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Forklift leaders foresee steady path ahead

Monday, 2 Jan 2012 ( #546 ) - Australia
Local News Story
By Karen Harverson

Reflecting on successes in 2011, Australia’s top forklift suppliers tell News that steady growth lies ahead in 2012 for those able to adapt to the challenges.

John Flinn, MD of Hystandard Handling Equipment, says 2011 saw the company consolidate its acquisition of the Yale distribution in Victoria with its NSW business.

2011 saw Hystandard consolidate its acquisition of the Yale distribution in Victoria with its NSW business.
"We further secured several major contracts for the next five years, ensuring a bright future," he tells News.      

He believes that being part of an OEM group but also being privately owned gives the company both the horsepower to take on large projects and the flexibility to move swiftly to meet changing customer needs.

Looking ahead to 2012, Flinn identifies the challenge of pricing pressures and how it can affect the treatment of assets on long-term hires. "Companies can easily find themselves with overvalued and underutilised assets."

On the potential for growth, Flinn says, "I think it will be ‘steady as she goes’; people are spending what they need to spend at the moment without the excesses we have seen historically."

He adds that with the entry of a significant number of Chinese products into the market, the industry will see a more defined and tiered marketplace than in the past. "Low cost for low-use applications, higher cost for higher-use applications. The challenge is for businesses to have the diversity of product available to meet a wide variety of customer needs."

Independent forklift supplier Lencrow believes the overall future of the forklift industry is sound in Australia.

Lencrow won a number of big contracts in 2011.
The company won a number of big contracts in 2011, including the supply and installation of two 45 T units to waste management giant Veolia, along with a contract with the RAAF to supply 12 air-transportable rough-terrain forklifts to be installed in six bases across Australia.

Managing director Ross Grassick tells News that potential purchasers must ensure that they deal with companies with proven long-term track records of supply backup and after-sales service.

He adds that customers often overlook what the units purchased will be worth in five years’ time, "as overall in our used equipment market, equipment values are falling, and odd or unknown brands’ values will depreciate even more."

He says the oversupply of equipment in a smaller market is a challenge facing the industry. Another challenge is importers with no backup for equipment, selling (equipment) at lower prices.

Grassick says many companies also face a lack of skilled personnel for maintenance. "This will create both labour shortages and cause the cost of service labour to increase."

With the impact of the carbon and mining taxes still unknown to business, he believes people are being cautious about investment. "So in this environment, I feel that ‘steady as we go’ may be the mantra for 2012."

Linde’s quality equipment will set it apart from the competition in 2012.
Carl Smith, managing director of Linde Australia, says the company’s highlights in 2011 include its marketshare improvement and growth; the successful installation and commission of equipment at the new Metcash NSW site; the opening of its new Victoria branch; and the launch of the new 2.5 to 5.05 T electric counterbalance range.

Smith believes it will become more of a requirement for business to be able to view fleet utilisation, operator behaviour and equipment usage, trends and impacts. He says the continued recognition of Linde’s total fleet management program and its quality equipment will set it apart from the competition in 2012.

He predicts 2012 will be a year of growth. "However, the level of growth will be driven by the Asian market and the level of stability in Europe."

Market leader Toyota Material Handling Australia plans to strengthen its position in 2012 with the release of new forklift products.
Toyota executive vice president and chief operating officer, Steve Takacs.

Executive vice president and chief operating officer Steve Takacs says customers want more than just a forklift. "They are looking for a range of infrastructure options to help support their business such as quick servicing of products, occupational health and safety support, and risk management support."

He says the infrastructure of the 100% factory-owned branch network will continue to set the company apart from its competitors.

In 2011, the company won the WorkCover NSW SafeWork Award for "best solution to an identified workplace health and safety issue" and was a finalist at the SafeWork Australia awards.

"Other highlights included strong marketshare growth, and also the re-engineering of a range of our European and American forklifts to better suit the needs of our Australian customers which has resulted in sales success."

He says the industry’s greatest challenges are the growth of Chinese manufacturers in the materials handling market, global financial uncertainty and the possible impact on Australia’s economic growth, and exchange rate factors.

He adds that 2012 will see growth, "however, it will be slow and will primarily come from the top end of town such as major fleet customers as they go through replacement cycles of their existing materials handling equipment."

He tells News that there is an increased trend for customers to rent equipment rather than purchasing it outright. "This is attributed to global uncertainty at present resulting in lower levels of business confidence."

The power steer pallet truck from Task Forklifts has had a great response from the market.
Task Forklifts CEO Ben Rainsford says that the company will celebrate its 30th year in business in 2012, and will continue to focus on providing value and ongoing service.

"Australian-made and Australian-owned appears to have increasing impact, as well as our ability to provide customers with enhancements."

The company’s successes in 2011 include growth in the USA market, along with growth in hire fleet activity.

According to Rainsford, the challenges for this year will be customer confidence and customer access to funds and  "the balancing of quality versus costs on imported products".

He says customers are seeking greater value and the industry needs to be flexible to react.

Adaptalift Hyster MD Peter Whiffen tells News that 2011 saw the company re-establish the Hyster brand in the Australian market, along with continued success in the Big Truck market and the growth of the company’s ForkTrack product both nationally and globally.
Adaptalift carries the Hyster range.

He says challenges for the industry include customers who are continuing to purchase purely on price rather than service support and product specification.

He believes the materials handling industry is seeing a shift to battery electric products as awareness grows of carbon emissions and safety issues.

"There will be further growth in fleet management technologies and the battery electric market with companies endeavouring to reduce their carbon footprint.  It will be about managing the environmental impact with forklifts and associated materials handling equipment."
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