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|There are a couple of interesting trends reported this week – and they are actually both part of the same trend. The first is a report on dwindling brand loyalty in Europe, where buyers are now more conscious of price than ever before. It seems they’re motivated by the impact on their hip pocket rather than by prestige or reputation. Meanwhile, another report shows the dramatic rise of the Chinese forklift market, with its manufacturers growing faster than anywhere else. And there’s no doubt the proliferation of cheaper Chinese products has made buyers rethink their options. Of course, at the end of the day, the Chinese imports will have to prove their quality and reliability. There’s not much point in an attractive sticker price if the product doesn’t do its job in the long term. |
|Forklift brands are losing their appeal|
|By Christine Cranney|
Forklift customers in Europe are increasingly choosing a forklift based on how much money they can save and abandoning brand loyalty, as Forkliftaction.com News discovered in a mini-survey of forklift dealers and distributors this week.
René Eenhoorn from Nissan Forklift Europe BV says the decision to choose a replacement fleet is “not necessarily made on brand loyalty, supplier loyalty or even the history of support” a customer has received, but on the money a customer has to fork out each week to have a forklift.
“This has been more apparent [in the UK] during the recession than at any time in the past 10 years. Unfortunately, the industry is governed by the price the end-user demands - thus the actual brand almost becomes irrelevant.”
Eenhoorn thinks that a forklift’s image may be losing its pull in price wars but its appeal is not the same to all customers.
He explains that larger corporations usually make their decisions based on the tendering process and a forklift’s good reputation can be advantageous. A brand’s reputation also has relevance in cases where existing fleets are being replaced while, for short-term rentals, companies increasingly choose a forklift because of its price.
Robert Dolk, the CEO of Swedish forklift dealer, Trucksäljar'n MH AB, says the situation is similar all over Europe. “The larger companies tend to close deals with two or three large suppliers, which can supply worldwide. The smaller companies choose forklifts from those that give the best deals, service and price.”
Dolk says because forklifts are becoming more similar in performance and ergonomics, smaller companies tend to “act more like a consumer of a refrigerator than a buyer of a sports car”.
“Today, it’s pretty easy to offer the customer the same product but ‘in a different colour’. I think you have to build a good organisation in local service and support and less in brand to keep the customer. Good relations to suppliers and customers are more important than what brand you are selling,” Dolk adds.
A sales manager at a Belgian forklift distributor says he sees this happening in Belgium and the Netherlands. “People do not care any more about the brand they get. Companies you have had a relationship with for years are now shopping everywhere …for the cheapest they can get.”
He also believes that customers are now short-sighted, prioritising price over service and total cost of ownership.
“They do not calculate the losses they could have by fall-outs and extra invoices not included in contracts …Customers also want longer payment terms and even after that, it is hard to get the money from them.”
However, he believes that dealers should stay loyal to their brands as after-sales service is essential. “If we start to deal with all different brands, it will take longer to repair forklifts and we incur extra labour and transport costs.”
Johan Bogaerts, managing director of Belgium-based Havelange Forklifts, agrees that “brand loyalty is not so hot these days”.
However, he says brand loyalty is still important to forklift manufacturers and distributors. “Brand loyalty makes the decision to purchase habitual. In order to create brand loyalty, we, the forklift companies, must reinforce those habits by reminding customers of the value of their purchase and encourage them to continue purchasing the same brand in the future.”
It looks like the industry has its work cut out for it. What do you think? Discuss this at Forkliftaction.com’s Discussion Forums.
|Software poses hard questions |
|By Roger Renstrom|
There are growing concerns in North America about the rise of proprietary software for forklifts which make life more difficult for repairers and potentially prevent some from servicing brands to which they are not affiliated.
In good economic times, an industry participant could afford not to be concerned about this situation, but the downturn has applied pressure to those firms and others employing knowledge-based in-house repair talent. The softer economy may slow the need for shop services, and an employer faces the prospect of losing talented technicians through idleness, layoffs or a competitor’s offer.
