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|There’s another mixed bag of financial results this week, but the trend appears to be downward – for the time being anyway. In Europe, the USA and Asia, sales volumes are down. Some manufacturers have managed to keep stock moving, but clearly at slimmed down margins. So there can be no doubt that this has to be a great time to be buying. Pricing has never been sharper, and thanks to a host of recent technological innovations, products have never been better. Of course, you need to be confident about your own business performance before you splash out, but that’s another story …|
|Barloworld faces challenging conditions |
Johannesburg, South Africa
|Barloworld faced challenging trading conditions in its international operations for the first six months of financial year 2009, and the South African forklift market also declined from last year.|
Clive Thomson, Barloworld CEO, says the overall trading environment in the second half of financial year 2009 is expected to remain difficult: “In these circumstances, we will retain our focus on expense and working capital management and our various initiatives should result in strong cash flow for the year.”
Barloworld’s revenue for the first six months increased 6% to ZAR22.5 billion (USD2.7 billion) from the previous year’s ZAR21.18 billion (USD2.5 billion), while the group’s net profit decreased 59.6% from ZAR1 billion (USD118.4 million) to ZAR420 million (USD49.5 million).
Barloworld reports this week that in the handling division, the agriculture business continued to perform well. While the US and UK handling businesses remain under pressure as both economies are still depressed, Barloworld grew marketshare in the US and maintained its share in the UK. Markets in Belgium and the Netherlands are “significantly down” on last year.
The logistics division generated significantly higher revenue after the acquisition of Dubai-based Swift group and the Flynt operations in Hong Kong, the report says (Forkliftaction.com News #355).
Barloworld predicts that trading in the agriculture business of its handling division should remain strong, except for the depressed South African forklift market The group anticipates trading conditions will continue to be difficult in the US and Europe and will focus on improving efficiency and reducing costs further.
The logistics business in South Africa is expected to perform “satisfactorily but the international operations will continue to be adversely impacted by the drop in trade volumes as a result of the global economic downturn”.
Thomson says: “We expect to entrench our positions of market leadership and this will ensure we are well placed to weather the economic downturn and position ourselves for long-term success as the external environment improves.”
|Nacco, Manitex report lower sales |
Mayfield Heights, OH, United States
|A significant drop in volume at the materials handling group of Nacco Industries Inc resulted in a companywide loss of USD9.1 million for the first quarter ended March 31 versus profit of USD5.6 million in the comparable 2008 period.|
The wholesale materials handling segment “expects significant declines in all lift truck markets in 2009 compared with 2008” and projects “limited recovery until 2010”, the company says. The segment saw a 45.2% decline in first quarter revenues to USD371.6 million from USD677.9 million and March 31 worldwide backlog dropping to 12,800 units from the year-earlier 29,100 units.
Mayfield Heights-based Nacco’s responses included capital expenditure restraints, planned plant downtime, reductions-in-force, restrictions on spending and travel, suspension of incentive compensation and profit-sharing, wage freezes, and salary and benefit reductions.
The segment, as part of the Nacco Materials Handling Group unit, designs, manufactures and supplies forklift trucks and aftermarket parts globally under the Hyster and Yale brand names.
Meanwhile, Bridgeview, Illinois-based Manitex International Inc reported a 40.4% decline in sales for the first quarter ended March 31. The 2009 quarter total was USD14.0 million versus USD23.5 million last year.
Despite the drop, Manitex remained profitable and cashflow-positive during the quarter. “We were able to react quickly to dramatically reduce our costs,” says David Langevin, Manitex chairman and chief executive officer. “Further, we were able to maintain our 30% marketshare for the quarter in our main product category.”
Manitex’s Liftking subsidiary makes Noble straight-mast rough terrain forklifts, Lowry high-capacity cushion-tyred forklifts and Schaeff electric indoor forklifts.
|BITA predicts significant downturn |
Sunninghill, United Kingdom
|The British Industrial Truck Association (BITA) predicts an extended and significant downturn for the forklift industry.|
At its 2009 AGM last month, the association revealed the key points in its economic forecast report authored by Oxford Economics.
