A year in review

Local News
- 4 Jan 2007 ( #292 )
11 min read
By Christine Liew

The big news for 2006

Hubertus Krossa, a member of the Kion Group management board
Hubertus Krossa, a member of the Kion Group management board
Early in 2006, Linde AG ended months of speculation by confirming it had made an all-cash bid for British gas group BOC Group plc. That launched a new round of speculation, with financial analysts and stakeholders trying to guess what Linde AG would do with its forklift business. Linde CEO Wolfgang Reitzle was later named manager of the year by two German print publications for "keeping the group's independence after the BOC acquisition" and "transforming Linde into an international market leader".

Before Linde's forklift business was sold to a consortium of financial investors, made up of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co (KKR) and Goldman Sachs Capital Partners, Komatsu Ltd announced it was buying back the 35 per cent shareholding from Linde in their joint-venture company, Komatsu Forklift Co Ltd. A Komatsu spokesperson attributed Linde's intention to buy BOC as the reason for the joint venture's severance. In September, Linde grouped its three forklift brands into a new holding company, the Kion Group. The word Kion originated from the language of a Kenyan ethnic tribe and was akin to taking leadership. The newly-formed Kion Group revealed it planned to surpass Toyota by 2011. In early November, Linde AG announced its forklift segment had been sold for EUR4 billion (USD5.082 billion). Dow Jones International News reported the KKR-Goldman winning bid was "slightly ahead" of other bidders, Permira-Allianz Capital, CVC Capital, and BC Partners and Apax Partners.

The English version of German logistics magazine dhf's ranking list for 2004/05 came out in February 2006 with a few surprise inclusions. Asian forklift manufacturers Anhui Heli (17), Hangzhou (19), Hyundai (20) and Tailift (22) were newcomers. Clark, whose US plant in Lexington, Kentucky, started manufacturing again in 2006, was also new at number 15 and rapidly growing Irish manufacturer Combilift debuted at number 25.

Combilift's new Monaghan headquarters and factory
Combilift's new Monaghan headquarters and factory
Forkliftaction.com News' European correspondent Luc de Smet was one of 80 journalists from Europe and North America invited to the official opening of Combilift's EUR10 million (USD12.5 million), 100,000 square foot (9,290 square metre) new headquarters and factory in June. The facility, in Monaghan, Ireland, can produce 2,000 units a year, as demand increases. Combilift management aimed to increase the workforce of 150 to 250 over three years and increase exports from EUR60 million (USD75.2 million) to EUR100 million (USD125.3 million) by 2010.

Roy Jia, editor of China's International Construction Machinery magazine, says 2006 was the eighth year of growth for the Chinese forklift industry. Newcomers to dhf's world ranking list, Anhui Heli and Hangzhou, were among the "100-plus forklift manufacturing enterprises" in the Chinese market, Jia said. According to manufacturers' statistics, 67,679 forklifts were produced in China in the first eight months of 2006, up 37 per cent from 2005's corresponding period. The growth rate was higher than for 2005.
(Read the January 18 issue of Forkliftaction.com News for a special report on China's forklift industry.)

Hyundai Heavy Industries Europe marketing manager Michel de Weert told Forkliftaction.com News, on his return from Manutention 2006 in March, that the Hyundai forklift brand was increasingly being recognised thanks to marketing efforts and the spin-off effect from the growing Hyundai Motor Company. He said the South Korean manufacturer, which launched its new Folex sub-branded forklift range in 2006, aimed to win a spot among the top five forklift companies, with Linde, Toyota, Still and Jungheinrich.

Doosan Infracore, formerly Daewoo Heavy Industries & Machinery, also aimed to be in the top five. Doosan Infracore Europe sales & marketing manager Daniel Vanhemelrijck told Forkliftaction.com News in April 2006 that the manufacturer had singled out the European market as part of its strategy to be in the world's top five highest selling forklift manufacturers by 2010. "Doosan is represented by about 40 dealers in each European market. It has branches in the UK, France, Italy and Germany," Vanhemelrijck said.

Another Asian forklift manufacturer has also targeted Europe as a key growth market. Komatsu Division Europe's head of commercial operations, Rory Harvey-Kelly, said the Japanese manufacturer's priority was to expand the reach of its European sales network and increase its authorised importers. Harvey-Kelly said Komatsu had made "great strides" in Eastern European countries, like Russia and Poland.

