Innovations shine at IMHX

News Story
- 22 Mar 2007 ( #302 ) - BIRMINGHAM, United Kingdom
6 min read
By UK correspondent Bill Redmond

Europe's premier materials handling event, IMHX, drew crowds and had much to show that was new and innovative among 300 exhibitors.

IMHX, on March 13 to March 16 this year, is held triennially at Britain's National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham.

More than 40 forklift companies and ancillary equipment suppliers of attachments and data capture devices exhibited, some of which launched new products. Yet there was a sombre note sounded over the future of even some leading forklift players, despite the encouraging outlook for forklift demand worldwide, particularly in Eastern Europe, the Far East and Russia. As in the car industry, the problem is overcapacity, which only consolidation or bankruptcy can cure.

Rolf Mock, MD for the European, Middle East and African divisions of Nacco Materials Handling Group (Hyster and Yale), said: "There definitely will be ongoing consolidation and there will be brands that struggle to survive if they don't find a partner with whom to cooperate. It has a lot to do with economies of scale and is a question of your network and branding. I would not be surprised if there were a consolidation with Asian producers making an acquisition and we could see a Chinese producer taking over a European brand to enter the European market."

Richard Close, CEO of Briggs Equipment (UK), which bought Finning's forklift division last year (Forkliftaction.com News #277) echoed that sentiment. "There are too many manufacturing plants in Europe and possibly worldwide and someone has to either close them or consolidate by buying each other. But it would take some very brave decisions; decisions that should have been taken years ago." Close said if China and India were included in the equation as manufacturing companies, that would accelerate the process. "There is either going to be a level of consolidation or [several] major players may become niche players or lose their global scale."

Major forklift companies and their distributors now realise that supplying only their own forklift brands is not customer supportive. For example, Kalmar now supplies a complete package of trucks, including competitors' machines, and maintains them. It is a one-stop shop for Corus Packaging Plus, which includes a mix of Kalmar, Yale and Nissan forklifts.

Likewise, Caterpillar distributor Briggs Equipment will supply forklifts of any make where special needs forklifts are not covered by the wide Caterpillar range, or where legacy customers, acquired when Briggs bought Finning, which included independent dealer Lex Harvey, prefer to stick with non-Caterpillar forklifts. "I am not going to lose a customer because of Caterpillar," Close said. Briggs was eyeing expansion into Europe but that was likely to be two to three years off, he said.

Forklift rental was a trend that would continue to grow in Europe, Close said. Britain was probably the most wedded to rental, with some companies reporting rental deals accounting for 80 per cent of their output. "Contract hire and rental will get bigger," he said. "It is already strong in France and I think Spain will go that way next; but Germany will be a long time." Close expected a continuing trend towards warehouse trucks away from counterbalanced machines as western Europe moved from manufacturing to distribution.

IMHX highlights:

-A new 12-tonne capacity diesel forklift (DP120N) from Caterpillar was on show as part of a nine-truck range updated partly to reflect new European regulations.

-Combilift has produced a new 14-tonne capacity forklift, the largest in its range. Combilift also showcased its new stand-up electric C2500 model, mainly developed for the UK and European markets.

-The compact, new Hytsu AC FE15 S electric forklift, made by the Shanghai Hytsu Material Handling Corp, has two twin-coupled rear wheels to allow work in aisles only 2.34 metres wide. It will lift 1,500 kg to 3.3 metres.

-Jungheinrich has launched a Kombi forklift, the EKX 515, that harnesses RFID technology. Product manager Gunter Fritzche said buried passive transponders, 10 metres apart, let computer control know where a forklift was and could automatically command it without the driver needing to react to console instructions.

Launched last year in America, Jungheinrich's EFG D30 counterbalanced forklift with a rotating cab made its debut in Britain at IMHX.

-Linde has completed its range of 39X engine-powered hydrostatic counterbalanced forklifts by launching 1.4 tonne and 2.0 tonne capacity compact models. The range now has capacities up to five tonnes in diesel and LPG versions.

-Rough terrain forklift specialist Mecan Continental, of Aragon, Spain, wasnegotiating with more dealers and larger companies to sell its Mast Explorer machines, said Guillermo Baquero Busse, a company sales executive. There are three models, in 2.5, 3.0 and 3.3 tonne capacities, in two-wheel and four-wheel drive.

-Unlike many UK-based forklift companies now off shoring production facilities, Nexen Lift Trucks, of Lowestoft, wants produce them in the UK but is stymied by refusal of planning permission for a new design and production plant at Lowestoft. An appeal will be heard in April. Its new range of counterbalanced forklifts will continue to be made in the Far East, for now. The forklifts feature a new ergonomic floating cab and impact-absorbing solid tyres to reduce vibration transmitted to the driver.

-Translift Bendi has launched what it claims is the world's first, articulating manriser in response to customer concern about visual aids at high levels. Designed mainly for stock taking, the B420 twin-masted truck allows order picking at low levels up to three metres and the cab does not have to be on the same level as the forks.

-Avery Weigh-Tronix claims to be launching the UK's first forklift track-and-trace data collection system, developed in association with Erwin Sick. It combines a forklift scale with a barcode scanner to collect pallet information that can be used to monitor freight's progress through a hub.

-Forklift attachment specialist B&B has just launched an Oilquick automatic hydraulic hose coupling. It enables hydraulic attachments to be connected in 25 seconds with the operator remaining seated on the forklift. Made by Oilquick AB, of Sweden, it is sold exclusively in the UK by B&B Attachments.

-Cascade showed its new 30 H paper roll clamp designed to limit paper reel damage. The clamps have a thinner pad profile to eliminate damage while knifing between rolls in containers, trailers and rail cars. There are three models for handling 2,500kg, 3,000kg and 3,500kg reels. Cascade's other new attachment on show was the 20hGFDS multiple load fork with four forks. Without hosing and valves, there is a clearer sight line and the compact height improves "over the top" visibility for ground pick up.

-Davis Derby demonstrated TruckLog Access Control Plus+ and its TruckLog remote hour meter. The former combines smart card driver access control and shock sensing to aid site safety improvements and damage cost reduction. The remote hour meter interfaces with service providers' asset control and maintenance scheduling systems to enable more accurate customer billing and management of engineering visits.

-Industrial mobile PC producer DLog launched X10 and X12 compact Windows CE terminals for industrial applications, which have vibration/shock resilience.

-The 8515 is Psion's entry level, vehicle-mounted computer for warehouse, port and factory environments. Aimed at users who consider other vehicle-mounted terminals too big or too expensive, its design incorporates Bluetooth, audio, serial RS232 and two USB host and one USB device port. For heavy duty work, Psion has launched models 8580 and 8590 vehicle-mounted computers.
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