By Roger Renstrom
ProMat 2011 exhibits by sister forklift brands Yale and Hyster dominated the trade show entryway and, at 5,400 sqft (486 sqm), the display for Dematic Corp was the largest.
A noticeable 1,890 sqft (170 sqm) display for first-time US exhibitor Sino-American Zhejiang UN Forklift Co Ltd included a massive video wall and seven forklifts.
The Material Handling Industry of America (MHIA) organised the biennial materials handling and logistics industry ProMat 2011 trade show, which took place on 21-24 March in Chicago.
"Show attendance was good, and there was certainly a buzz in the air," says industrial machinery analyst C Schon Williams, vice president in the Richmond, Virginia office of BB&T Capital Markets. There were an estimated 30,000 people in attendance at the ProMat 2011 expo. This was the second-largest show hosted by the MHIA, following ProMat 2009's attendance of 32,000. Exhibitors were down 8% from that event, but MHIA attributes that to lingering effects from the recession and industry consolidation. Overall, we would say the show was lively, and exhibitors were certainly optimistic about 2011."
Awaiting an internal audit, MHIA has not released an official attendance figure for ProMat 2011.
"ProMat 2011 for Clark was a tremendous success," says Dennis Lawrence, president of Clark Material Handling Co in Lexington, Kentucky. "Our booth traffic was strong all week and included both distributors and end-users."
New Clark products included the OPX 15 order selector, the CTX tugger and the GTX three-wheel truck, and the firm featured its Totalift All Makes Parts Program.
"This blend of elements ensured that we had something for everyone in our booth," Lawrence notes. "As you might expect, ProMat represents a tremendous commitment for our company, and I was very pleased with this year's results. Our team of regional sales managers and our support team did an excellent job of preparing the booth for the show, and I believe the results speak for themselves."
A ProMat exhibit for the Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association (MHEDA) of Vernon Hills, Illinois ran a promotional first-year 50% discount on memberships and succeeded in adding several new companies to its roster. "The show was positive, and we had steady traffic" at the show booth, reports Rebecca Hein, MHEDA networking and communications coordinator.
Warren Cornil says ProMat 2011 was "a good show, but I expected it to be better". Cornil is president of Flexi distributor Narrow Aisle Inc of Dallas, Texas and the subject of a Forkliftaction.com News Industry Profile today.
Cornil says Narrow Aisle "received the same number of leads in 2011" as at ProMat 2009.
Cornil touts Flexi's advantages versus reach trucks in the narrow-aisle market and says Flexi "will have a narrower truck by 2012" with working width of 2 ft (0.6 m) plus the depth of the pallet.
A dissenting perspective was heard.
ProMat 2011 was "a terrible show" that was "great for dealers" but "slow for end-users," notes Ed Campbell, sales manager and international sales contact for Landoll Corp in Marysville, Kansas. On the positive side, Campbell says Landoll sold all seven Bendi and Drexel brand units on display at the firm's booth including new models: an AC-powered 5,500-lb (2,475-kg) capacity rear-drive articulating narrow-aisle Bendi, an EPA/CARB Tier IV emission standard-qualified LPG-powered Bendi and a redesigned Landoll-brand standup-ride compact 24-volt AC traction electric truck with a 3,000-lb (1,364-kg) version listing for about USD28,000 including battery and charger.
Brands of Nacco Materials Handling Group Inc
"This year's ProMat show is a very big deal for us as we continue to communicate our brand new look and feel," says Jonathan Dawley, vice president of marketing for Nacco Materials Handling Group Inc (NMHG) of Greenville, North Carolina. The group designs, manufactures and markets the Yale and Hyster brands of forklifts.
Yale and Hyster exhibited almost simultaneously at ProMat 2011 in Chicago and the construction industry-oriented ConExpo-ConAgg 2011 trade show in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Yale heavy-duty end rider
At ProMat, Yale showed its heavy-duty highly maneuverable MPE060-080VG end-rider series with lifting capacities of 6,000-8,000 lb (2,700-3,600 kg). The undercarriage features more robust tie bars, frame sections, linkages, casters and bearings.
The unit comes with a Smart Coast Control and an optional Pick Assist feature that allows an operator to move the forklift to the next picking location with the touch of a button.
"Yale spent more than 1,000 hours in an extreme cold storage application testing the series' capabilities," says Lou Micheletto, Yale warehouse products manager.
The Yale end-rider lists for about USD10,000 and became available in the commercial market in February.