Often, an operator of a large fleet of forklifts builds a staff to handle maintenance. Those large customers want to have the capability to troubleshoot their forklifts without the need for proprietary diagnostic software, handsets or passwords, but OEM limitations may restrict that access.
Dealers can find themselves in the middle on this issue, and end-users may feel alienated or get angry about the limitations. Some suggest the practice may violate antitrust provisions of the Sherman Act of 1890 limiting monopolies in the US. So far, no-one is known to have filed litigation on this matter, but the possibility is suggested.
Two forklift truck dealers and service organisations in Utah are among those with openly rising levels of concern.
From an open market perspective, “I feel very strongly about this issue of keeping software or passwords proprietary,” says Mark Williams, president of Intermountain Lift Truck Inc (ILT) in West Valley, City, Utah. Intermountain represents the manufacturers of Heli, Hyundai, JLG, Komatsu and Donkey materials handling equipment.
Williams adds: “I understand the hesitation of the manufacturers and some dealers to release this information because, truth be known, it breaks up their monopoly . . . and who would willingly give up a monopoly.”
Some OEMs are “changing codes so a customer or anyone else is locked out,” says Tom King, president of TEK Equipment Co, also in West Valley City. Primarily, TEK Equipment serves customers in the northern Utah communities of Salt Lake City, Ogden and Provo.
“Being independent, it is very difficult” for TEK to serve its customers under proprietary limitations, and “it can put me out of business eventually”, King notes. “A customer has to call an original manufacturer because he cannot get into the system.”
Heli Americas, one of two distributors for Anhui Heli Co Ltd equipment in the US, has a different perspective.
“Heli Americas does not utilise any proprietary diagnostic software for its spark-ignited engines,” says Bruce Pelynio. “We believe that the availability of diagnostic software to the end-user enhances the ease of maintenance of the Heli product.” Pelynio is president and chief executive officer of Dobbs Imports LLC of Memphis, Tennessee, trading as distributor Heli Americas in 31 states.
“The availability of this type of software has become the exception in our industry as most OEMs have moved to proprietary software on their units,” Pelynio notes. “We believe that this is a significant detriment to the acceptance of their product, especially for the growing number of end users who have chosen to move their forklift repair service in-house whenever possible.”
ILT’s Williams wonders about the proprietary practice limiting a dealer’s earning potential, causing product liability issues and impeding individuals from establishing a separate business.
“Does anyone have the right to limit one’s earning potential?” Williams asks. “If we are all on a level playing field, then those who offer superior service at a fair price will not only succeed but will excel. . . . It is not right to restrict a free and open market.”
Regarding product liability, “I have worked on forklifts for over 30 years and, to the best of my knowledge, there is nothing that I can do with software or passwords that would permit the equipment to harm someone or damage itself,” Williams says. “You cannot make the lift do something it is not designed to do. Also, if product liability was a problem, why would manufacturers who use IMPCO fuel systems allow IMPCO to offer free software to anyone who wants to troubleshoot their fuel systems?”
Regarding entrepreneurship and pursuing the American dream, Williams notes: “We see technicians going on their own all the time. Sadly, most of them give it a try and, in a short time, realise just how hard it is to own your own company. They end up working for a dealer again . . . and, in the end, become a much better employee with an appreciation for what it takes to run a business.”
Williams says: “The biggest problem involves national accounts that ship all over the country and then learn they have no say in how to fix the equipment.”
Forkliftaction.com News has obtained comments from other unidentified forklift dealers across the US with observations about the existence of proprietary software or passwords. Here are some extracts:
• “We perform service on all makes and models of forklifts. Competitors’ brands represent about 45% of our service work. In order to properly serve our customers, we need to have access to the diagnostic software. This is a growing problem as the computer diagnostics is a fairly recent phenomenon. In order to perform these services, we are required to have our customers contact the dealers for trucks we do not distribute to obtain the software, work around the diagnostic software issue or have another dealer work on that portion of the system. The software should be available to all dealers. We believe it is a legal issue and that, at some point, the manufacturers will be compelled to open up the software.”