According to the report, the forklift industry’s performance is directly linked to the retail and manufacturing industries, and will only bounce back when the latter recover.
Secondly, “unprecedented falls” in shipments and orders across all forklift classes for 2009 are expected. Moderate growth is forecast for 2010, but a stronger rebound could occur in 2011 as the economic recovery gathers pace, the report says.
Compared to 2008, counterbalanced forklift shipments are expected to drop by 47.4% while class two forklift shipments will fall by 49.5% and class three forklift shipments by 42.6%.
Business guru Cathy Bennett offered tips for surviving the economic slump at the AGM.
Bennett said above all, a positive mindset is the key to surviving and thriving. “I believe in consistently applying the basics, sticking to what you are good at and then making sure you deliver what you promise.”
She reminded industry members to prepare for the industry’s recovery by creating innovative solutions for customers to get ahead of the competition.
James Clark, BITA secretary general, says of the study: “When we invested in this economic forecasting service for members, we knew it would be an invaluable tool for helping the industry predict, plan towards and prepare themselves for the future. I believe the current economic situation now validates our investment.”
BITA president Richard Close, also CEO of Briggs Equipment, reinforced the role of the association’s technical policy committee (TPC) at the meeting. Chaired by Derek Rice of Electrofit-Zapi, the committee safeguards the forklift industry from unsuitable EU directives.
A recent proposal regarding the height of control pedals developed for road-going haulage trucks could have been applied to forklifts. However, the TPC intervened to ensure the proposal did not become legislation.
“I would go so far as to say that the forklift industry could not function without BITA’s TPC acting to soften inappropriate and unworkable rules,” Close says.
The TPC meets twice a year and is engaged with key international standard-setting bodies including
the British Standards Institution, the European Committee for Standardization, the International Standards Organisation, and the International Electrotechnical Commission.
BITA’s board currently consists of Richard Close (Briggs), president; Tim Waples (Doosan), vice president; Bob Hine, technical consultant; Bill Goodwin (Jungheinrich), CFTS director; Andrew Daly (Linde), truck suppliers group director; Tony Wheeler (REMA), component suppliers group chairman; Derek Rice, TPC chairman; David Rowell (Hyster), FEM/BMHF representative; Simon Emery (Crown), IMHE director and CFTS director; Steve Hodkinson (Toyota Material Handling), finance director and BITA and CFTS director; and James Clark , secretary-general and IMHE director.
At the BITA Ball after the AGM, guests raised nearly GBP2,500 (USD3777.50) for the RNLI, Help for Heroes and the County Air Ambulance Trust.
BITA is a trade association representing 82 forklift manufacturers, suppliers, service providers and media operating in the UK.
|Big Joe forklift brand undergoes renewal |
Lonbard, IL, United States
|Equity fund Granite Creek Parkers LLC of Chicago, Illinois and forklift manufacturer E-P Equipment Co Ltd of Hangzhou, China are giving new life to the Big Joe brand.|
Granite Creek and E-P have formed a joint venture, Big Lift LLC, and acquired most of the assets of Big Joe Manufacturing Co from a Boston, Massachusetts office of retail bank RBS Citizens, a unit of Edinburgh, Scotland-based Royal Bank of Scotland Group plc. Terms were not disclosed.
Management says that “the new owners bring strong financial backing, resident industry knowledge and manufacturing expertise” to continue the Big Joe line.
The bank foreclosed on Big Joe Manufacturing and solicited offers for Big Joe’s assets through Argus Consultants, according to Mike Barry, a member of the Granite Creek team now serving on an interim basis as president of Big Lift with offices in Lombard.
“We will continue most lines” of Big Joe products, perpetuate the well-known brand identity and take advantage of Big Joe’s 57-year legacy for making rugged heavy-gauge and custom-fabricated forklifts, Barry says. “Those two things kept Big Joe around for so long.”