Hyster electric counterbalanced forklift
Hyster showed its product line extension E30-40XN series with newly designed operator compartments, 16% more floor space and relocated multifunction displays permitting enhanced visibility and precise pallet control.
The series "sets a standard in electric lift trucks by lowering overall costs and energy consumption while maximising productivity," says Brett Schemerhorn, Hyster vice president of dealer sales.
Several beta tests occurred over 18 months, and Hyster is now taking orders for three models of the electric counterbalanced forklift with lifting capacities ranging from 3,000-4,000 lb (1,350-1,800 kg). Comparable series introduced earlier include the E45-70XN and the E70-120Z. Development of the product line began in 2005.
The North Carolina Department of Labor recognised the Greenville plant with a million-hour safety award and as a gold safety award winner, both for the seventh consecutive year. "Achieving zero injuries without a day away from work for such a long period of time sends a clear message that our lean manufacturing principles are paying dividends," says John Gardiner, general manager of Americas manufacturing for NMHG.
The extensive Dematic display utilised ProMat 2011 space that HK Systems Inc reserved prior to Waldorf, Germany-based parent firm Dematic Holding sà rl's acquisition of HK on 15 September.
LaserTruck+ with Crown forklift, HK guidance and Dematic software
Dematic showed its LaserTruck+ unit that combines a conventional Crown PC 4500 dual, triple or quad rider pallet truck, HK's latest automatic guided vehicle guidance system and Dematic's pick-to-voice software. "Putting everything together is new," according to Mats Herrstromer, AGVS global products manager for Dematic in Charlotte, North Carolina. The cost: about USD80,000.
For testing the LaserTruck+, "we will pick a beta site during April", Herrstromer notes.
Security for about one-half of the Dematic exhibit limited access to authorised end-users, existing customers and meaningful prospects. Dematic says it was showing customer-specific solutions and revealing technologies through open systems.
Herrstromer previously headed AGV Products Inc, which HK acquired in 2008.
The UN Forklift brand from Hangzhou, China launched its US debut at the ProMat show with a large-format 64-page promotional magazine and the seven display models, but no previously arranged US distributor or dealer arrangements. UN Forklift has a presence in Asia, Europe and South America but only now is entering the US market.
Wilson Chen, UN Forklift sales director, spent much of his time talking to possible candidates with interest in distributing or selling the equipment.
Among its products, UN Forklift displayed a 3,000-lb (1,350-kg) capacity internal combustion forklift with a list price of USD14,000, a 3,000-lb three-wheel electric forklift listed for USD16,000 and a 4,000 lb (1,800-kg) electric stacker and pallet truck listed for USD6,600.
Trade show notes
Sellick Equipment Ltd of Harrow, Ontario, Canada had a modest display at ProMat but showed five pieces of equipment in a prominent 1,200 sqft (540 sqm) exhibit at the ConExpo-ConAgg 2011 show.
Sellick projects 2011 will result in a 20% increase in business volume compared to 2010, says Dell White, Sellick sales and marketing manager. Beginning in November, Sellick noticed business volume beginning to increase, particularly in oil/gas/mining regions of western Canada and the central and north east regions of the US.
Sellick has two engineering staff working on ways to meet CARB/EPA-driven Tier IV diesel-engine emission standards in 2012 for its rough-terrain forklift engines from J C Bamford Excavators Ltd of Rocester, England or Kubota Corp of Osaka, Japan. "We expect price increases from the engine makers," but, as a small player, "we need to depend on them", White notes.
US reception of the Maximal product line "has been good," reports John Dick, president of distributor All Terrain Truck & Equipment Inc (ATT&E) in Anchorage, Alaska, doing business as Maximal USA. He says the finished Maximal "product is sleeker than competitors" and less costly.
"In 2010, we sold 30 trucks in the US through dealers," he says. "We expect sales of 250 to 300 trucks in 2011, and we want volume of 5,000 trucks by 2015."
In December 2009, ATT&E signed a distributor agreement with manufacturer Zhejiang Maximal Forklift Co Ltd of Hangzhou, China. Among dealers are New Tec Inc of Hull, Iowa and Sioux Falls, South Dakota and South Dade Forklift of Hialeah, Florida for southern Florida and Central America.
Currently, the largest Maximal model has a lifting capacity of 55,000 lbs (24,750 kg) for a lumber application, but "we are selling a (potential) 65,000-lb model, and there are plans for 70,000 lb and 100,000 lb models," says Dick, who has been in the materials handling equipment industry since 1995.