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Opportunities loom after a tough year
Wednesday, 28 Dec 2016 ( #802 ) - Australia
Local News Story
Uncertainty about the future after an action-filled year.
It’s been a tough year for business in Australia, but, despite the odds, a number of forklift businesses have expanded, increased their sales and brought new products to the market. Forkliftaction News has been following it all closely, and here are some highlights.


January
The year got off to a great start for forklift operators looking for work, with Australian employment website SEEK noting skilled workers in high demand as warehouses and distribution centres tried to keep up with consumer demand for domestic and imported goods. Seek listed ‘forklift operators' in its Top 5 of hot jobs for 2016, where employment growth – measured through advertising volumes - was expected to grow in double digits. David Kelleher, a supply chain trainer at Mt Druitt TAFE college in NSW, told Forkliftaction.com News employers were looking for operators with an extensive knowledge of both counterbalance and high-reach trucks. Salisbury, Queensland-based logistics trainer Steve Nevin was not surprised that forklift drivers were in SEEK’s hot jobs list: "As the logistics industry undergoes massive growth, the demand for good operators is high."

Toyota Material Handling Australia (TMHA) started the year from a position of strength, claiming its highest marketshare on record in 2015, delivering over 4,500 forklifts. The company’s marketshare climbed from 32.4% in 2014 to 37.5% last year, when the number of forklifts delivered rose 2.3%. Official Australian Industrial Truck Association (AITA) industry sales results showed a total of 12,144 forklifts were sold in 2015, an 11.6% fall from the previous year.

Brian Hoare received a Medal of the Order of Australia in the Australia Day Honours for 2016. Hoare was involved with the Australian Industrial Truck Association (AITA) as a member representing Crown Equipment and as the deputy president in 2004 and president from 2005 to 2008.

February
Small and medium business confidence jumped to its highest level since March 2011. The Sensis Business Index survey showed confidence jumping 12 points to net +39, compared with +27 a year before. The forklift sector was among those with boosted confidence. Sonia Heinrich, brand manager for Kalmar Australia, said her company was feeling confident. "January has kicked off as a great start for the year to come. The new Kalmar product range including the K-Motion drivetrain, empty container handler and the Gloria EGO cabins boast industry-leading technology, which is reflected in our orders." Chris Spence, CEO of Macquarie Park, NSW-headquartered Hyundai Forklifts Australia, was also "extremely upbeat" about the new year. "Coming off a strong finish to 2015, our larger product range due to arrive in 2016 will expand our addressable market significantly and give us a platform to compete with the larger players." John Flinn, managing director of Hystandard Handling Equipment, said his team was "feeling very confident", having a strong start to the year with sales in new and used equipment.  Australian Logistics Council managing director Michael Kilgariff noted that confidence in the logistics industry was generally a good barometer of how the economy was travelling nationally, "because when our supply chains are busy, Australian families and Australian businesses are investing".

In dealer news, Forkbiz was appointed the Manitou forklift distributor for the Sydney metropolitan area, offering the French manufacturer’s complete forklift range.

Lencrow's Sydney team
Lencrow Material Handling, meanwhile, was looking for independent forklift dealers in regional Australia as it rebuilt the UniCarriers forklift dealer network. With the appointment of Lencrow Material Handling as the Australian distributor for UniCarriers, the product range available to Nissan Forklift customers grew and included high-end warehousing equipment from Sweden and larger-capacity internal combustion forklifts from Japan.

Hystandard Handling Equipment recruited five new staff on the back of a strong order book. Sydney’s largest independent dealer’s January orders equaled those from January to mid-March in 2015 and managing director John Flinn told Forkliftaction News that besides recruiting three service staff and two salespeople, Hystandard had employed three apprentices, bringing its total number of apprentices being trained to eight.

March
Hyundai Forklifts Australia (HFA) shared an ambitious vision with its five dealers at an inaugural dealer meeting in Sydney. Chief operating officer Chris Spence said he was building "what will be Australia’s strongest independent dealer group". "Our end goal is to move to 17 dealers nationally to replicate the footprints of Toyota, Crown and Linde," he said.