Barry says the new owners will invest to retool and upgrade the existing Big Joe line, introduce new walkie-stacker and pallet truck models and incorporate some E-P advanced technology into Big Joe products.
E-P manufactures some forklifts under private labels for other original equipment manufacturers in North America and has sought to boost market presence for its E-P brand in North America.
“We are bringing back production folks—so far 15 or 16—as we restart the (Big Joe) factory” in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, Barry indicates. The leased Wisconsin Dells location for fabrication, welding and assembly has “been in demise for a while.”
In late February, Big Joe Manufacturing opted to close another assembly operation and a national parts distribution centre in Madison, Wisconsin that opened in 2004. The new owners do not plan to reopen that site.
While in operation, Big Joe had more than 80 employees.
“Our new owners are entirely focused on delivering on-time, high-quality, rugged products that sell-through and make dealers money,” says Tom Beatty, Big Lift operations director.
Among those joining Big Lift is Kevin Pletch, who was Big Joe dealer sales manager. Barry indicates that the Big Joe network includes more than 100 distributors.
John He, president of E-P group, observes that “this team will ensure that Big Joe products are made to the rugged standards that users have come to expect of Big Joe lift trucks”.
In 2006, Big Joe Manufacturing, then based in Des Plaines, Illinois, introduced electronic power steering on a Power-Drive counterbalanced series of forklifts (Forkliftaction.com News #288).
|48 fast-charging systems sold since January |
Phoenix, AZ, United States
|Electric Transportation Engineering Corp of Phoenix has sold 48 of its Minit-Charger FC heavy-duty battery, fast-charging systems since launching the product in January.|
“All are for forklift applications in the US and Canada,” says Tom Quinn, director of business development. A system’s average return on investment is 12-14 months at a new location for the technology.
Nine separate customers use the systems with forklifts in manufacturing, distribution and food processing, mostly in two- and three-shift operations, Quinn notes.
During 2007, parent firm ECOtality Inc acquired Electric Transportation Engineering and affiliated company The Clarity Group, known together as eTec, for USD5.4 million. Then, ECOtality, through eTec, purchased the Minit-Charger business of Edison International subsidiary Edison Enterprises for USD3 million.
eTec designs fast-charge systems for materials handling and airport ground support applications and tests and develops plug-in hybrids, advanced battery systems and hydrogen internal-combustion engine conversions. eTec supplied its first fast-charging system for forklift use in 1996 and added its first commercial installation in 1998 in a Mira Loma, California warehouse of Nestlé North America.
Minit-Charger products enable fast charging of forklift trucks using proprietary technologies.
Quinn says the eTec equipment evaluates four battery factors—temperature, voltage, data state of charge and internal resistance—every 1.5 seconds and determines what energy to put back into the battery. “We hook up to four battery cells and take data off all,” he notes.
Recent generations of eTec equipment offer a 3-4% improvement in efficiency and a 75% smaller physical size than earlier eTec systems.
“The battery monitor is the big difference,” he said. “Also, we measure the water level of the battery and communicate that to the charger.”
The FC charger provides up to 320 amps of output. Another model, the SC charger in the market since August, can provide up to 250 amps of output. Both are high-frequency single-connector chargers that product safety tester Underwriters Laboratories Inc has certified.
Quinn says eTec has marketing links with 28 representative organizations.
ECOtality trades as an over-the-counter bulletin board stock. Scottsdale, Arizona-based ECOtality reported a loss of USD7.9 million on 2008 sales of USD11.2 million.
|Container handlers save Malcolm Group money |
Kenilworth, United Kingdom
|Malcolm Group has invested GBP2 million (USD3.02 million) in five new Konecranes (formerly SMV) container handlers from Cooper Specialised Handling.|
According to Cooper, its bespoke machine design and all-inclusive, five-year service and maintenance contract helped clinch the deal. Malcolm now has eight Konecranes laden container handlers.