The new SMH headquarters
The new SMH headquarters
Turning to the forklift parts business, TVH Group's US division, Systems Material Handling Co (SMH), moved to new Kansas headquarters double the previous premises' size. The new building, in Olathe, is 275,000 square feet (25,248 square metres). In August, TVH announced it had acquired Grayslake, Illinois-based IMC Holdings Inc for an undisclosed price. IMC is active in the world market through its LPM, Intrupa and CMC subsidiaries and brands. IMC's 2005 consolidated turnover was about USD100 million. TVH has offices in the US, Canada and Mexico through the 2003 acquisition of SMH. With the IMC acquisition, TVH added subsidiaries in Brazil and Singapore to its global distribution network.

The year 2006 was one of brand removals. BT Prime-Mover removed the Prime-Mover brand from the market to meet increasing demand for other products. Ilidio Alves, Prime-Mover's general manager for sales & marketing, told MHEDA Connection the Muscatine, Iowa plant where Prime-Mover products were built would be used to meet rising demand for Toyota and Raymond products. The US subsidiary of the Jungheinrich Group, in Richmond, Virginia, announced it was phasing out the Multiton name and integrating the business into its core product lines. That marked the last strategic move of the 2005 merger between Jungheinrich Lift Truck Corp and Multiton MIC Corp. Jungheinrich product manager Ray Schmidt said ex-Multiton dealers could secure parts and service via Jungheinrich dealers. Some original Multiton products were rebranded with the Jungheinrich name and some products were discontinued.

Jian Chen
Jian Chen
Hamburg-headquartered Jungheinrich Group took a big step in 2006 by moving into overseas forklift production with the August 18 opening of its Qingpu plant, in China. Located near Shanghai Pudong International Airport, the plant will initially produce forklifts for the domestic market. Jungheinrich Lift Truck (Shanghai) Co Ltd managing director Jian Chen said the group would open three more branches in Shenyang, Fuzhou and Shenzhen in 2007 and, in 2008, another in Chongqing. Jungheinrich currently has six branches in China. Jungheinrich AG is also building a fourth plant in Germany. Besides the main plant in Nordestedt, Jungheinrich has plants in Moosburg und Lüneburg. Low-platform truck production from the Nordestedt plant will be transferred to the new plant.

French rough-terrain specialist Manitou BF opened a subsidiary in Australia in 2006. The Sydney office, Manitou's 17th subsidiary, is a commercial and technical training centre. Manitou executive vice president Bruno Fille told Forkliftaction.com News at the subsidiary's opening that the French manufacturer was developing its industrial equipment line. Taking a step in that direction, Manitou had acquired the Irisman Company, in Hangzhou, China, in September 2005 for USD2.95 million. Irisman's founder, Cooper Lin, contacted Forkliftaction.com News in March and, among other allegations, said he had been dismissed from his position as Irisman's managing director. Lin said he has since settled his dispute with Manitou. Both parties refused to comment.

Forklift attachment maker Bolzoni was listed on the Italian Stock Exchange in Milan on June 8. It was part of the Italian company's strategy to consolidate its leadership in Europe and expand market share. Before the close of 2006, Bolzoni acquired German forklift attachment maker Hans H Meyer GmbH. It had hinted at the acquisition when it said it was entering the forks market through a "possible" acquisition in an initial-public-offer prospectus.

Container handling forklift maker Fantuzzi expanded its plant in Zhangzhou, China, in 2006 to include a new workshop dedicated to side loader production. The plant produces container handling forklifts and reach stackers and started producing side loaders last year. The Italian manufacturer claims to be the first international manufacturer to make side loaders in China.

On the trade show front, Deutsche Messe AG announced that CeMAT would no longer be staged in the northern hemisphere autumn but in spring. The move was in response to feedback from exhibitors at CeMAT 2005. CeMAT 2008 will be from May 27 to May 31, 2008. The biennial US trade show, NA 2006, held in Cleveland, Ohio, saw about 500 materials handling and logistics providers exhibiting from March 27 to March 30, 2006. The show is organised by Material Handling Industry of America. Another biennial exhibition, Logis-Tech Tokyo, was staged from September 12 to September 15 at the Tokyo International Exhibition Centre. The largest materials handling show outside the US and Europe attracted more than 300 exhibitors, including Chinese forklift OEMs. About 130,000 visitors attended.

In mid-2006, KCI Konecranes raised its 2006 sales growth forecast from 25 per cent to 35 per cent after acquiring MMH Holdings Inc for USD64.6 million. MMH was consolidated into KCI Konecranes Group figures from June 1, 2006, but operationally it remained an independent entity within the group. A few months later, the Finnish group announced it had dropped KCI from its name, introduced a new logo and adopted "Lifting businesses" as its global tagline. Heavy forklift manufacturer SMV Konecranes' name was changed to Konecranes Lifttrucks AB but the brands Morris, Stahl Crane Systems, SWF, R&M, Verlinde, Meiden and P&H were retained.

