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Positive sentiment for 2016

Tuesday, 29 Dec 2015 ( #750 )
Local News Story
Industry members gathered at the inaugural CeMAT Australia at the Sydney Olympic Park this year.

Forklift demand in 2015 was down from the previous year and some of the old problems still plague the industry; but as a whole, the industry members are positive about the coming year. Christine Cranney reports on the year that was – and expectations for 2016.

According to data from the Australian Industrial Truck Association (AITA), 10,987 units were delivered by the end of November 2015, compared to 12,804 for the same period last year.

"There is no doubt that 2015 has been a tough year, with total demand for forklifts in Australia down by 20% on last year," says Jack Socratous, national product and marketing manager for Komatsu Forklift Australia (KFA). However, Socratous says his company has increased its marketshare despite a "very challenging" economic climate. "The quality and reliability of our products is well known and we have extended the same philosophy to our entire organisation, focusing on total customer satisfaction in all aspects of our business."

KFA launched two new models – the FB25-12 and FB30-12 trucks
Socratous says that KFA’s major achievements this year include the launch of its waterproof counterbalance battery electric range (FB25-12 and FB30-12), which has been well received by the market, "with many customers taking advantage of the savings achieved by switching from IC to battery-powered forklifts".

He adds that KFA is in the final stages of implementing a learning management system as part of its commitment to employee development and training. "The eLearning solution will cater to the ever-growing training needs of our employees and key customers."

Steve Takacs, vice president and chief operating officer of Toyota Material Handling Australia (TMHA), says his company has experienced growth in both marketshare and profit.

"During 2015, [the] TMHA rental fleet has taken delivery of a little over 3,000 new forklifts and retired 1,500, so a net gain of 1,500. TMHA’s short-term rental fleet has been at record-high utilisation, and we expect this trend to continue in 2016."

He adds that TMHA has also invested in new state-of-the-art IT systems focusing on being user-friendly to its customers. "TMHA fleet customers have direct access to equipment history, including national segmented invoicing by location and department, equipment performance and hour readings. All areas of sales, service, rentals, spare parts, employee time and attendance, workplace health and safety are now fully integrated into one user-friendly system that effectively supports the TMHA customer."

Last year, Takacs told News that Australian business had under-invested in capital equipment. Referring to the 2015 tax incentive campaign, he says "the concept and intent was good; however, the cap of $20,000 was too low to have an impact in the new materials handling equipment (MHE) market, and this has reflected in another year of under-investment in new equipment".

He believes 2016 "may be more positive, with strong MHE market order intake in the last calendar quarter".

Challenges faced by TMHA this year included the lack of skilled trades people. "TMHA invested to grow our own future skilled tradesmen with our national apprenticeship program and ongoing upskilling of existing tradesmen at the TMHA national training centre," Takacs explains.

Michael Kilgariff, CEO of Australian Logistics Council.
On the subject of workforce participation, the Australian Logistics Council (ALC) held its inaugural Diversity and Inclusion Summit this year to identify actions to attract, support and retain women in the logistics workforce.

The summit was held in light of studies that show women make up only about 20% of the workforce in the transport, logistics and warehousing sectors and are poorly represented in all senior management roles. The ALC, through its newly established People Committee, is determined to take a leadership role in addressing this challenge, according to CEO Michael Kilgariff.

It has been an interesting year for Lencrow Material Handling. Managing director Ross Grassick says 2015 was full of challenges, with the uncertainty surrounding Nissan Forklift representation in Australia and "consolidating the increases in machines we look after and the increased staff numbers".

The EP electric pallet truck is available though Lencrow.
"I would have to say I am very happy with the way the staff have all adapted to the challenge." Lencrow was recently appointed as the Australian distributor of the UniCarriers brand (formerly Nissan Forklift) and will expand its range of equipment to meet the market’s requirements.

Lencrow also expanded its range of pedestrian forklifts and pallet jacks this year through the EP Equipment range.

Grassick says one of Lencrow’s aims has been to offer buyers the right equipment for their applications that will both improve safety and boost productivity. "We are achieving this by offering easy-to-use product so operators want to use them instead of being scared of hard-to-use equipment. We also have had a lot of interest in the new Bomaq all-terrain forklift – once again these offer more of what users have been asking for."

Grassick believes that "the same old problems plague the industry, with over-supply of product, (much) of which fails to meet the high standards of Australian industry".

"The buyers have to understand that they get what they pay for and (need to) look at the whole-of-life costs. We do need to be looking for some form of regulation from the government as to forklift safety inspections. We still see units that are over 30 years old in service. Many of these units would fail to comply with the Australian standards and few would offer the driver safety we expect today."

Sue Hart, executive officer of the Australian Industrial Truck Association (AITA), says during 2015, the association considered issues around the implementation of an annual forklift inspection.

"[We] concluded at this time that there would be difficulty in mandating such action in the absence of a requirement under the Standard (AS2359), legislation or by regulatory authorities; issues around the competency of inspectors; and the potential for WorkCover/WorkSafe authorities to agree to support an annual inspection requirement."

Hart explains that the AITA Code of Conduct, in place since 2003 and originally developed in response to forklift safety concerns in Victoria, includes a requirement for AITA members to offer a regular inspection and service program in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations for the equipment supplied.

"Purchasers and hirees/lessees of equipment are [also] required or encouraged to comply with the manufacturer’s inspection regime to maintain warranties, etc."

