There Will Always Be Variety

Chris Mc Loone   Chris Mc Loone

Shortly before FDIC International-just a couple of weeks, in fact-we received word that REV Group purchased Kovatch Mobile Equipment (KME).

Acquisitions like this are not uncommon and have occurred in the fire service before. There are many fire service veterans who can rattle off lists of such mergers/acquisitions in short order. And, some of the saltier veterans will follow up the list with their candid opinions on the success of each. That the news came right before FDIC International didn’t leave much time for much information to come out besides the news of the acquisition. Naturally, there was speculation at the show regarding how the acquisition would impact KME-especially since REV Group also owns E-ONE.

I am by no means an expert on mergers and acquisitions. I went through one early in my own career, and I came to work for this magazine shortly after PennWell Corporation acquired it from its original owner. But, looking at how REV Group has handled other acquisitions on the ambulance side of the manufacturing business, I expect KME to remain a brand within REV Group, continuing to manufacture fire apparatus from its Nesquehoning, Pennsylvania, facility.

There are many reasons one company acquires another company. Sometimes it’s in the cards for a number of years. For example, take Task Force Tips’s (TFT) recent acquisition of AMKUS Rescue Systems. Although there wasn’t as much buzz about this acquisition at the show, FDIC International 2016 was the first show for AMKUS as part of TFT. I had a chance to speak with Rod Carringer, TFT’s chief marketing officer, before the show and during the show about the acquisition. He stated that the companies had discussed such a merger for some time. I was frank with him about how this acquisition was a little different than previous purchases that laid the foundation for what TFT is today-other acquisitions have been based around water flow, not vehicle extrication tools. But, coming into the TFT family provides AMKUS with complementary resources as well as expanded resources that will allow it to take several steps forward in the extrication tool market. This is only one example, but there are more out there where the acquiring company helps enhance product offerings.

If there’s one thing that’s certain in the fire service, it is that firefighters want variety. They want choices. And, there are plenty of them, no matter how many acquisitions have taken place. The level of customization that goes into the fire apparatus built today is such that there will always be a need for multiple vendors and multiple builders. Fire service suppliers know that competition is good, that it will drive innovation and keep competing companies at the top of their game. More than 32,000 firefighters attended FDIC International 2016-record attendance. They were there to learn, to perfect their craft, and to walk the show floor in search of solutions for their departments. Numbers like that at an exhibition as large as FDIC International prove that firefighters want choices.

Every one of us has our favorite apparatus manufacturer, preferred tool vendor, and preferred truck components. As long as the arguments over smooth bore vs. combination fog nozzles, single-stage vs. two-stage pumps, speedlays vs. rear hoseline deployment, and manual vs. electronic valve controls exist, there will be a variety of companies working to keep participants on both sides happy.

Every once in a while, we do lose a vendor or two. I recently looked at a Facebook group page that collects images of Pennsylvania fire apparatus. I saw pictures of my fire company’s apparatus from when we were a repeat American LaFrance customer, pictures from another fire company in my department that was a Hahn fire company for many years, and several images from other fire companies that were loyal Mack customers. We all know American LaFrance’s fate, Hahn has been gone for a long time, and Mack stopped building fire trucks some time ago.

AMKUS Rescue Systems will maintain its unique identity in the TFT family and, based on how REV Group has operated in the past, KME will remain a brand there. More acquisitions will occur over time, but firefighters will never be without variety and choices.

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