• “Proprietary software has become more prevalent in our industry for diagnostics of all types. It is certainly limiting the consumer’s choices regarding service, and it is my humble opinion that, yes, like in auto, the government will need to put some sort of regulation in place to prevent you or I as lift truck owners having to deal with local OE monopolies on service.”
• “If a technician who is not trained on how to use the links has them available and makes a mistake, the manufacturer is liable. There is a basis for the supplier position. The less proprietary information a dealer has with their brand, the greater access they wish. As a Yale dealer, we do not have Hyster access. There are ways around it but not simple ones. The compromise we offer is that much of the diagnostics can be obtained by using the dash displays to work to a fix, but it takes some time. Others are even more complicated.”
• “This is a real double-edged sword. Dealers that provide great service to the customer will continue to be leaders in their market. Average service organisations cannot continue to hide behind their proprietary service tooling to keep their charges high. From my chair, one of the largest liabilities of making the diagnostic software available on the open market is that the good dealers that have trained their technicians will see an exodus of techs trying to go out on their own thinking they can do better as an independent. Provisions for being trained and authorised to have the software could mitigate some of this issue. We must all realise that the North American lift truck market runs at about 1% of the unit volume that the North American car and light truck market does. This does not mean that the same business model and parameters apply to our industry.”
• “If you are an independent or have the opportunity to service a customer with a large fleet manufactured by a competitor, you see the issue as restricting your ability to do business, and it does. If you are a distributor or a manufacturer, it makes sense to limit your product liability by allowing only trained, authorised technicians to perform service on your equipment, and the proprietary programming will help you achieve these limits. Both are valid concerns and, yet, my concern is for the customer. Does proprietary programming serve the needs, both present and future, of the customer? It has become more important than ever to provide value for every dollar spent by our customers. The customer has chosen your new equipment to replace their old for a variety of reasons, and your product quality and sales force are to be commended! The issue becomes the limiting of the customer’s choice for service providers or their ability to maintain their own fleet. I think that the customers’ needs will have to drive the resolution of this issue for the industry. Hopefully, a compromise can be reached that will keep our distributors, manufacturers, independents and customers’ businesses healthy and profitable.”
ILT’s Williams concludes: “I would love to see the lift truck industry willingly offer the technology, but I don’t foresee that happening without the courts demanding it. Probably, if we can inform customers about these proprietary practices ─ if the consumers are educated ─ they may refuse to purchase equipment from manufacturers with proprietary software. If consumers drive the change, the practices may go away.”
A spokeswoman for Raymond Corp declined to comment on this subject, and inquiries to manufacturers of the Toyota, Yale, Hyster, Crown, Mitsubishi, Caterpillar, Nissan brands and others were not answered in a timely manner.
|Chinese forklift market keeps growing |
|China continues to lead the global forklift market and the gap with the US, the second-largest market, is expected to widen.|
From January to June 2010, domestic forklift sales crossed the 90,000-unit mark, up nearly 113% from 2009. Industry experts predict forklift sales will grow further in the full year.
Linde (China) CEO CP Quek tells China Daily that China is the only forklift market which grew last year, compared to the over 40% decline in the global forklift market. “It is a huge boost for the industry,” Quek says.
According to China Daily, forklift sales in 2009 increased 4% despite the global financial crisis, with about 90,000 units sold domestically, resulting in China surpassing the US as the world’s biggest forklift market.
"China has now contributed to at least a quarter of the world's forklift market and will still grow in the future," Quek says.
He thinks China will sell up to 180,000 forklifts for the whole year and the gap between Chinese and US forklift markets will widen further.