Toyota 8-series forklift
Toyota 8-series forklift
After months of rumours, Toyota introduced its 8 Series forklift in 2006. Manufactured at the Takahama plant, in Aichi prefecture, the forklift was said to have "enhanced safety technology, better ergonomics, reduced life cycle cost and better quality", compared to its predecessor, the 7 Series.
Linde introduced the E12 to E20 electric counterbalance range in 2006. Linde claimed it was the first time an on-board battery charger had been installed in a European market forklift. The new range is based on Linde's 39X series and R14X to R17X reach trucks.

US-based telehandler maker JLG Industries Inc made news when it announced in October that Oshkosh Truck Corp, of Oshkosh, Wisconsin, wanted to buy the company for USD3 billion. The deal, which included assuming USD200 million of JLG's debt, was finalised in December. Oshkosh named its executive vice president and chief financial officer Charles L Szews as interim JLG president. JLG president William M Lasky and JLG executive vice president James H Woodward Jr left the company.

Towards the end of the year, several major players announced moves to exit the forklift market. Finning International Inc said it was selling its UK subsidiary's materials handling division business and assets to Briggs Equipment UK Ltd for GBP85 million (USD158.6 million). Finning, one of the world's largest Caterpillar equipment dealers, said it would focus its resources on other opportunities. Finning UK's materials handling division is the sole UK distributor of Caterpillar counterbalance and warehouse equipment.

South Africa's Barloworld Ltd sold its US materials handling equipment lease and loan portfolio to Hyster Capital for ZAR564 million (USD77.3 million) in September. Not long after, Barloworld sold its UK forklift lease book to GE Capital Solutions for GBP109 million (USD209.6 million). However, leasing assets related to the company's long-term contracts with the UK's Ministry of Defence were retained.

Movers & Shakers

Some high level moving and shaking occurred in 2006. After a 30-year career in the industry, Nacco Materials Handling Group Inc president and CEO Reginald R Eklund retired on June 30. Eklund, 65, started as a market analyst in Eaton Corp's materials handling group in 1966 before becoming Eaton's Yale Materials Handling Corp president and CEO in 1985. Nacco Industries acquired Yale Materials Handling Corp and Hyster Company in 1989.

Cletus von Pichler, Jungheinrich board of management chairman
Cletus von Pichler, Jungheinrich board of management chairman
Jungheinrich CEO Dr Cletus von Pichler left the company on October 31. A company-issued press release said Von Pichler, who was also board of management chairman, left Jungheinrich AG by "mutual consent" and no details were given. He became company CEO in January 2000 and was credited with strengthening the company's overseas sales activities significantly. Wolfgang Kiel, a member of Jungheinrich's supervisory board was appointed temporary board of management chairman.

A legend in the UK forklift industry died on March 26. Bill Phipps, who won the Fork Lift Truck Association's lifetime achievement award in February, began his career in 1946 with Coventry Climax. For 34 years, he worked with the manufacturer and eventually became home sales director. In 1980, Phipps started a consultancy business, which ran for 14 years. He advised Still in its UK business development.

The founder and CEO of Airtrax, Peter L Amico, died of natural causes on August 25. Amico, 62, dealt with multiple start-up business issues in launching the omni-directional technology on the ATX-3000 Sidewinder forklift product. Robert M Watson, former CEO of clothing manufacturer Hartz & Company, was appointed Airtrax CEO on November 1.

Briefs

A European directive that limits workers' exposure to equipment and work tool vibrations became law in European Union nations in 2006. Member states have a five-year transitional period to comply before the regulations become fully binding. The 2002/44/EC vibrations directive was drawn up in June 2002 in Luxembourg.

Sweden-based BT Group celebrated 60 years of producing warehouse trucks in April. The group pledged to "invest aggressively" and "intensify product development". BT, part of Toyota Industries Corp, has almost 9,000 employees, seven production sites in four countries and annual sales of SEK15 billion (USD1,968 million).

The UK's Fork Lift Truck Association (FLTA) highlighted the skills shortage in the industry when it collaborated with a UK college to promote forklift engineering as an attractive career for young people. FLTA CEO David Ellison said the ageing UK forklift engineering workforce was a serious problem. FLTA released a snazzy brochure and a dedicated website to promote forklift engineering apprenticeship courses.
A year of ups and downs
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