Malcolm Rail operates the Daventry International Rail Freight Terminal (DIRFT) and was looking for a materials handling supplier to maximise its workflow and provide nearly 6,000 lifts a week while minimising lifetime costs.
DIRFT is one of the largest intermodal terminals in the UK. It occupies area totalling 27 acres, has 10km (6.2miles) of rail track and has 24 trains coming and going daily. It operates 24 hours a day, six days a week with the machines working up to 20 hours a day.
Peter Astley, Cooper’s sales manager, says Malcolm had high expectations.“We were able to provide the group with a bespoke service solution - one that offers a competitive reliable service and keeps operations running continually across 24-hour shifts. We maintain the whole of the Malcolm Group operation at DIRFT.”
Malcolm Group fleet engineer Steve Sugden adds that the new machines are helping cut costs. “[The new machines’ idle shut down facility] shuts the machines down if left idling for more than three minutes. Coupled with the Konecranes load-sensing hydraulics technology, it is helping to achieve an extra 25% capacity in workflow as well as reduce fuel consumption by up to 30%.”
Other machine modifications include a specially specified shorter wheel base that has a lower steer axle weight when the machine is empty. Cooper’s flexible service contract, which incorporates a lower rate when the machine is idling, also keeps running costs low.
Cooper Specialised Handling, formerly SMV UK Ltd, is independently owned and is the UK’s sole national distributor of Konecranes/SMV forklifts, Bauman sideloaders, MAFI terminal and RoRo tractors and DanTruck, operating in the UK and Northern Ireland.
|JCB marks delivery of 100th machine with scale model gift |
Rocester, United Kingdom
|A UK chain of builders’ merchants has been presented with a commemorative scale model of a JCB Loadall telehandler to mark the delivery of its 100th machine.|
Jackson Building Centres Ltd, which trades from 26 branches in the East Midlands, Leeds and York, reached the milestone when two JCB mini excavators, a JCB micro excavator and a HTD5 tracked dumpster joined the fleet at its new branch in York.
The new equipment joins a range of small tools in the company’s hire offering for customers ranging from DIY enthusiasts to professional tradesmen and builders.
Jackson group hire manager Mark Shepherd says JCB was chosen for its extensive product range and strong brand name.
“We are delighted to reach our 100th machine and it is testament to the quality of the equipment and the suitability of the JCB range for the small builder’s needs,” Shepherd says.
“The milestone also reflects well on the long-standing relationship with our dealer which operates in a similar geographic region to ourselves and is able to provide us with an excellent network of after-sales and service support,” he adds.
Dealer TC Harrison JCB of Chapeltown, South Yorkshire presented the scale model to Jackson Building Centres.
Jackson Building Centres is part of Grafton Merchanting GB Ltd which brings together the Grafton Group’s operations in the UK, including Buildbase, Hirebase, Civils & Lintels, Plumbase, L&G Forest Products, Hendricks Lovell, Acorn and Keelsupply Drylining and Insulation specialists.
Jackson Building Centres Ltd has an annual turnover of about GBP151 million (USD228.2 million) and employs over 1,100 people.
|Safety violation results in fine for ArcelorMittal|
|An Ontario court has fined ArcelorMittal Tubular Products Canada Inc CAD110,000 (USD89,900) for a safety violation in an industrial accident at its Brampton plant. In addition, the court imposed a 25% surcharge that is credited to a special provincial fund to assist victims of crime.|
A worker was using a forklift to move steel coils from a cradle on 11 December 2007. The operator was off the truck retrieving safety upright bars for the cradle when the 2.7-tonne (5,970-pound) coil tipped onto the worker’s leg. As a result of the injuries, the worker’s leg was amputated below the knee.