The Chinese government’s focus on infrastructure construction and stimulus policies is said to have boosted demand for forklifts.
Linde (China) has maintained its leading position in the foreign-branded forklift segment with sales almost doubling in the first year. China Daily reports that Anhui Heli Co Ltd, China’s largest domestic forklift producer, sold 270,000 forklifts in the first half of 2010, with year-on-year growth of 79.8%. The company has predicted a net profit growth of between 2,700 and 3,200% for the first six months.
|Peel partners with Briggs |
Cannock, United Kingdom
|Peel Ports is partnering with Briggs Equipment UK Ltd to maintain its plant and equipment at the Port of Liverpool.|
Briggs will maintain the port’s equipment, including its ship-to-shore container cranes, straddle cranes, quayside cranes, harbour mobile cranes and other mobile equipment. It will focus on maximising equipment uptime by targeting “greater than 98%” equipment availability, and through predictive/preventative maintenance programs.
Both parties envision enhancing the port’s engineering maintenance function to a world-class standard using skilled engineers, modern work methods and optimising tooling and diagnostics.
Port of Liverpool engineering manager Brad Crumbleholme says the port had undergone major changes recently, with engineering being one of them.
“A huge amount of time and effort has been put into getting us to this point and we can now look forward to implementing the planned improvements needed to take the Port of Liverpool operations to the next level,” Crumbleholme explains.
Peel Ports is one of the UK’s largest port operators owning Liverpool, Heysham, Clyde and Medway Ports as well as the Manchester Ship Canal and The Trafford Centre.
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|TecServ appointed master distributor|
Lombard, IL, United States
TecServ, a division of Karcher North America, has been appointed the regional master distributor for Big Joe forklifts for the Mid-Atlantic region of the US.
TecServ, which has over 35 years’ experience in supporting facility maintenance equipment, will provide sales and service support to dealers and end-users in Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey and Connecticut, and the metropolitan areas of Philadelphia and New York City.
It will also maintain a stocking location at its headquarters in Blackwood, New Jersey.
Cargotec helps Russian stevedore expand
Cargotec has been awarded a contract from Baltic Stevedoring Company (BSC) for six Kalmar E-One2 rubber-tyred gantry cranes and 10 Kalmar TR618i terminal tractors.
The order is expected to improve the terminal operator’s handling capacity at the Port of Baltiysk as container volumes in the Kaliningrad area continue to rise. BSC belongs to Russian port operator Novorossiysk Commercial Sea Port, which already operates Kalmar forklifts, reach stackers and terminal tractors at the Port of Novorossiysk.
The value of the order is not disclosed.
Department of Labor honours forklift plant
Greenville, NC, United States
The North Carolina Department of Labor has recognised NACCO Material Handling Group (NMHG)’s Greenville plant with two safety awards.
The plant, which produces Yale and Hyster forklifts, received for the sixth consecutive year, the Gold Safety and the Million Hour awards.
As a Gold Safety Award recipient, NMHG’s Greenville plant had no fatalities during the calendar year and also maintained an incidence rate of 70% below the industry average. The Million Hour Award recognises the site for accumulating 1 million employee hours with no leave taken for injury or illness.
|Equipment orders |
|Impress updates factory’s fleet|
Milton Keynes, United Kingdom
Impress Group, a global metal packaging solutions provider, has upgraded its forklift fleet at its Merthyr Tydfil aerosol factory with a fleet of 15 counterbalance trucks and one pedestrian stacker from Jungheinrich.
The counterbalance trucks are a mix of LPG and electric models. The LPG trucks are from Jungheinrich’s TFG range featuring hydrostatic drive. The three-wheel electric models use fourth-generation AC technology.
Impress recently invested in a new production line at the Merthyr Tydfil site and the new forklift fleet was a part of the upgrade.
The forklifts replaced a mixed fleet that had reached the end of its contract. Both parties declined to disclose the value of the order.
