News story

RAYMOND PUSHES RELIABILITY FOR FORKLIFT OWNERS

Thursday, 13 May 2004 ( #157 ) - GREENE, NY, United States
Raymond Corp has an optimistic market outlook and aims to enhance its line while helping forklift owners maintain their costs through reliable performance.

The forklift market "is looking quite favourable" with Raymond's incoming orders a good indicator, said James Malvaso, Raymond president and chief executive officer, in an exclusive interview with Forkliftaction.com News. "Consumer confidence is up, and capital expenditures are up."

Raymond had a good financial performance in 2003 and is "off to a better start this year", he said. Raymond focuses on the market for indoor electric warehouse trucks.

Raymond is shipping demonstration Model 7400 Reach-Fork brand lift trucks to dealers now. Raymond last year conducted rigorous field tests of the trucks, which include AC technology and beneficial ergonomics, and introduced the 7400 in March.

Incoming orders for the company's 102XM walkie pallet truck have exceeded expectations and prompted a need to add production talent ahead of plan at Raymond's Muscatine, Iowa, plant.

Last October, Raymond launched the 102XM, which does 180-degree pinwheel turns inside a 96-inch-wide trailer.

The 7400 and 102XM are examples of output from design engineers, technicians and reliability testing at Raymond's research and development centre next to its Greene headquarters. Raymond invested about USD6 million in 2002 for the product development technical centre and a customer showroom.

Showing off another investment on May 4, the firm held an open house in Greene at its newly completed USD1.5 million Learning Centre, which replaced a remote training facility (Forkliftaction.com News #156).

Mr Malvaso envisions information management systems as the next frontier for forklift makers and related warehouse, conveyor and carousel industries. Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) "gives us a chance to see how far we can push into information systems", he said. Such systems could "help with the cost of material handling. Can we yield extreme benefits?".

Late last year Raymond began discussions that led to an RFID-development partnership with Tibbett & Britten Americas, IconNicholson and the Econorack Group of Companies. Disclosed in March, the partnership plans to conduct an assessment of RFID and design and build a RFID Living Lab at Tibbett & Britten Americas' Connect Logistics distribution warehouse in Edmonton, Canada.

So far, the long-range effort has identified macro RFID goals and is working to define expectations on a micro level, Mr Malvaso said.

In other news, Raymond is appealing the USD14 million verdict of a federal district court jury for improperly terminating dealer Minnesota Supply Company in 1997 (Forkliftaction.com News #113). "We still strongly believe it was an erroneous ruling, and we are in the middle of the appeal process," Mr Malvaso said.

Raymond employs 2,200 people and has a third plant in Brantford, Canada, and a parts centre in Syracuse, New York, in addition to the Greene and Muscatine operations. All four locations are registered under ISO 9001-2000. "We build in lot sizes of one" with a continuous-flow pull-type manufacturing process, Mr Malvaso said.

Toyota Industries Corp, of Kariya, Japan, owns Raymond through another holding, BT Industries AB, of Mjölby, Sweden. Raymond and BT concentrate on stand-up warehouse electrics, while Toyota's other forklift operations focus on counterbalanced utility applications. As manufacturers, Raymond, BT and Toyota maintain separate brands and distribute through different end markets.

In a mutually beneficial end-market crossover, Raymond in Muscatine makes an electric pallet truck that Toyota began marketing to its customers in North America in early 2004.
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