in a Place Like This? (1962-96), from By Design by Pat McNees.



  • McNees, Pat. By Design: The Story of Crown Equipment Corporation. Wilmington, Ohio: Orange Frazer Press, 1997. ISBN 978-1882203154
  • McNees, Pat. An American Biography: An Industrialist Remembers the Twentieth Century.

Washington, DC: Farragut Publishing, 1995. ISBN 978-0918535207

  • Design Management Institute Case Study. Crown Equipment Corporation: Design Services Strategy. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Publishing, 1991.
  • Design Management Institute Case Study. Crown Equipment Corporation: Design Services Strategy Epilogue. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Publishing, 1991.
  • Dicke, James F. II, Crown Equipment Corporation: A Story of People and Growth, New York: Newcomen Society, 1995.
  • “Design Teams: Managing the Creative Integration of Organizational Resources,” Design Management Journal, Vol 2, No. 2, Spring 1991, pp. 19–23.

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