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OEMs and Dealers Dish on Trends

June 11, 2013
MH&L asked several members of the Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association (MHEDA) and others to offer their assessment of business trends and how they will affect the lift truck products and services they sell. Here’s a sampling of opinions.

Buddy Smith, president and CEO, CMH Services, South Carolina's Crown and Nissan forklift dealer:

"We believe we'll continue to see a slow recovery through most of 2013.  Our customers are continuing to dig out from the effects of the recession and larger customers are slowly updating their equipment while smaller businesses are still trying to get more run time out of their existing equipment. We are getting some requests for specialized equipment, and specifically, we are getting more requests about hydrogen fuel cells."

Bill Pfleger, president of Yale Distribution:

"It appears that the overall market is experiencing some measured growth. This could be due to pent up demand from customers who hadn,t completed buying cycles or improvement projects from several years ago when the market was more difficult. Certain sectors appear to be providing a boost to the overall growth in the industry, particularly construction-related markets like building and housing material suppliers and concrete and masonry operations. The warehouse segment is also seeing growth and the need for a more diversified product mix. A shift is noticeable in interest toward electric products compared to internal combustion. In terms of alternative power options, compressed natural gas (CNG) is gaining interest after having cooled off several years ago.

Jonathan Dawley, president of Hyster Distribution:

"The cost of operating any aging fleet of lift trucks is often not factored into the capital investment evaluation for new lift trucks. In the automotive sector many fleets had aged out over time, requiring new equipment. Now many of those fleet managers understand the importance of reviewing new equipment on an on-going basis to examine new features and productivity advances. In some cases these operations are looking for improved ergonomics or guidance on how best to use their facility's space."

Ted Springer, president, Springer Equipment Co., Linde, Komatsu, Hyundai and Combilift dealer serving Birmingham, Ala.:

"The near-term business climate in our area is very brisk. The first quarter,s consumption was up 50% over 2012. It appears the leases that many customers extended up to an additional year are now being termed out and older lease fleets are being replaced with new equipment. We are seeing trends toward increased truck capacity along with requests for conversions from engine power to electric replacements."

Doug Carson, v.p., marketing & sales, Fallsway Equipment Co., Akron, Ohio-based dealer of Crown, Cat, Jungheinrich, JLG and Manitou equipment:

"We continue to see the trend of traditionally internal combustion truck customers switching to electric trucks.  Additionally, both new and existing electric truck customers are taking advantage of the newest charging technologies for high frequency opportunity and fast charging, forgoing the need to change batteries and/or buy multiple batteries for a single truck."

Jerry Weidmann, president, Wisconsin Lift Truck Corp., with eight branches in Wisconsin, northern Illinois and upper Michigan, carries Aisle-Master, Big Joe, Combilift, Cat, Jungheinrich, Doosan, Hyundai, Komatsu and Linde:

"Growth in 2013 will begin to expand more rapidly in the second half. Customers in the building products industry are gearing up for expansion of the housing market in 2014. [Many of these] companies are replacing their equipment. We have had success transitioning users from internal combustion forklifts to electric, including good success in converting users to 80-volt technologies."

Kenneth Mac Donald, president, M & G Materials Handling Company, a Yale dealer serving Rhode Island and Massachusetts:

"The average industrial combustion engine powered fleet is getting older and will eventually spark a revival in that segment due to age and not necessarily economic growth. In fact I think our U.S. economy will eventually grow out of things just being too old and no other option but to replace them. … We need to develop better processes to lower cost of operations and provide proper ROI and ROA. That will allow our customers to reduce cost and the distribution channel to operate with sufficient returns and attract capital."

Tim Quellhorst, senior vice president, Crown Equipment:

"The topic of forklift automation and the role it can play in the warehouse is on the minds of forward-thinking material handling executives. When you review the state of the technology, and how quickly it is evolving, you see there are benefits to be had, but there are also risks if expectations are too high or insufficient resources are devoted to the effort."

Steve VanNostrand, vice president of human resources, The Raymond Corporation:

"It's vital to retain talent. Manufacturers invest in training and educating so they can make quality products for dealers and technicians to sell and support. For many industrial companies, dealers and teams of technicians often are the day-to-day contact point for consumers. Companies rely on them to represent the product. The education and training provided for these individuals is vital to the success of any manufacturer. Service technicians for Raymond products go through practical application training so they can immediately work in the field."

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