Market looks towards recovery

Local Feature Article
- 6 Jan 2011 ( #495 )
15 min read
Haiti earthquake  2010
Haiti earthquake 2010
It was a year of unprecedented natural disasters on a global scale. Beginning with the Haiti earthquake in January, 2010 delivered a disaster almost every month. Floods, fires, blizzards and volcanic eruptions caused widespread misery and financial hardship on every continent. No sector of industry or agriculture went unaffected, including the materials handling industry. Melissa Barnett reports on the year that was and looks at what 2011 might bring.

On January12, 2010, Haiti, one of the world's poorest countries, was hit by a magnitude seven earthquake. The materials handling sector was quick to respond with forklifts to assist with food and medical supply distribution. The airport at Port-Au-Prince had no forklifts in operation and Cooper Specialised Handling and Castle Forklifts in the UK responded to the UK government's request by modifying and despatching within 24 hours a number of forklifts for relief work. JCB also donated two 3CX backhoes worth USD150,000 to the disaster relief effort.

Despite the tough economic times, it seems that forklift companies were still willing to donate their time and machines to good causes in 2010. In the US, Watts Equipment of California donated two electric Toyota forklifts to the Salvation Army in Lodi, California and Mitsubishi Caterpillar Forklift America Inc (MCFA) donated one of its reach trucks to the Houston Habitat for Humanity ReStore mission. However, the number of philanthropic stories published by News in 2010 was fewer than in past years.

Bauma 2010
Bauma 2010
In regard to natural disasters, a special mention must be made of Bauma 2010. No materials handling event was as compromised as Bauma 2010. In April, the ash from Icelandic volcano Eyjafjalajökull curtailed air travel for a week in Europe, coinciding with the opening of the event. About 50 overseas exhibitors were prevented from participating and many European exhibitors were obliged to make last-minute changes to their travel plans to meet their obligations. Despite these disruptions and the lingering effects of the global financial crisis on the hardest-hit sector, construction, Bauma was declared a success and Ralf Wezel, secretary-general of the Committee for European Construction equipment, praised organisers' crisis management.

Restructuring in 2010

The reverberations from the GFC of 2009 were still being felt in the first quarter of 2010, as a number of companies continued to resize and restructure. TCM America Inc closed its New Jersey and Texas sites in February, asserting they would re-open when financial conditions allowed. In the same month,Forkliftaction.comNewsreported that Toyota Industrial Equipment Manufacturing Inc (TIEM) had made another 70 employees redundant in North America, after a reduction of 120 staff in June 2009. Toyota Industrial Corporation (TICO) also announced that it would amalgamate the management of its North American Toyota and Raymond forklift operations.

In Europe, seat manufacturer Grammer AG announced that it would cut staff numbers by 240 over the year. The cuts would involve factory workers, as well as sales and logistics staff. South African-based Bell Equipment, a manufacturer of heavy equipment, announced that it too would be reducing staff during 2010.

The period from June until the end of the year saw more cuts and closures. Toyota Material Handling UK(TMHUK) undertook a 'resizing' of its Castleford site staff under a re-organisation of its UK operations. In October, Konecranes closed its assembly plant in Windsor, Wisconsin blaming low equipment demand in its US market and closer integration of its Morris Materials Handling activities with Konecranes' operations.

However, it wasn't all doom and gloom. A number of businesses clawed their way back into the black and some even initiated expansion programs. Early in 2010,Vehicle Technologies Inc (Vetex) announced that it had started production of the previously shelved Airtrax Sidewinder omni-directional vehicle. Hoist Liftruck Manufacturing Inc received orders for more than10 new machines. Both Vetex and Hoist are based in the USA.

Yale dealer YES LIFT LLC relocated to larger premises in Itasca, Illinois, more than doubling its space to over 5,000 square metres and adding new employees. In April, French company Manitou started hiring temporary staff to meet "stronger than expected "demand and was predicting that " the rough-terrain handling and industrial materials handling divisions to be back in the black in 2010".

Singaporean equipment distributor Hup Soon Global increased its operating lease fleet of forklifts in Malaysia by 22% despite a drop in forklift sales in the area of up to 60%. This was due to Malaysian businesses preferring to ease cash-flow problems by leasing equipment rather than buying.