Carl Smith
Meanwhile, Linde Material Handling Australia announced that managing director Carl Smith would leave the company in August, after more than a decade in the role. "When I joined in 2004, I set myself certain professional and personal objectives, all of which I have met or exceeded, so now is the right time to move to the next phase of my career," said Smith. His milestones included trebling Linde’s share of the market to 18.3% the previous year.

And a long-running legal battle came to an end when Graeme Anthony Dillon of Hawthorne, Queensland was found not guilty in the Brisbane District Court of fraud, following an ASIC investigation. Dillon had been charged with 11 counts of fraud in relation to his former Brisbane company, Independent Forklift Services (Qld) Pty Ltd, and its North Queensland subsidiary. Dillon first appeared in the Brisbane Magistrates Court in 2012, charged with two counts of fraud that concerned a number of transactions in relation to Independent Forklift Services.

March also saw Crown opening a new branch in northern Queensland. Located between Crown’s Townsville and Brisbane branches, the Mackay branch would support mining, engineering, agriculture, logistics and retail customers from its new premises in Paget, South Mackay. Its facilities include a service centre with comprehensive spare parts holdings and a showroom with a selection of new, second-hand and rental Crown forklifts.

Dematic, a leading global supplier of integrated automated technology, software and services to optimise the supply chain, acquired NDC Automation, a leading provider of automated guided vehicles (AGVs) and software in Australia and New Zealand. Dematic was subsequently acquired by the KION group in June.

In further acquisition news, Yusen Logistics Australia announced the purchase of the Hitech Asia Pacific businesses from the Hi-tech Express Group, a logistics provider based in Australia.  Hitech specialises in domestic logistics, offering an end-to-end logistics service that integrates the land transportation, installation and calibration of sensitive freight such as medical and business machinery. The company has eight locations across Australia and New Zealand, having a share of approximately 70% of the medical equipment transportation market.

April
Linde Material Handling completed a major restructuring of its Australia-wide replacement parts operations in April, providing the resources to allow it to maximise support for its growing customer base. The six-month process added personnel, IT and warehouse resources to maintain and enhance Linde’s parts operations. Changes included new call centre software, an enlarged and reconfigured national spare parts warehouse with significantly increased parts holdings, and centralised management of Linde’s branch spare parts resources, under the control of national spare parts operations manager Gilbert Marcel.  

TMHA's record apprentice intake
Toyota Material Handling Australia (TMHA) inducted its latest intake of forklift apprentices in Sydney. The seven apprentices were drawn from the TMHA network around the country and were accompanied by mentors from their respective TMHA branches. TMHA national technical advisor and trainer Gerry Larney said this was one of the biggest intakes since the apprentice program began in 2005. "The latest intake brings the number of apprentices currently training around the country to 37, not including the 10 apprentices who completed their apprenticeship in the first quarter of 2016," he said.

May
Australia’s business community gave a cautious thumbs-up to Scott Morrison's first budget. Importantly for the forklift industry, the budget retained the $20,000 instant tax write-off for business equipment.

In May, Mobicon Systems secured an order from the Australian Department of Defence to supply a purpose-built Eco Mini Straddle Carrier. Mobicon managing director Tom Schults saw the contract as "an excellent fit" for Brisbane-based Mobicon. "As the ADF continues to innovate and look for more cost-efficient, safe and productive ways to carry out their operations, Mobicon (is) committed to providing our customers worldwide with the best designs, services and solutions to meet their container handling needs."

June
United Forklift and Access Solutions celebrated the landmark arrival of its 1,000th high safety and efficiency unit from aerial work platform manufacturer Haulotte. United Forklift and Access Solutions’ general manager Trent Osborne said the delivery to United of its 1,000th Haulotte advanced technology machine – an Optimum 8 AC electric scissor lift – demonstrated United’s ongoing commitment to the leadership and quality of its already large and expanding national rental fleet and broad access solutions offering. United’s relationship with Haulotte goes back to 2010, with the delivery of a HA120PX rough-terrain boom lift. Since then, United’s national Haulotte range has expanded to cover the spectrum of scissor lifts, boom lifts and telehandlers.