An ArcelorMittal spokeswoman comments: “The health and safety of our workforce will always be ArcelorMittal’s number one priority. As part of our commitment to the health and safety of our employees, immediate action was taken to secure and safeguard the Brampton facility against potential accidents in the future following the 2007 incident. The company has been working with [regulators] on the investigation and has agreed to pay a fine associated with the incident.”
Hamilton, Ontario-based ArcelorMittal Tubular Products entered a guilty plea for violation of the provincial Occupational Health and Safety Act.
The court found that the employer violated section 45(b) of the act’s material handling regulation in failing to ensure material that is stored “will not tip, collapse or fall and can be removed or withdrawn without endangering the safety of any worker.”
The occupational health and safety branch of the Ontario Ministry of Labour investigated the incident, and the court imposed the fine on 14 April.
Luxembourg-based parent firm ArcelorMittal is a publicly traded steel manufacturer. ArcelorMittal’s 2008 crude steel production of 103.3 million tonnes represented about 10% of the global total.
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|Jungheinrich puts used forklifts under hammer|
Milton Keynes, United Kingdom
Jungheinrich UK Ltd and online auction specialist Wignall Brownlow are putting 250 used forklifts under the virtual hammer.
Forklift users and dealers can bid for Jungheinrich vehicles ranging from reach trucks and diesel, gas and electric counterbalanced forklifts, to powered pallet trucks via an online auction that closes at 4pm on 9 July.
Some of the vehicles are fully refurbished models that have been rebuilt at Jungheinrich Group’s forklift refurbishment centre in Dresden, Germany.
Konecranes to be majority shareholder in SANMA
Konecranes has signed an agreement to acquire the majority shareholding in Chinese hoist and crane manufacturer Jiangsu Three Horses Crane Manufacture Co Ltd (SANMA).
If the acquisition is approved by Chinese authorities, Konecranes will own 65% of SANMA while the remainder of the shares will be held by the current owners who manage the company.
SANMA is based in Jingjiang, northwest of Shanghai. The company’s 2008 net sales was approximately EUR18 million (USD24.5 million). It employs over 500 people.
Meanwhile, Konecranes’ executive management has increased their ownership in the company as part of an executive incentive program approved by the group’s board of directors.
Sky-Trax adds ASTI as reseller
New Castle, DE, United States
Location tracking innovator Sky-Trax Inc added a Burgos, Spain company as a member of Sky-Trax’s value-added reseller premier partner program.
Automatismos y Sistemas de Transporte Interno SA (ASTI) designs and manufactures automatic transport and handling systems and, now, for Sky-Trax, will extend warehousing solutions to customers in Spain.
New Castle-based Sky-Trax invented and supplies optical real-time location systems for precisely tracking goods and vehicles and guiding autonomous vehicles.
|New Products |
|Logitrans meets demand for manoeuvrable stacker|
Letchworth Garden City, United Kingdom
Logitrans has met demand for a light and manoeuvrable, fully-powered stacker with the introduction of the Logiflex Mini AC.
“Huge demand from companies to increase performance and efficiency make heavy demands on materials handling equipment,” says Anthony Dollimore, Logitrans’ managing director.
“We meet this tendency with our new product.”
The Logiflex Mini AC has an overall height of 1,320mm (4.3ft) ensuring optimum sight for the user. Its compact design makes it easy to manoeuvre in tight spaces. It lifts up to 1,650mm (5.4ft) and is available with straddle legs. The user can set features like driving speed, acceleration and deceleration to suit specific applications.
Hyster introduces new series for warehouse applications
Fleet, United Kingdom
Hyster Europe has added the P1.8-2.2 pedestrian-powered pallet trucks to its warehouse range.
Targeting demanding operations, the pallet trucks feature some of Hyster’s latest developments in technology and design.
Robert O’Donoghue, general manager for Hyster warehouse products, says the forklifts will save companies money through enhanced performance, energy efficiency, longer service intervals and reliability.
