chaz2Forklift suppliers are mindful of the pain felt by their recession-strapped clients but the more proactive are constantly reviewing ways to ease their clients’ discomforts through many cost-saving measures.

The current recession has undoubtedly seen a switch from new to refurbished trucks. Sensing this, Jungheinrich, for example, has opened seven specialist used forklift truck showrooms in Britain for their Ready to Go collection which have been refurbished at their Dresden centre. These trucks can typically cost only 60% of the selling price of an equivalent new model and Jungheinrich claims that their operating cost will be the same as for a new model.

Help may also be available on the finance side, as Mitsubishi Forklift Trucks UK, with its finance partner, DLL, shows by working harder to make trucks more affordable to end users. This includes providing low start finance or interest-free credit along with its remarkable five-year warranty, which stays with the truck even if it is resold.

New technical improvements should not be overlooked as these can cut energy and maintenance costs sharply. A good example is Still’s latest addition to the RX70 diesel trucks. Using Still’s latest energy-saving innovation, the Blue-Q, Still’s already low energy consumption can be improved by up to 10%. Saving just one litre of fuel per hour compared with a competitor’s truck can achieve savings of Euro5,000 per truck over a five-year period based on 1,000 operating hours per year.

Another good example of technical superiority and its impact on life cycle costs is the SMV (Konecranes) reach stackers equipped with load sensing piston pumps in their Scania engines. These pumps give hydraulic flow only on demand and so they can cut fuel consumption by between 15% and 30% and extend component life. The truck’s auto transit function governing container positioning is another innovation that cuts maintenance costs, especially in relation to tyre wear, and saves up to 34% on servicing. Bristol Ports, which has rented four of these reach stackers over five years, expects to save £90,000 a year compared with competitors’ trucks.

It is possible to make big savings by extending the versatility of a lift truck so as to make it more productive in terms of pallets moved per hour. Linde has done this to its G range which is the latest addition to its Active range of reach trucks. They have a unique drive unit suspension and large tyres, enabling it to work outside on uneven surfaces, loading and unloading lorries, a task normally beyond reach trucks. The R16G also provides up to 12% savings in energy consumption, according to independent tests.

In recessionary times perhaps the most versatile of forklifts are those that promise the greatest savings. These are the articulated forklifts like the Bendi, Flexi and Aislemaster which can work in aisles down to 1.6m t wide and perform outdoor work on rough yards. These trucks can achieve such storage space savings compared with reach and counterbalanced trucks that it is sometimes possible to achieve instant truck payback through closing down surplus, offsite warehousing. Simon Brown, MD of Translift Bendi, believes that the strength of the Euro against the pound has also removed the last obstacle some buyers fret over – the higher initial cost of articulated trucks against other truck types. He believes the Bendi, for example, is no more costly than reach trucks to buy or rent and far cheaper in life cycle and interface costs.

Now is a strong buyers’ market but the economic uncertainty still favours rental/lease acquisition methods over outright purchase, even though the latter can be 30% cheaper, provided the in-house truck operation is highly efficient. But even these rental/lease deals have moved in customers’ favour. Although not relished by the industry, one-year break clauses in five-year deals are here to stay. Truck operators can scarcely see beyond a few months how their business will unfold, let alone five years, so truck suppliers must expect to share the pain.

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