Feature story

MATERIALS HANDLING IN JAPAN

Thursday, 13 May 2004 ( #157 ) - TOKYO, Japan
Welcome to Forkliftaction.com News's coverage of the materials handling industry in Japan.

The land of the rising sun is a mystery to most, but its reputation for economic efficiency and success is no secret.

The Japan Industrial Vehicles Association (JIVA) is the peak body for the Japanese market. All forklift manufacturers are represented in its membership, and JIVA has been documenting and tracking the success of this important world centre since its inception in 1948.

Ken'ichiro Takase, senior manager with JIVA, told Forkliftaction.com News that the Japanese forklift industry was dominated by seven major brands: Komatsu, which also sells Linde machines in Japan; Mitsubishi, Nichiyu, Nissan; Sumitomo, TCM and Toyota, which is one of, if not the world's largest forklift producer.

Mr Takase would not reveal market share statistics or sales figures for the top brands. Three other companies, Kolec, OPK and Sugico, compete in the Japanese market, though only in motorised pedestrian forklifts.

JIVA, a non-profit organisation, is one of many industry bodies representing the interests of materials handling manufacturers and suppliers. Others include the Japan Society of Industrial Machinery Manufacturers, the Japan Pallet Association, the Japan Material Handling Association and the Japan Institute of Logistics Systems.

The associations will get together to showcase the Japanese industry by staging Logis-Tech Tokyo 2004 at the Tokyo International Exhibition Centre from September 14 to September 17 this year.

Organisers expect to attract 140,000 visitors to the show, where 330 companies will fill 1,500 booths. Almost 145,000 visitors, including more than 3,000 overseas visitors, attended the last show in October 2002.

TCM manufactured the first forklift in Japan back in 1949. It didn't take long for other manufacturers to follow suit, and Japanese Government figures, which predate JIVA's statistics, show 187 trucks were produced by the industry in 1951.

The Japanese industry produced 68,449 forklifts, across all classes, in 2003, up from 65,888 in 2002, but down on 2000's 69,212. Mr Takase said the Japanese economy suffered a massive haemorrhage in the early 1990s, which greatly affected productivity in many industries.

In 1990, before the collapse, Japanese forklift manufacturers sold 98,236 forklifts. The industry peaked the following year with a record 103,862, more than 50% more than the market produces today.

"Before bursting the economy bubble in the early 1990s, Japan had experienced a boom for the first time in Japanese history, and every sector of industry, manufacturing, financing and real estate had been very active," Mr Takase said. "Under that situation, domestic sales of forklift trucks reached that high level."

This year was shaping up as one of organic rather than exponential growth, Mr Takase said.

"We have started this year with a good result in first quarter. Unit sales increased about 10% over the same period of 2003. We expect this good condition to continue."

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