Also in June, Kalmar and national materials handling company NTP Forklifts Australia announced an extension of their partnership. NTP Forklifts Australia became Kalmar’s exclusive authorised dealer and specialist in sales, fleet management (rental) and after-sales support for Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, the Northern Territory and Tasmania. "Kalmar recognises NTP Forklifts Australia’s capabilities and performance in the last 18 months as reliable, professional and an integral part of Kalmar’s direction in the Australian market," said Michael Wahab, mobile equipment director at Kalmar Australia.

Makam
Jag Makam of importer ZECO Industrial announced that China’s BYD lithium-ion battery forklifts would be considered in upcoming tenders. Makam said the new forklifts, recently crowned Forklift of the Year, had been trialed by "several major users" including BJ Ball and Toll Group in Melbourne. "We received very positive and encouraging feedback on our forklifts and their performance," he said. "We have been invited to participate in their upcoming forklift tender processes."  ZECO became the exclusive national distributor of BYD forklifts in 2014 and had since appointed dealers, including NYK Forklifts in Brisbane.

July
Visitors at CeMAT Australia 2016
The industry highlight of 2016 was the Melbourne edition of CeMAT which had debuted in Sydney in 2015. Over the three days, attendees at the nation’s largest materials handling and
intralogistics show heard from experts in the field, including European thought leaders who believe that digitalisation is going to play an even bigger role in the industry. Sarah Haughey, show director for CeMAT, said the first outing in Melbourne "has been exceptionally well received".

August
Konecranes launched an intuitive crane parts store to Australasia, making it easier for customers to find the parts they need, check availabilities and track orders. The new online store was designed to improve inventory and lead-time accuracy, as well as make it as simple as possible to find crane parts, regardless of the make or model. "We’ve tried to create a store that feels fresh and modern, but also easy to use. We want anyone to be able to log in and find exactly what they need as quickly as possible," said Kevin Williams, parts and sales support manager.

Dematic made its first delivery of the company’s new range of automated guided vehicles (AGVs) from its factory in Belrose, NSW. A major Australian beverage company was the first to receive a delivery of the Dematic AGVs.  The order included 4 m double-pallet handlers and 6 m double-pallet handlers, all with fork-spreading capabilities. The new AGVs allow customers to handle double pallets of product, which are transported safely and accurately around the clock by driverless AGVs. Benefits include significantly decreased labour costs and reduced on-going damage to equipment and stock, together with improved supply chain reliability and traceability.

Hyundai Forklifts Australia (HFA) boasted that it had created a national dealer footprint in Australia and was close to its goal of 17 dealers, replicating the presence of Toyota, Crown and Linde. HFA Distributors chief operating officer Chris Spence said talks with potential dealers would continue as the current dealer network had reached 12, including two new additions in Western Australia - BBS Forks Australia and Lift Equipt."We’re now truly national and we’re looking towards what the rest of the year will bring," he said, adding that Hyundai had had some good traction, especially in WA.

September
Jason Thompson with his trophy. PHOTO: Queensland Country Life
Jason Thompson was named the 2016 Brisbane Markets Forklift Operator of the Year. Thompson took out the honours after 10 finalists competed in the annual Forklift Grand Final which required competitors to negotiate a challenging practical course designed to test their forklift operating skills in a controlled environment. The competition is an initiative of the Brisbane Markets and is held in association with Toyota Material Handling and CHEP to recognise the positive contributions to safety that forklift operators make in their daily activities. A forklift operator of 14 years, Thompson developed his skills while working at the Brisbane Markets which, with more than 400 registered, has the highest concentration of forklifts of any workplace in Queensland. Second place went to Peter Cullen, also of GNL Produce, while Justin Brady, a forklift driver with wholesaler Keith Lind Pty Ltd, took third place.