Attachments manufacturer Cascade Corp announced that shipments of equipment and orders to China had recovered to 2008 levels. Despite Raymond's corporate restructuring earlier in the year, by June, the company was advertising 33 new job opportunities across its North American facilities.

Still in the region, Barloworld reported a "gentle upward trend in the North American market" in the second quarter. A spokesman said the company had seen some improvement towards the end of the first quarter and it seemed to be continuing for the second quarter.

European and UK companies also saw an easing of the markets and a return to profitability in the second financial quarter. In June, Komatsu opened a USD 63 million manufacturing plant for excavators and forklifts in the Russian province of Yaroslavl; 120 people were initially employed and another 50 positions were expected to be filled by the end of 2010.

In July, UK construction equipment maker JCB reported an end-of-financial-year profit of GBP 29 million (USD 44.3 million) despite declining sales in one of the hardest-hit industrial sectors. JCB had made 1,800 redundancies in the year prior in response to the impact of the GFC.

The British Industrial Truck Association(BITA)announced at its 2010 AGM in May that forklift sales in the UK were showing signs of recovery and predicted that orders for counterbalance forklifts would increase by 15.3% to 9,800 and warehouse forklifts by 7.8% to 9,766.The European Federation of Equipment Manufacturers(FEM) president John Meales advised caution, saying that it was indeed "good news that sales appeared to be pulling out of recession, but our advice to members is to prepare for the very real possibility of a double dip".


Despite dire predictions of slow recovery and double-dip recession, a number of companies weathered the downturn and expanded their businesses by partnering with other companies. In February, JCB saw the stable Australian and New Zealand economies as a good area in which to expand. It cemented partnerships with dealers Centra Forklifts in New Zealand and Allied Forklifts in Perth, capital of Australia's mining boom state, Westend Australia. In the same month, Cascade Corporation signed a joint marketing agreement with 2010 Forklift Transport Association (FLTA) new innovation award winner, Ravas BV (iForks). Cascade began shipping iForks from its Springfield, Ohio facility in April.

April turned out to be a busy month for strategic alliances -Doosan Infracore partnered with Italian telehandler manufacturer Dieci to rebadge four Dieci high-capacity telehandlers as Doosans so it could enter the niche European market without having to invest in R&D. Big Lift LLC and E-P Forklifts of Hangzhou, China entered into a strategic alliance to consolidate marketing efforts, align dealer networks and launch a new line of equipment across North America, and Konecranes joined with Japanese hoist manufacturer Kito Corporation to "boost each company's growth in the global market", said Pekka Lundmark, CEO of Konecranes, adding that the alliance would expand product offerings as well as improve competitiveness and customer service.

During the northern summer, the KION Group was busy forging ties andsevering them. In June, Linde Hydraulics division signed an alliance with USA's Eaton Corp, andlater in the season announcedthat KION GmbH had taken over full management of KION Baoli(Jiangsu) Forklift Co Ltd, the joint venture company it established with China's Jiangsu Shanggi Group Co Ltd and Baoli Co in 2009.

One of the hottest stories this northern summer was the speculation around Briggs Equipment UK Ltd dumping its Caterpillar dealership in favour of Yale. Briggsis part of the US company Sammons Enterprises. Briggs UK believed that it was time to align itself with the other members of the Sammons Groupwhose materials handling companies in the US already distribute Yale there and in Mexico.Richard Close, Briggs Equipment UK's chief executive, believed that Yale would give Briggs more leverage in the highly competitive UK forklift market. Others in the industry believed that the deal also makes Briggs NACCO's largest Yale dealer, putting it alongside Barloworld in importance to NACCO and a serious bidder for Barloworld's materials handling business in the US, UK and Europe, should the opportunity arise. Interestingly, Briggs announced in May that it would be distributing Hyster in Mexico, while Barloworld has the Hyster dealership in the UK. Hyster and Barloworld reported that their market position in the UK had strengthened post-GFC and announced that orders had improved and forklift quotations were at their highest in the UK since 2007.

In the latter half of the year, Luxembourg-based Dematic Holdings sà rl announced it had acquired robotics company HK Systems of New Berlin, Wisconsin, adding the company to its already-impressive line-up of businesses in the US, Europe, China and Australia. Dematic employs more than 4,100 logistics professionals and has an annual turnover of ISD 1.2 billion.

