Wiggins Lift Co., a forklift manufacturer that literally sprouted up in the agricultural fields of California, is located near Oxnard, North of Los Angeles. The company began the ascendancy to its present position as a leading materials handling innovator by playing an initial role in the development of tools to support the California agricultural industry. Wiggins’ founder, mechanic Mel Wiggins, recognizing the need for machines to work in the fields in support of the workers, designed and manufactured the first lift trucks capable of meeting the rigorous working conditions. The rest as they say is history.
Since their modest beginning, Wiggins has continued to grow to its present position, recognized worldwide as a highly specialized forklift manufacturer. Upon retirement his son, Mike, followed Mel Wiggins. Under Mike Wiggins, Wiggins products are successfully working not only in the agricultural industry, but the maritime industry, the U.S. Military and the company is the world’s largest producer of lift trucks for the marina industry. Mike Wiggins continues to head the company working every day, but daughter, Michelle McDowell, now carries on the family tradition as CEO.
Under Mel Wiggins, the fledgling lift company carefully crafted machines designed to assist farm workers in the handling of their harvest. Wiggin’s goal was to provide machines that would move the product directly from the fields to distribution and storage sites for loading and transport to market.
Over the years, Wiggins has refined and manufactured three lift products that have made significant impacts upon the process of harvesting produce. The machines, the AG Loader, the Produce Handler, and the Harvester, work side by side with the laborers, increasing and creating safer working conditions. Since entering the produce industry, Wiggins’ lift equipment has provided the ability of machines to move safely through the rows of plants being harvested with little or no field damage.
At first look, the Produce Handler appears to be a standard design forklift truck, but in reality, it
includes very special features, tailored to increase the overall productivity of the workers. Its design includes a high and wide load center, which allows it to handle 10, 12, or 14 pallets at one time. It also features standards such as fork positioning and pile slope. With these features, the Produce Handler can load a complete truck in one lift, moving more products quicker. In addition, it is powered by a propane engine, which reduces cost as well as its impact on the surrounding environment. (see photo of the AG loader on page 2)
The AG Loader is an all season, all weather, diesel powered lift truck mounted on tracks that
features low ground pressures, clearance above the rows of plants and the ability to handle four rows of pallets weighing 3,000 lbs each.
The Harvester is the third Wiggins agricultural machine. It also features tracked running gear
and is designed to work as many as 10, 12 or 14 plant beds at a time. The wide tracks span a single row of produce, and allow the machine to be deployed in all weather conditions and all seasons. The machine’s platforms are fitted to handle pallets, crates, water, hoses and high-powered nozzles to wash the produce before it is crated. It is designed to reduce physical demands on the workers, creating less injuries and subsequently, increased availability. The Harvester is diesel powered with low ground pressure allowing it to work without becoming mired down or destroying the fields during wet conditions.
CEO Michele McDowell confirms that, “The first forklifts from Wiggins were tailored specifically
for the farmers surrounding our plant in Oxnard. Today, while Wiggins is well known around the world for our marina lifts, our connection to agriculture remains strong.”
Wiggins has not only continued to improve produce related forklifts but also has designed specialized materials handling applications that have increased the efficiency of the entire agricultural harvesting process. Ms McDowell also indicated that, “Wiggins believes that the agricultural industry has benefitted from our experience with other industries.” “ln fact,” she continues, “AII Wiggins lift trucks for transportation, mining, construction, marina and military benefit from the innovative designs and custom engineering created by Wiggins for each discipline.”
The innovative spirit, fueled by this success, has contributed significantly to Wiggin’s ability to expand horizons in other industries. These industries such as cargo handling at warehousing and marine terminal facilities, are now capitalizing on Wiggins’ innovative applications. Wiggins’ products have also had a positive impact on the marina industry and most recently, the U.S. military.
Under Mike Wiggins, the company entered industrial sectors that hadn’t realized
the efficiencies gained by the utilization of specially designed forklifts. Many of these industries had been utilizing forklifts, but had not considered the innovations offered by the team at Wiggins. In numerous applications, Wiggins’ products caught the attention of those that had not considered the efficiencies that could be gained by the use of the “right” forklift. Wiggins applications run from the minute to the most sophisticated.
A prime example of the company’s diversity is the award of a contract from the U.S. Navy for
forklifts capable of working aboard newly designed U.S. Navy Combat vessels. The Navy specifications required the handling of specifically designated capacities in any sea state. The lift truck’s design includes a special computerized stability feature so that it will be allowed to work under the most stressful conditions.
Wiggins Lift has moved to the forefront of the marina industry, becoming the largest supplier of
marina forklifts in the world. Wiggins has provided lift trucks that can handle boats from the water to dry stack racks, customizing their lift trucks to handle some of the largest pleasure boats in existence.
The transition of the marina industry includes the demand for efficient, safe, dry storage boat handling not only dockside, but also inland to specially designed high and dry enclosed storage facilities. Over the years, Wiggins has developed a worldwide sales network and service centers for its marina trucks, including a cooperative marketing relationship with Taylor Machine Works. This relationship provides an even larger network of sales, parts and service throughout the United States and has benefited both companies.
Wiggins has also demonstrated its unique design capabilities in the marine terminal industry
with a number of products capable of handling all types of general cargo. Wiggins lift trucks range in capacity from 15,000 lbs to 110,000 lbs. Innovations include a removable counter weight design for any of its largest capacity trucks so they can be lifted with crane or ships gear into the hold without their counter weight. The counter weight is also designed to be lifted into the hold and reattached easily. This feature allows the lift truck to work the heavier steel slabs when necessary. The feature is also available for their lighter capacity lift trucks so that they can operate without the counterweight while making lifts on lighter cargo. This feature reduces the stresses for longer forklift life.
Wiggins’ most popular marine terminal trucks range in lift capability from 36,000lbs to 70,000 lbs, based upon the challenge at hand. Many of the Wiggins models can also be designed with a short wheelbase, lower profile, to work under tighter conditions and low ceiling vessels.
Wiggins marketing capability has been strengthened with the award of its first
independent dealership to long time marketing manager, Michael Marzahl. Marzahl, now President of XL Lift, has been operating the dealership for over a year and has been successful in generating increased business, especially in the materials handling industry. XL Lift will be handling Wiggins’ products including new and used, lift trucks.
Marzahl and Wiggins pioneered the first modern day indoor big truck exhibit at the popular Breakbulk Expo in New Orleans. Following Wiggins lead, up to four heavy-duty forklift companies have taken advantage of the Wiggins pioneer spirit with floor models of some of the largest forklifts available to the industry.