The crack-down on safety infringements was stepped up when 17 recruits completed an intensive training course and graduated as Occupational Health and Safety and Return to Work inspectors in Victoria. The new inspectors - 10 men and seven women - have backgrounds across health care, construction, manufacturing, transport, agriculture and chemical engineering. Three Return to Work inspectors were placed in Melbourne while 14 OHS Inspectors were deployed across Melbourne, Geelong and the Latrobe Valley. In 2015/16, 108 businesses were ordered by the courts to pay fines and costs totaling almost $5.56 million.

October
CEO of Safe Work Australia Michelle Baxter launched 2016 National Safe Work Month in a video message that appealed to workers to save lives by having a conversation, sharing stories and raising awareness about work health and safety. Each October, National Safe Work Month encourages all Australians to make health and safety a priority in their workplace to reduce injury, death and disease. "Work health and safety is something every single worker needs to be aware of," said Baxter.

And United Forklift and Access Solutions continued its expansion when it became the sole distributor of Cat Lift Trucks throughout Australia after acquiring the distribution rights in Queensland and the Northern Territory from Hastings Deering. "This means all customers will now have outstanding access from the one source to the total CAT lift truck range – including the latest fuel-efficient conventional and environmentally sensitive electric and LPG forklift products," said Craig Coles, CAT product manager, United Forklift and Access Solutions. "Equipment purchasers and equipment hire customers, including existing Hastings customers, will also benefit substantially from the prompt, comprehensive and well established service, safety and training arrangements from United facilities across Australia. These services are keyed to enhancing cost-efficiency while extending safety and environmental benefits from advanced equipment that we are progressively introducing and expanding in the local market."

November
Portable container weighing solutions provider BISON launched a world-first system for weighing containers on a trailer chassis. BISON C-Legs are self-contained scales that attach to and lift a container just clear of the chassis, then transmit the gross container weight via Bluetooth to a smartphone app. The new container weigh system was a timely innovation, with recent amendments to the SOLAS convention forcing shippers around the world to verify the weight of every export container with certified weighing equipment or processes.

December
Victorian forklift dealer Chadwick Forklifts moved to new, larger premises in Braeside. "After 13 years of toil in Moorabbin, Chadwick Forklifts are moving to bigger premises in Braeside," said founder Cliff Chadwick. Chadwick Forklifts has over 25 years’ experience in the forklift industry and sells and rents a variety of brands and models of forklifts.

Looking ahead
There’s uncertainty about the year ahead, with economists divided over the direction of the Australian economy.

NAB is warning about a loss of momentum and slowing job growth. Also impacting is slowing construction growth, leading the bank to predict two rate cuts from the Reserve Bank in 2017.

NAB notes that retail business conditions have been slowing since late 2015, while transport and manufacturing have also slipped.

Also looming over the business environment is the possible impact of Brexit and any trade fall-out from president-elect Trump’s isolationist policies.

The trajectory back to budget sustainability PHOTO: SHUTTERSTOCK
On the positive side, some industry groups have welcomed the Australian government’s attempts to cut debt. Ai Group chief executive Innes Willox, for example, recently welcomed "the Federal Government's determination to stay on the path towards a sustainable budget outcome despite the deterioration in the revenue outlook".

"Overall, the pace of fiscal consolidation proposed by the Government should not detract from the gradual rebalancing of the economy that is currently under way," he said, adding that the trajectory back to budget sustainability includes the funding of the Federal Government’s proposed business tax measures.  

"We are living on borrowed time unless we can inject some momentum into business investment and the economy. Parliament needs to get behind these tax measures for the boost they will provide to activity by encouraging investment and job creation."

The materials handling sector, meanwhile, enters 2017 in a sound position. There were few forklift business failures last year, and industry consolidation appears to have slowed, leaving a number of strong, diversified suppliers.

Forkliftaction News has reported on numerous new distribution centres under construction around Australia and New Zealand, all of which will require materials handling equipment as well as logistics services. This means some big orders for the global manufacturers and their local distributors and dealers. It also means continued employment prospects for forklift operators, already in demand.

There will be plenty of opportunities for materials handling in the year ahead and success will come to those who are prepared to grasp them and willing to take advantage of the low interest rates and tax incentives.
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