In a photo taken in July, Crown Equipment worker Michael Lensman arranges gears after cutting them on an assembly line in a New Bremen Crown facility. THOMAS GNAU/STAFF

Crown Equipment offers workers voluntary layoff program

Crown Equipment Corp. Tuesday offered a voluntary layoff program to employees, in a bid to avoid or minimize involuntary layoffs, a company executive said.

“Basically, the global lift truck market has been down over the past few months,” said Randy Niekamp, vice president of human resources for Crown. “Our new truck orders have been down.”

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Crown produces lift trucks and material handling equipment used by manufacturers and distribution operations worldwide. Based in New Bremen, a small village mostly surrounded by farm fields about an hour’s drive north of Dayton, Crown has about 5,000 employees total in Ohio. About 4,500 of those workers are in New Bremen.

The company in recent weeks has been reducing production work schedules gradually, allowing normal employee attrition to take its course, Niekamp said. Over the holidays, Crown made a further schedule reduction and allowed workers to take unpaid time off and extra vacation time, he added.

It was too soon to talk about a response to the voluntary layoff program, but employees have until the end of the week to decide whether to accept voluntary layoffs, Niekamp also said. He declined to detail terms of the program or a desired target for the company.

There have been no involuntary employee layoffs thus far, he said.

“We don’t have a crystal ball, and there’s a lot of uncertainty in the market,” Niekamp said. “With the political landscape, with tariffs, with things like that, all of that has an effect. It’s definitely not something we want to deal with, but we’re trying to deal with it as best we can to minimize the effect on our employees.”

As of late Tuesday morning, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services had no WARN (Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notice) letter posted from Crown.

In November 2018, Crown announced that it would invest $130 million to expand its New Bremen facilties, creating new space for parts and finished goods.

That investment included $40 million in construction and $90 million in new equipment. More than 560 new jobs were to be added in New Bremen and New Knoxville as a result of that expansion.

Founded by the Dicke family in 1945, Crown employs more than 15,500 people worldwide, including 10,800 workers across the United States.

With the fourth generation of the Dicke family in control — James Dicke II is Crown chairman and James Dicke III is president — the company worldwide has 19 manufacturing locations, more than 500 retail sites, including a company-owned Vandalia retail outlet and an engine plant in Troy.

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