By Allan Leibowitz
The Chinese presence at CeMAT was evident this year
One trend that was evident at the recent CeMAT trade show was the increased presence of Chinese materials handling manufacturers. And, as observers told Forkliftaction News
, it wasn't just the number of suppliers that was impressive, but also the range and quality of the products they had on show.
The new status of Chinese products was exemplified by BYD, the first Chinese manufacturer to win a coveted IFOY award. BYD's ECB18C, an 80 v lithium-ion stacker, took the title in the Counterbalance Truck up to 3.5 T category.
BYD Europe forklift sales director Javier Contijoch says his company engineered its products for demanding markets and took the time to get them right before entering Europe. "Any manufacturer that wants to enter this extremely competitive market has to make sure the product meets expectations," he says.
BYD plans to have a range of 57 materials handling solutions in the market, all distributed directly to dealers.
Another Chinese manufacturer with an eye on the export market, LiuGong, used CeMAT to launch its new C-series forklifts. Ken Biediger, president of LiuGong's forklift division, says there's no doubt Chinese manufacturers know how to build forklifts as their domestic market constitutes around 25% of the total market. "But mostly, (what they make) is not right for the premium markets like Europe and North America," he says.
LiuGong's new products are designed for export markets rather than merely adapted from domestic designs, he says.
"Some of our competitors just take their basic product and do whatever it takes to meet the minimal compliance (in export markets). But that's not our way. The product that we have developed is designed to meet the expectations of our customers in Europe and North America," he says.
Biediger says another differentiator is LiuGong's business model. He explains that LiuGong is a global company with seven regional subsidiaries. "It's not a master dealer that buys a bunch of machines in a container and then has to figure out some way to support them. We're all LiuGong employees. We all have local knowledge of the market; we know what customer expectations are and what support and service are needed," he explains.
Ruyi general manager Chu Jiang notes that customer expectations continue to rise. "The end-user doesn't only concentrate on quality and price, but they also like attractive machines," he says. Chinese product to date has focused on price, but 30 years in the market has taught Ruyi the importance of meeting customer requirements.
The company expanded its CeMAT presence this year to show off a couple of design award products as well as a range of improvements across all of its lines.
Until 2004, Ruyi's focus was almost exclusively on exports. Then, the focus shifted to the growing domestic market. "Now, I think both markets are important, but the export market continues to grow faster," he says, adding that the Chinese market is still very competitive and price-conscious.
Hu Wenhong, vice general manager of Heli, brought a range of new equipment designed for export markets to CeMAT. However, he notes that changes to emissions controls in China this year will mean that much of the export-oriented product will be more suited to the domestic market as well.
"Also, warehouses and the logistics industry are growing, so there will be more demand for electric machines and for warehouse equipment like reach trucks," he says.
With an eye on growing the export market, Wenhong is flagging an increased Heli presence in Europe and North America to support its growing dealer network. Already, Heli has a base in France that keeps substantial inventory of parts. Also on the cards is increased local technical support resources because the time difference makes it difficult to provide assistance from head office.
Just as KION extended its product range with the acquisition of China's Baoli, so too has Toyota attacked the lower end of the market with the Tailift and CT Power brands it has acquired.
Taiwan's Tailift CEO Eric Lin says CeMAT saw a number of visits from Toyota dealers eager to get lower-cost product onto their showroom floors.
"Right now, we are researching the potential and, so far in Europe, we see markets like Poland, which have opportunities for entry-level product," he says.
Where past shows were an opportunity to grow the dealer network, the focus this year was on consolidation.
Maximal also had a number of brand new products on show at CeMAT, according to export manager Barry Su. Visitors showed especially strong interest in the new rough-terrain forklift, which he says is the only model of its type produced in China.
This year has seen increased domestic demand for warehouse equipment like reachstackers, says Su.
Export sales continue to rise, he says, and Maximal is looking to expand its range of special trucks to tap into growing demand.
Maximal has a stable dealer network, Su says, but there are some gaps in Europe, where some dealers failed during the global financial crisis and their territories still remain vacant.
Maximal's export strategy is to consolidate its range of industrial forklifts to ensure quality, performance and price-competitiveness. Meanwhile, there is a strong focus on special vehicles.
EP, according to vice president Tian Sang, is firmly focused on the middle to lower-end market. It brought almost 20 new products "suitable for the European market" to CeMAT and she attributed the reduced exhibitor numbers to a combination of the increased frequency of the show (every second year) and the growing number of international CeMAT events.
She says EP constantly looks for gaps in the market. "If there are customers' needs that are not yet met by the 'superior' brands, we try to bring something to market at a competitive price," she explains.
The company is also making inroads in the US, where it uses the Big Joe brand. In 2009, when Big Joe struck financial difficulties, EP, which had been its OEM manufacturer, took over the brand with an equity partner.
Sang notes the US is a conservative market where buyers are reluctant to try new brands, so Big Joe has been a useful means of getting EP product to customers.
Eric Dai, general manager of Goodsense, found strong interest from dealers during CeMAT. Visitors, he says, were attracted to "good products - simple and safe". He sees the price advantage of Chinese-made products still having an impact on purchase decisions - provided there is not too much compromise on quality.
Goodsense also modifies its products for export markets to meet higher safety, efficiency and environmental requirements.
It works with parts distributor TVH to ensure parts availability for its 100-plus independent dealers globally.
The strong Chinese presence at this year's CeMAT show indicates that manufacturers in that country remain keen to grow their share of export markets. But Chinese ambitions are no longer restricted to entry-level offerings. Chinese exhibitors showed everything from AGVs to cutting-edge battery technology and there was as much emphasis on design, efficiency, safety and environmental performance as on cost. Visit our blog:
The Forkliftaction team meets industry and friends at CeMAT 2016 in Hannover Germany.