The Code of Conduct that was developed in conjunction with Australian and international forklift and workplace safety authorities was reviewed and redeveloped this year to reflect the revised industry standard AS2359 and to bring it into line with contemporary workplace health and safety legislation, and environmental standards. Hart says the Code is underpinned by the Engineering Technical Bulletins and Safety Guidance notes published by the AITA.

The AITA has also extended contact with Federal and State governments in 2015. "The discussions have been around ongoing forklift safety matters; the uncertain state of apprentice training, which is likely to be exacerbated by the potential under the China Free Trade Agreement for Chinese workers to be brought into Australia to work on projects without the same standards of training and safety awareness of Australian workers; the poor quality of the forklift training provided by some private VET providers; ongoing issues with grey imports and their safety," Hart says.

During the year, the AITA continued to be represented on working groups of the ISO, developing international standards for the global industrial truck sector.
"The AITA continues to work closely with Standards Australia and ISO on the ongoing review of Standards, and with State/Territory WorkSafe authorities as required," Hart explains.

"2015 saw the publication of AS2359-1, which was revised by the AITA in conjunction with Standards Australia’s ME-26 Committee (AS2359 is the definitive standard covering all aspects of powered industrial truck usage).

"This year has seen the introduction of the practice that where possible, Australia will adopt ISO Standards as direct text adoptions. They are co-badged as AS/ISO Standards under the ISO number where possible," Hart says.

Sarah Haughey, CeMAT Australia show director.
CeMAT staged its inaugural Australian show in Sydney this year. Leading industry members that exhibited included Adaptalift Hyster, TVH, Combilift and Hyundai Forklifts. CeMAT Australia show director Sarah Haughey says following CeMAT’s many successful years in Europe and its events staged in Russia, Asia, India and South America, it was great to launch in Australia "as the country has a strong demand for seamless logistics and materials handling".

She says as a new trade show on the scene, there were challenges launching into an already-busy market.

"As the first time the trade show has run in the country, CeMAT Australia faced the challenge of starting from scratch to attract attendees. The show rose to the challenge, with quality guests in attendance, all who had buying power and came prepared to engage and express their views on the industry."

Haughey says almost 3,000 people visited the show and at next year’s show at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, she hopes that number will increase to at least 5,000.

While higher visitor numbers is a goal for the show’s organiser, Haughey says: "Quality and not quantity is always more important when it comes to show visitors and exhibitors. There is no point having thousands of people in attendance if there isn’t the scope for business to occur between exhibitor and visitor. We’re finding that due to our audience being time poor, it’s important they can demonstrate ROI from attending trade shows, so it is a must that they can do effective business."

Looking ahead

Socratous says that although commodity prices remain flat, employment is on the rise. "I hope this signals growth in non-resource industries and brings with it greater stability in 2016 with modest improvements in the economy."

He voices concern over the fatalities associated with forklifts this year.

"Safety and compliance in our industry needs to be promoted at every level and needs to reach the end users. It’s up to our industry to promote safety, and provide solutions and advice that promote safety and minimise risk and harm."

Takacs expects to see continued growth in the electric forklift market in 2016, including a growing demand for automation and other warehouse supplementary products.

"[The years] 2014 to 2015 have seen little to no change in the industry in the mix of orders split between IC and electric-powered equipment. This year and last year, electric powered equipment represented approximately 60% of orders."

In 2016, TMHA will expand its footprint with the establishment of additional branch locations. "TMHA is expected to establish two new branch locations in 2016 through both business expansion and possible acquisition," Takacs says.

Grassick expects 2016 to be a big year. "With an improvement in Australian business confidence and more employment, people will look to improve productivity through process and this leads to needs for better and safer forklift equipment.

"On a Lencrow note, we are looking for more dealers to distribute the UniCarriers range – we have a number at this stage we are talking to and more with interest. Our challenge is to develop a dealer network that will offer the values that we promote ourselves."

In 2016, the AITA, building on the development of its Code of Practice, will implement a compliance regime to ensure that forklifts delivered and maintained by its members accord with Australian and international standards; conduct two forklift safety seminars in major Australian cities or regional centres; and continue to push for improved national consistency of licensing.

Hart is concerned about "the ease (with) which imports can be purchased from predominantly Chinese or Indian manufacturers, be imported to Australia and be sold over the Internet to the uneducated forklift buyer".

She says: "A further challenge to safe usage is the lack of consistent and clear licensing requirements across Australia, particularly in relation to low-level order pickers (LO) in that there is not a consistent approach taken by all states as to what height the LO licence applies.

"A further licensing concern is around the new licence in relation to use of reach stackers and the time taken to get the competency requirements in place. Allied to this is the decrease in formal apprenticeship training for industrial truck users and technicians, and variable training standards across private training organisations."

Kilgariff says the change in federal leadership from Tony Abbott to Malcolm Turnbull offers both challenges and opportunities for the logistics industry, which largely stem from the Government’s renewed focus on cities and public transport.

"In 2016, ALC will advocate on the need to ensure the Government gives equal consideration to the movement of freight as it does to the movement of people. In short, any new federal approach to moving people should not be at the expense of supporting supply chain projects to move freight."

Kilgariff says the ALC’s report, The Economic Significance of the Logistics Industry, shows the industry represents 8.6% of GDP, adds more than $130 billion to the Australian economy and that a 1% improvement in efficiency in the sector will boost GDP by $2 billion.
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