Smaller businesses were also quietly expanding, with Belgian parts supplier TVH purchasing Ruben Power BVBA for an undisclosed sum.

Innovation and new products

Despite some stringent fiscal policies implemented during the GFC, 2010 still managed to debutsome new and exciting materials handling equipment, accessories and initiatives,a number of them with strong environmental credentials. In April, Ningbo Ruyi introduced a new full electric stacker, the CDDR series. April was also the month that UK company Carrylift signed a five-year commitment to the Woodland Trust's new carbon scheme. Carrylift agreed to offset the carbon footprint of its new Nissan LPG forklifts by planting 105 acres (42.5 hectares) of trees over the following five years. May saw Caterpillar Forklifts launch a new 5.5 tonne forklift in its DP/GP40-55N series.

In June, food products distributor Sysco Corp deployed 98 Gen Drive fuel cellsfrom Plug Power Inc on its Raymond forklift fleet based in Houston, Texas. The 72 pallet trucks and 26 reach-stackers are in operation at a distribution centre and can be refuelled in less than two minutes.

Haulotte Star 6
Haulotte Star 6
JCB announced in July that it would be investing GBP80 million (USD121.5 million) over the next two years into developing a new diesel engine to be used in telehandlers and other equipment. The company hopes the Ecomax T4 4.4 litre engine will be the off-highway sector's cleanest engine. It is planned to go into production in 2012 and is, no doubt, being developed with the new 2011 emission standards in mind. The stage 111B in EU and Tier 4i in the USA standards are required of all off-road equipment powered by engines over 129 kw. The regulations are set to minimise the emission of nitrogen oxide (NOx) and other harmful particles and will come into effect this year.

Cargotec will start 2011 by fitting its Kalmar equipment with engines that comply with the EU Stage IIIB and US EPA Tier 4i emission regulations.

July also saw the launch of E-P's electric stacker, the ES10-10WA/12-12WA with AC technology.Haulotte also launched its new battery-electric, vertical-mast stock picker, the Star 6, in Australia in the second half of the year.Both Crown and Hyundai chose IMAX 2010 for their new forklifts' European debut.

Hyundai's 5 tonne LPG forklift, the 50L-7A, has a newly configured engine to conform to the new emission standards. Crown launched the RM6000 reach truck.

Third quarter assessment

Heli counterbalance forklift
Heli counterbalance forklift
Many of the larger forklift companies released their interim financial reports at the end of the third quarter. All of them had made modest profits and their reports were optimistic about the end of the year and 2011.
KION Group moved from a half-year loss of EUR13.2 million (USD17.6 million) in 2009 to EUR20.8 million (USD27.7 million) in earnings before interest, tax and amortisation (EBITA) this year.The company revised its EBITA expectation for 2010 to between EUR70 million and EUR90 million -from the previously forecasted EUR35 million (USD46.6 million). Full-year revenue is expected to surpass EUR3.2 billion (USD4.259 billion). In 2009, revenue had declined by one-third to EUR3.1 billion (USD4.126 billion).

Jungheinrich reported dynamic demand globally for materials handling equipment in the third quarter, rising to 41%, a slight drop from the 50% growth seen in the first quarter. Overall demand translated to 576,000 units globally in 2010 - up from 393,000 units at the same time the previous year. The report also noted that counterbalance forklifts were up 60% in demand last year and warehouse forklifts up 28% on figures from 2009.

Jungheinrich, which is the world's third-largest forklift manufacturer, saw its production volume rise by 24% from 12,500 to 15,500 trucks in the third quarter of 2010. After nine months, its production output had climbed a cumulative 17% from the prior year's 36,600 units to 2010's 42,800 units.
The report went on to state that the upturn was driven largely by global financial recovery, particularly in developing countries, and a more sluggish improvement in the industrialised nations. Germany and the Eurozone forecasts were upgraded from earlier 2010 projections, although high levels of national debt subdued Eurozone growth.

