The role of independent forklift distributors

Bill Pfleger -
Your Focus
- 10 May 2007 ( #309 )
3 min read
Bill Pfleger became the managing director of Yale Europe Materials Handling in 2006. He joined Yale Americas in 1998 and was most recently vice president for dealer development there. Prior to joining Yale, he worked in a privately-owned Yale dealership in Michigan, US.
As the need to keep downtime to a minimum has emerged as a key driver in the forklift fleet selection process, Europe's leading forklift manufacturers have sought to differentiate their product offering by the quality of the after-sales care they provide.

It is becoming harder to distinguish between the technical performance of products offered by the major manufacturers. Service excellence is increasingly seen as a crucial selling point in most, if not all, the major global sales territories.

Yale's philosophy in the US and Europe has always been to work with independent distributors. Yale believes that, by working in partnership with entrepreneur-driven organisations committed to providing high levels of service, Yale can offer the highest standards in sales and after-market support.

By outsourcing service and maintenance operations to independent distributors, Yale is free to focus on its core competencies of designing, manufacturing and distributing its materials handling products.

Before joining Yale, I spent eight years working at a privately-owned Yale dealership in Michigan, initially as chief financial officer, then as vice president of operations. That experience provided me with an important perspective on Yale's materials handling business, and the key role Yale's independent distribution network plays in achieving sustainable market share growth.

I was responsible for achieving significant distribution improvements for Yale in North America, an achievement consistent with the focus Yale has for the ongoing development of its distribution network in Europe.

My experience taught me that running a forklift distribution operation is a completely different business proposition to actually manufacturing trucks. Across Europe, independent local dealers are far better positioned to service the needs of forklift users. They are more in tune with cultural differences and their knowledge of a client's business can be invaluable. But a truck manufacturer's distribution and after-sales partner will also contribute to development of the product. A strong distribution partner that is in tune with the demands of local markets will have a major impact on a product's evolution and a great deal of Yale's R&D is driven by feedback from dealers.

With product development, global forklift manufacturers have to consider how best to meet the diverse needs of their varied customer base and it is vital to understand what the customer actually wants to achieve. Of course, the fundamental issues across all territories generally come down to productivity, ergonomics and safety. Yale products are constantly being redefined to ensure they meet the highest standards in these areas. It is an ongoing process and what was acceptable in forklift design yesterday will not be tolerated tomorrow.

Europe-wide - particularly for bigger fleet deals - the buying decision is an increasingly complex process. In most large organisations everyone from the forklift operator to the financial director will have an opinion in which truck best serves the company's needs. Developing products that satisfy these often diverse requirements is never easy. On the same buying team you will have different people with different primary needs - safety, increased throughput, total cost of ownership, initial price - the list is endless. Truck providers cannot afford to overlook any part of the equation and every requirement has to be addressed.
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It’s all good Your Focus - 10 May 2007 (#309) If you have trained a forklift operator or two in your time you can probably relate to the experience of seeing the emotional state of some trainees when they show up for training sessions. Often displaying signs ranging from utter apathy to immobilising fear, their state is usually due to the fact that they have been sent, usually against their will ...
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Time for change? Your Focus - 26 Apr 2007 (#307) I rack my brain as to why these two scenarios continue to pop up. Surely by now all users are aware of the importance of wearing seat belts and pedestrian separation - or are they? Is it operators or management? Is it forklift design or workplace design? Is it the number of forklifts in use or the number of workers? Is it behavioural or procedural? Obviously there is no simple answer or surely it would have been treated by now.
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