He says the trucks’ MOSFET controls ensure low energy consumption and increased battery shift life, while the polyurethane load wheels provide maximum traction in loading bays and uneven surfaces in production areas with a maximum travel speed of 6km/h (3.7 mph).
The new series offers a “significantly low cost of ownership because of its durable design and maintenance-free AC motor”. Uptime is maximised by its low maintenance requirements and extended service intervals of 12 months or 1,000 hours, according to the company.
JLG launches 10,000lb telehandler
McConnellsburg, PA, United States
JLG Industries Inc has introduced the JLG G10-43A telehandler for commercial and residential applications.
The telehandler has standard outriggers, a maximum capacity of 10,000lbs (4,536kgs) and a capacity of 7,000lbs (3,175kgs) at a maximum reach height of 43 feet. (13 metres)
JLG spokesperson Brian Boeckman says operators will enjoy the same cabin comforts that are in existing G-series telehandlers. In addition to a spacious cab, the new models feature pilot-operated joystick controls, a wrap-around dashboard and easy-to-read gauges. JLG boasts that the telehandlers have impressive boom speeds and a tighter turning radius than larger 10,000lb (4,536kg) capacity machines.
The JLG-branded telehandlers now consist of nine construction and three compact telehandler models.
|Jungheinrich donates pink electric pallet jack |
Richmond, VA, United States
|Jungheinrich Lift Truck Corp has donated an electric pallet jack with a 3,000-pound (1,350-kg) capacity to the Richmond affiliate of the Susan G Komen for the Cure breast cancer movement.|
Jungheinrich arranged for painting of the pallet jack in the Komen organisation’s hue and delivered the unit to the affiliate’s headquarters on 6 May in advance of a major fundraising race on 9 May. The pallet jack was used to unload and transport equipment for the affiliate’s 12th annual race in Richmond.
Jungheinrich orchestrated volunteer support from Richmond vendors Autopaint Supply Co, provider of the customised paint, and CFE Equipment Corp, which applied the paint to the pallet jack.
“We wanted to give something back to the community,” says David Sarawesky, Jungheinrich planning manager. “We looked at a number of local organisations and found that this cause is very close to the heart of many of our employees.”
More than 3,600 people registered for several events including 5 Km and 1 Km distances and other races for children and individuals in wheelchairs.
Ruthann Priest, a director of the Komen-Richmond affiliate and race co-chair, notes, “We have so much equipment to move before the race, and many boxes on race day―all of which would normally be handled manually. . . . All of our helpers are volunteers, so they really appreciate having some ‘electric’ help.”
The Komen organisation was founded in 1982, and the Richmond affiliate was established in 1999.
Richmond-based Jungheinrich Lift Truck, a subsidiary of Jungheinrich AG, has more than 120 service support centres and store operations for forklift trucks in the US.
|Matex fizzles out |
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
|Show organiser Exhibitions and Trade Fairs (ETF) has decided not to stage Matex this year due to the current economic climate.|
“It’s been very challenging,” says event manager Paul Mathers, adding that many of the larger logistics and supply chain companies are “doing it tough” this year and have not had the funding to take part in the exhibition.
He tells Forkliftaction.com News that Matex may “possibly” run again in 2010.
Last year, Matex attracted some criticism, with both visitor and exhibitor numbers down from previous years. At the time, ETF, which had only recently taken it over, expressed its determination to turn it around in 2009, promising a significant marketing campaign and an expansion of the show itself (Forkliftaction.com News #357).
Touted on ETF’s website as “the total package for visitors, where they can be part of an event which is designed to tie in all aspects of … warehousing, materials handling and logistics”, the event was originally scheduled to run from 23-25 July at the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre.
For some show organisers though, the tough economic climate has seen clients returning to the trade show arena.
Maria Kinsella of Australian Exhibitions and Conferences, who ran Safety in Action and Melbourne Materials Handling last month, and is hosting the Queensland Safety Show in June, is confident the trade show still offers a great return on investment.