NACCO Materials Handling Group's net income for the third quarter of 2010 was USD3.8 million (EUR2.8 million) compared with a net loss of USD22.4 million (EUR16.8 million) in 2009. According to NACCO's interim financial report, net income improved primarily due to improved sales, lower manufacturing costs, favourable exchange rates and the absence of restructuring charges incurred in the previous third quarter.

NMHG expected global market levels for units and parts to continue to improve in the fourth quarter of 2010 compared with the fourth quarter of 2009. All markets were expected to continue to grow at moderate rates during the fourth quarter. As a result, the company expects increased bookings compared with the fourth quarter of 2009. Unit shipment levels and parts sales are also expected to increase in the fourth quarter of 2010 compared with the fourth quarter of 2009.

In September, a more general assessment of performance by materials handling companies was published by Modern Materials Handling magazine. The Top 10 lists the world's forklift suppliers in terms of income for the previous year (2009). They were in order:Toyota (USD4.6 billion), KION (USD4.1 billion), Jungheinrich (USD2.3 billion), Crown Equipment (USD1.6 billion), NACCO Industries (USD1.5 billion), Mitsubishi/Caterpillar (USD920 million), Komatsu (USD750 million), Anhui Forklift Group (USD668 million), Nissan (USD624 million) and TCM (USD593 million).

China continues to lead the global forklift market and the gap with the US, the second-largest market, is expected to widen. From January to June 2010, domestic forklift sales crossed the 90,000-unit mark, up nearly 113% from 2009. Newswas unable to source third quarter figures before going to press, but industry experts predict forklift sales will grow further in the full year. Linde (China) CEO CP Quek tells China Daily that China is the only forklift market which grew last year, compared to the over 40% decline in the global forklift market. "It is a huge boost for the industry," Quek says.

2011 forecast

Global demand for materials handling products is forecast to rise 6.5% annually until 2014 to approach USD113 billion. According to World Material Handling Products by US-based The Freedonia Group Inc, demand for materials handling products will benefit from a recovery in the US market, which faced dismal levels in 2009. The US is predicted to be among the world's fastest-growing markets in the next few years.

Growth in demand from the Asia Pacific region is also expected to outpace the global average. India and China will show the strongest growth among the national markets. While demand for forklifts, conveyors, hoists and cranes will benefit from recovery in developed countries, especially the US, advanced or automated materials handling products like robots, automated guided vehicles and software are expected to post the best gains.

Material Handling Industry of America(MHIA) is forecasting a growth of 11% to 12% in equipment orders in 2011. The Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) believes growth of 10.8% in 2011 in materials handling is a reasonable expectation.

When asked by Forkliftaction.comNewswhat he thought 2011 might bring, European Federation of Equipment Manufacturers (FEM) secretary general Olivier Janin suggested that it was difficult to predict anything with certainty; however, based on observation of markets and trends during 2010, this year would see continued market recovery, with some materials handling sectors, such as industrial trucks, performing better than others. Janin went on to point out that the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries had been significant drivers of the recovery in 2010 and would most likely continue to be the best performing markets in 2011.

Janin had concerns that counterfeit and non-compliant products being allowed into the EU would severely compromise the high safety standards in the region, not only in 2011 but in future years. He suggests that effective market surveillance by governments, the European Commission and organisations such as FEM as well as implementation of strict standards and a level playing for European players would ensure the future safety of equipment users.

Janin also believes that the high and fluctuating cost of primary manufacturing materials like steel are adversely affecting the materials handling industry. He believes that prices should be regulated as such a degree of volatility is both dangerous and disproportionate.

Martin McVicar, CEO of Combilift, was also asked what, from a manufacturer's point of view, 2011 might bring. Like Janin, he believes that the largest area of growth will come from developing markets and within the warehousing sector, particularly food and drink distribution.

McVicar is excited by the development of cleaner, more fuel-efficient materials handling equipment. He also believes that safety is of paramount concern to the buyer and this will continue to be a trend;"a buyer now must be prepared to take the time to analyse and assess the safest MH system available to him", he explained.

McVicar's main concern for the industry in 2011 is that the ability of companies to access finance from banks to renew ageing forklift fleets or for expansion programs is still proving difficult in many countries. He also believes that leadtimes for component manufacture and equipment manufacture are likely to be severely compromised in 2011, causing production and order issues.
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