SAB turns to Doosan
Johannesburg, South Africa
South African Breweries (SAB) and its soft drinks division, Amalgamated Beverage Industries (ABI), have received a delivery of 150 Doosan forklifts from MPM Forklifts, a Goscor Lift Truck Company (GLTC) partner.
MPM Forklifts spokesman Shaun Morton says the company is pleased to receive the order from a “prestigious company” like SAB.
Most of the forklifts sold to SAB and ABI are the Doosan Pro 5 series forklifts, which GLTC managing director Darryl Shafto claims have been a success.
“Uptime is the holy grail in this industry and these vehicles, with their enhanced technology, operator comfort refinements, performance efficiencies and serviceability advances undoubtedly help in this quest,” Shafto says.
The value of the order is not disclosed.
|Product News |
|Eco modes on Linde trucks|
Linde Material Handling has made “eco modes” available for its internal combustion engine forklifts with 2-5 ton load capacities.
Forklifts are driven at full power by default, but if they are set to “eco light mode”, forward acceleration is reduced by 3% and reverse travel by 10%. The maximum speed also drops to 21km/h and the nominal speed of the motor comes down to 2500rpm. This is suitable for applications where cycle times or confined spaces dictate that full power is not permissible.
The “eco mode” has been tested on the Linde E12-E20 electric counterbalance forklifts with 1.2-2 ton capacities. Now Linde’s H20-H50 diesel and LPG forklifts are fitted with the modes, which are expected to cut energy consumption and improve operational safety.
Yale advances Veracitor VX series
Greenville, NC, United States
Yale Material Handling Corp has improved its Veracitor VX forklift series with a choice of engine options that it claims will deliver maximum performance with low fuel consumption, minimal noise and reduced costs. The forklifts are available with multiple powertrain configuration options that Yale says boost efficiency and enhance reliability. All transmissions feature “smooth electronic inching that saves money in maintenance costs by eliminating periodic adjustments”.
|Movers & Shakers |
|Lexington, KY, United States|
Clark Material Handling Company has appointed Scott Johnson as vice president of business development. Johnson will direct all dealer services, dealer development and government sales activities and develop and co-ordinate new business opportunities in North America. He has worked for Clark since 1995 and formerly served as the company’s eastern regional sales manager for aftermarket sales. He is an active member of the Industrial Truck Association’s statistics committee and also represents the company in the Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association.
Jonesboro, AR, United States
Hytrol Conveyor Co Inc has appointed Mitch Johnson as director of systems development. Johnson will work with Hytrol’s business development group on expanding its presence in the materials handling industry. His new responsibilities include new market development and penetration, “point of sale” support for Hytrol integration partners and driving end-user value. He has 27 years of engineering and sales experience in the conveyor industry where he was most recently a regional sales manager for Intelligrated.
|Costa Logistics expands distribution centre |
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
|Third-party logistics provider Costa Logistics has begun a $5million expansion of its Eastern Creek distribution centre.|
Once completed, the extension will add 4,500 sqm to the 14,000 sqm facility which will help cater for the company’s expanding national business.
The facility currently uses 16 Crown forklifts and 50 Crown pallet trucks. An additional three forklifts will be required following the extension.
Recently, the company expanded its facility at Derrimut in Melbourne, taking total distribution centre space to 17,000 sqm. In March, it leased a vacant distribution centre in Brisbane which provides it with 3,500 sqm of chilled and temperature-controlled warehousing space.
Chief operating officer Geoff Norman says the past six months has been an important growth phase for the company.
The expansions are expected to create nearly 30 jobs among the three areas once fully operational.
Specialists in the development and management of supply chain solutions for temperature-controlled and ambient products, the company has major distribution centres in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth and Devonport utilised by leading manufacturers and retailers.
|DHL secures logistics contract for major project |
Wonthaggi, Victoria, Australia
|Logistics specialist DHL Global Forwarding has been named as logistics partner for the construction of Australia’s largest seawater desalination plant.|
The company will deliver around 60,000 tonnes of material and equipment to be used in the construction of the $3.5 billion Victoria Desalination Project, which will be built near the town of Wonthaggi.
