James J. Radous III is president and CEO of UniCarriers Americas and corporate/executive officer of Mitsubishi Logisnext Americas. Under his leadership, UniCarriers has seen a significant expansion of its manufacturing capabilities while growing from the eighth- to the third-largest producer in the world. Radous also guided the company through its acquisition by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and rebranding as UniCarriers. Radous joined UniCarriers in 2009, when the company was known as Nissan Forklift Corp. Over the years, he has served as vice president, sales and marketing operations; executive vice president of Americas-sales; and president of retail operations.
Radous has also been active in industry associations, including the Industrial Truck Association, and has contributed his time to many good causes, including St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and the Make-A-Wish Foundation. He recently spoke with DC Velocity Editorial Director David Maloney.
Q: How do you view the current state of the forklift industry?
A: Overall, I am cautiously optimistic. While we are seeing progress in financial markets, industry has retrenched a bit. After nine years of consecutive growth, buyers have become more apprehensive and deliberate in their purchasing.
What I find exciting is the new technology impacting our industry. It's amazing to see the advancements year over year. Data technology like telematics has gone from a future capability to an implemented system among large operators.
Q: During your time with UniCarriers, your company has grown to be the third-largest producer of forklifts in the world. To what do you attribute that success?
A: To be fair, that designation is, in part, due to our status as a Logisnext company. But our continued growth has been driven by three things: 1) the best-trained and most qualified dealer network in the Americas, 2) engaged supplier partners who consistently go above and beyond, and 3) the most dedicated group of employees I've ever been around.
Our philosophy of continuous improvement also plays a role in our success. We will never be satisfied with the status quo. Active employee engagement and the constant pursuit of best practices—including vertical integration and emerging technology—have allowed us to achieve greater success.
Q: What differentiates UniCarriers' products from others in the market?
A: I can sum that answer up for you in two words: "reliability redefined." That's how we describe it. We have conducted numerous studies among forklift owners and operators to determine what is most important to the buyer and how the marketplace delivers against that. What we learned is that reliability (uptime) is the most critical attribute of a forklift. Further, we learned that owners consistently rank us among the leaders in product reliability. And we prove it by offering an industry-leading, best-in-class two-year warranty.
The reason our products lead in reliability is because of quality manufacturing and proven design engineering. This is what we call the "UniCarriers Production Way."
Q: You have been active in the Industrial Truck Association (ITA), serving on its board of directors. Why is this engagement important to you and your company?
A: Being involved with the ITA has allowed me to become fully engaged with the industry and where we are headed. I believe that forklifts are "The Heart of Commerce." Imagine a day where every forklift stopped operating. The world's economy would come to a standstill. Forklifts play an essential and critical role in businesses around the globe. The ITA is a platform where we (manufacturers) act with a common purpose—to promote the relevance of forklifts and their safe operation.
The ITA has given me access to legislators and business leaders, and allowed me to represent the great work UniCarriers Americas is doing. The ITA also provides us with research and analysis of trends in material handling segments, so we can prepare for new opportunities or challenges.
Q: Has the uncertainty over tariffs, especially on steel and other goods used in your manufacturing, affected your material supply and your ability to export your finished goods?
A: Back in July 2018, I would have to say that there was a definite impact. As an Illinois company that manufactures products sold globally, we had to make smart changes and adapt our supply chain operations. While I wouldn't say that the "feeling" has gone away, we have all learned how to manage through the challenges.
Q: You are a supporter of many charities and educational institutions outside of the industry. Why is it important to you and your company to give back?
A: I believe that the fortunate should share among the less fortunate. We've been very blessed as a company and as individuals, and we all feel the need to give back. Personally, I find it deeply rewarding to see the impact we can make on the lives of others. From the church basket to the most corporate of giving, I encourage others to get involved. But it isn't just about money; it's about time as well. For many years, I worked with the Boy Scouts of America molding young minds—because I believe that good boys become good men. Over the last few years, I have been a professional mentor for several students at Northern Illinois University and Roosevelt University (my alma maters).
I hope that many years from now, my legacy with the company will be that I left it better—not just as a business, but as a community of people. In fact, this year we selected St. Jude Children's Research Hospital as our principal beneficiary going forward. Having visited their hospital recently, I could not be more proud of the work we do for them.
Q: Are there any new initiatives you're working on that you wish to share?
A: We recently launched UniCarriers System Solutions in a move that takes us beyond equipment manufacturing. As part of that initiative, we brought Rocla AGVs to the marketplace that are sold and serviced by UniCarriers Americas. We also enhanced our financing options with UniCarriers Capital and even launched a competitive comparison mobile app to help customers find the best products for their needs—so, we're more than just a forklift manufacturer.
What's unique about System Solutions is that we have opportunities to partner with many automated and robotic suppliers. So, unlike competitors who own and have to work with specific products, we are free to pursue all opportunities. Because technology is a rapidly changing phenomenon, we leverage this strategy to selectively work with the best and most leading-edge companies. Our vision is to become "The Preferred OEM for Solutions Companies."
Also, technology represents a key initiative internally at UniCarriers Americas. Included in this initiative is our Americas Design Center (ADC) that has more than tripled our R&D testing-lab space.
Our goal is to bring new talent, new ideas, and new opportunities to Illinois. This will allow us to reimagine the way business moves materials by delivering the next generation of forklifts.