“Existing clients who are cutting back on their marketing still need to go out and find new business, and trade shows offer a great way to get new leads,” she tells Forkliftaction.com News, adding that the company has not had to cancel any of its shows this year.
“While we have seen a 10-15% decline in exhibitor numbers for some shows, our visitor numbers remain strong,” she says, attributing this to their understanding of the market and ability to communicate to potential visitors.
|DP extends commitment to Adelaide port |
Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
|South Australian port authority Flinders Ports and global ports operator DP World have announced a new partnership agreement, including a 30-year concession for DP World’s operations in Adelaide.|
The two companies have entered a joint-venture partnership in DP World Adelaide, South Australia’s main container terminal, with DP World holding 60% and Flinders Ports 40%.
DP World has operated the terminal at Adelaide since 2005. DP World Adelaide employs 180 people, the majority drawn from the local community.
Anil Wats, DP World CEO, says the continuity is important to allow the company to expand the port’s capacity to meet the future needs of customers.
“We have already invested heavily in the terminal and this allows us to invest further in DP World Adelaide. This will be positive for the local community, creating more jobs and supporting the growth of the South Australian economy.”
|WorkSafe warns on safety spending |
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
|WorkSafe Victoria is urging business owners to be wary of people offering safety services or selling advertising in publications that might not exist. |
Executive director John Merritt says a number of complaints are received each year about people selling advertising or other services. They sometimes indicate they are somehow associated with WorkSafe.
A Warrandyte builder was approached recently by someone selling advertising in a ‘workplace safety manual’.
“Practices like these have the potential to undermine legitimate occupational health and safety magazines which are important to WorkSafe in getting our safety messages out to the community,” says Merritt.
|Glimmers of hope amidst grim signals |
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
|Australian business executives are seeing small signs of economic recovery, despite employment and capital investment expectations remaining on a downward trend.|
According to the latest survey by Dun and Bradstreet, 28% of companies expect to cut back on staff, with 14% anticipating a need to decrease capital investment.
However, sales and profits expectations have improved, with selling price expectations rising by 30% in the nine months from the June 2008 quarter to hit their highest level ever recorded for the March 2009 quarter. Expectations have now dropped back by 17% for the September quarter.
Dun & Bradstreet CEO Christine Christian believes that the recent data indicate that while executives believe measures such as the government stimulus packages will have a positive impact, the short-term outlook is still negative in key areas such as employment.
"The declining outlook in employment growth continues to be a concern. The fact that the employment indicator has dropped to its lowest level recorded by the survey is a clear sign that this fear is shared by Australian executives," says Christian.
"Sales and profit expectations have improved but are still in negative territory. This indicates that expectations in these areas may have turned the corner. Ultimately, we need to see consistent improvement in key areas like sales and profit expectations before it is evident that executives are feeling positive about Australia's business prospects."
Changing credit market conditions and the Australian dollar continue to impact on firms, with almost six in 10 (57%) businesses negatively impacted by the credit market.
With a rise in the Australian dollar in April, 60% of firms report a negative impact of movements in the dollar, down from 67% in March. Wholesale businesses still report the greatest impact from currency fluctuations, with 71% now indicating a negative impact, down from 81% in March.
Downward movements in petrol prices have shown through with a decline since the September 2008 quarter of 91% in the number of executives negatively affected by fuel costs.
|More training, better results |
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
|More companies are turning to refresher training for their forklift operators, not only to improve safety but also to boost productivity and reduce the cost of collisions.|
Crown Commercial Training, a division of forklift supplier Crown Equipment, is experiencing a surge in enquiries for refresher training.
Sales and operations manager Ken Nolan believes that the tight economic conditions are forcing companies to look at various strategies for containing ongoing operational costs.
“It’s a simple fact that within every materials handing operation exists a variance in operator skills and performance.
“By running a forklift driver refresher training course, those operators who are currently underperforming in terms of extracting the most from their truck, or who account for higher incidences of collision, can be identified and brought up to speed,” says Nolan.