“DHL will be involved in the entire logistical process: from contacting suppliers, making bookings for transport, picking up goods, transporting goods to Melbourne, arranging customs clearance and delivering goods to site at Wonthaggi, 90 minutes south-east of Melbourne,” says Tony Boll, CEO – South Pacific, DHL Global Forwarding.
When finished, the plant will have the capacity to provide up to a third of Melbourne’s annual water needs. It is on schedule for completion by the end of December 2011.
|$300 million intermodal freight hub planned |
Moorebank, New South Wales, Australia
|Moorebank in south western Sydney has been proposed as the site for the $300 million intermodal terminal facility being planned to handle container traffic from interstate rail freight and Port Botany.|
Funding of $70.7 million was allocated in the 2010-11 Budget to complete the detailed planning and approval of the project and the relocation of the School of Military Engineering and other Defence units to Holsworthy.
The Moorebank Intermodal Terminal will address the shortage of intermodal terminal capacity in Sydney and complement other government investments in rail connections on the main interstate rail line between Melbourne-Sydney-Brisbane as well as to Port Botany.
It is expected that detailed design and approval of the project will be completed by mid-2012 and, subject to planning outcomes, the staged development of the project is proposed to start in 2013.
|Update on forklift licensing in Victoria |
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
|From 1 July 2010, WorkSafe Victoria will predominantly authorise registered training organisations (RTOs) as licence assessors to carry out assessments of competency for high-risk work (HRW). |
In exceptional circumstances, such as those licence assessors located in remote areas, an authorisation may be provided to an individual for a specified period of time.
The effect of this change is that after 30 June 2010, individuals will only be able to conduct assessments of the competencies required for a Licence to Perform High Risk Work where they do so on behalf of a licence assessor (RTO), (unless they are granted an authorisation in the abovementioned exceptional circumstances).
In order to deliver HRW training and assessments, authorised licence assessors must first meet a number of requirements of WorkSafe Victoria.
The licence assessor must also maintain a current and up-to-date assessor register of the names of all individuals who will be conducting HRW assessments on behalf of the licence assessor and the class or classes for which they assess.
Licence assessors are also required to notify WorkSafe when a new individual who will be conducting HRW assessments on behalf of the licence assessor is appointed and the class or classes of HRW. Also, if an individual who has conducted HRW assessments on behalf of the licence assessor leaves the employment of the licence assessor, WorkSafe Victoria must be notified.
From 1 July 2010 all high-risk work assessment records conducted by licence assessors must be retained and be kept in a secure location by the licence assessor.
Licence assessors must apply to WorkSafe Victoria to be issued a "Notice of Assessment For A Licence To Perform High Risk Work" book to be used from 1 July 2010.
As there has not yet been final approval for the introduction of the new national assessment instruments for high-risk work, licence assessors are advised that the current process for conducting assessments using the existing assessment instruments will continue until such time as the new instruments are approved and released.
|New stevedoring service |
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
|A new stevedore operator, Australian National Stevedore (ANS), has been introduced at the Australian Amalgamated Terminals (AAT) on Brisbane’s Fisherman Islands.|
The move comes after ANS won a contract to handle cargo for Carpenter Shipping, operating out of Brisbane, Melbourne, and then into Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Rim.
ANS specialises in containers, dry bulk and break bulk cargo, and has employed over 30 general stevedores, crane and forklift drivers and administrative staff at its Brisbane operations.
ANS managing director Bruce Craib says expanding the business to
Brisbane was an excellent opportunity to tap into a dynamic port.
“ANS seeks to provide an alternative, flexible and efficient stevedoring
option for shipping lines calling in Brisbane.”
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