He adds that many customers are opting to run refresher training as a six- or 12-month cycle in order to maintain a strong focus on operator skills and safety and deliver a better bottom line to their organisation.
|Employer’s liability for hired equipment|
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
|By Alana Stevenson|
A Victorian Supreme Court decision on s138 recovery proceedings, launched by the Victorian WorkCover Authority (VWA), has highlighted the paramount importance of an employer’s duty of care for its workers, irrespective of incidents caused by using defective hire equipment owned by third parties.
The worker, John Wilson, sustained an injury to his right knee on April 3, 2001, during his employment with Sleepmaster Pty Ltd (which was indemnified by the VWA). He was dismounting backwards from a forklift, when his right foot slipped on the surface of the forklift’s floor pan. The worker fell from the forklift and landed on the ground on his right foot, which he stated caused his right knee to “pop”.
The worker’s injury had a complicated recovery and, due to ongoing symptoms (which were accepted as caused by the incident), he underwent an above-knee amputation of his right leg in May 2003.
The defendant in the VWA recovery proceedings, Prolift Fleet Management Pty Ltd, was the owner of the forklift that had been hired by Sleepmaster. The VWA claimed recovery from Prolift alleging the forklift had two defects that contributed to the incident and the worker’s injury. It was alleged there was no grab handle attached to the left side of the forklift. The VWA produced evidence that both defects could have been fixed inexpensively by Prolift before hiring its forklift to Sleepmaster.
Prolift’s experts alleged surface tests on the slipperiness of the forklift’s floor pan demonstrated it was “relatively safe” and the experts argued there was no evidence the absence of a grab handle played a causative role in the incident.
Justice Kaye was satisfied on the evidence that, on the balance of probabilities, a relevant causal nexus in negligence and breach of statutory regulation existed between Prolift and the worker’s accident. Justice Kaye found the floor pan was defective as a non-slip mat had only covered part of the floor pan and Prolift should have had a substantial part of the surface covered with a proper abrasive material to render it safe.
Further, Justice Kaye said the absence of the grab handle further exacerbated the dangerous state of the forklift, as a proper grip handle would have given the worker a better grip on dismount.
Regardless of the findings against Prolift, Justice Kaye apportioned the bulk of responsibility for the worker’s injury to the VWA. Justice Kaye said the employer was 70% responsible in proportion of liability, having regard to Section 24(2) of the Wrongs Act 1958. He said the employer owed a non-delegable duty of care and that duty included a requirement to provide safe plant and equipment for the worker. Justice Kaye noted the employer controlled the worker’s environment, the work performed, the type of plant used and the condition of the plant. The employer was under no obligation to accept the forklift in a defective state from Prolift and had not required Prolift to fix the defects under its hiring agreement.
The quantum of the worker’s claim was assessed at $2,952,352.10. Prolift was held 30% liable and ordered to pay $885,705.63 to the VWA for past and future indemnity.
The findings highlight that an employer cannot completely rely on an indemnity clause in its hire agreement to protect it from liability if using hire equipment causes injury to an employee. The employer’s duty of care to ensure the safety of the worker in the workplace remains paramount. Use of external equipment owned by third parties does not lessen the duty of care obligations owed by the employer.
To reduce an employer’s risk to workers when using hire equipment, the employer must ensure it undertakes a thorough inspection of equipment and requests defects be rectified by the hire company before agreeing to hire the equipment. It must also act immediately if a defect is identified after hire. The forklift in this case had obvious defects, but the employer still allowed its worker to use it without requiring the hire company to rectify the defects, which is why the VWA was deemed 70% responsible for the worker’s injury. However, in circumstances where a defect in hire equipment is not obvious to an employer, the employer may not be deemed to have such a high level of responsibility in future court proceedings."
This article was reproduced with permission from Deacons, the copyright owner, and the author is lawyer Alana Stevenson.
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