STILL, one of Europe’s leading materials handing equipment suppliers with a wide range of industrial trucks for different applications, is celebrating 90 years of successful trading, and continues to make major global progress.
Here, STILL has been making substantial changes to its UK business in the last two years, which strengthens its market position significantly. First of all STILL carried out a major re-organisation through 2008/9. With a new management team, they developed three key operating regions, bringing its sales and service aspects closer together. As part of this, the integration of the DAC business – previously STILL’s largest UK distributor – into STILL UK provided a great opportunity to reach new customers. STILL UK now has comprehensive national coverage, with local knowledge, supported by their exclusive Distributor base.
STILL’s broad-based product range is coming into its own in the current climate, and in particular, the RX70’s economical benefits are hitting home to STILL’s customers. As a result, despite the overall UK industrial market dropping in the recession STILL has been seeing an increase in its sales and market share. Nick Smith, Managing Director of STILL UK, spoke to Warehouse & Logistics News.
WLN – First of all, Nick, what does your role entail as MD of STILL UK? Do you get involved in developing fleet solutions for major customers? Who besides yourself is in the senior management team?
I’m lucky to have a great team around me, with Steve Gerrard (UK Head of Sales), Steve Pearce (UK Head of Service) and Job Koopmans (UK Rental and Used Manager). I really enjoy meeting our customers and supporting our team in presenting valued commercial proposals to clients. A large part of my role over the last two years has also been to reorganise our business, both structural and culturally, to push ourselves towards our strategy of ‘best in service’. I want everyone associated with our company to feel they get the best service.
WLN – STILL Group is celebrating 90 years of history, a long time by any standard. Where and when was Still set up, and who by?
Hans Still founded the company in Hamburg in 1920 as a repair shop for electric motors. During the 1950s, Hans Still was quick to recognize that as the need to transport goods increased so to would the need for innovative logistics solutions. He also identified that it would need a strong brand for every employee to identify with so that they could continuously develop efficient solutions for the customers.
WLN – How is STILL doing globally?
STILL features in the top brands in the marketplace, and employs over 6,000 people in Europe alone.
WLN – When was Still UK set up? Where is STILL UK based? How many people do you employ here?
STILL began operations in the UK in 1978 and today we employ over 200 people directly. We also have five dedicated, well established Exclusive STILL Distributor Partners, serving customers in their local regions.
WLN – How does the UK fit into the STILL worldwide picture? What characterises the UK as a market for your trucks?
Whilst the UK market is both highly competitive and mature, nevertheless its strategic importance is clear, and thus our commitment to this market is crucial. We serve a great number of pan-European contracts, operated from the UK, and our full range product offering ideally suits the UK marketplace.
WLN – Which UK industry sectors are your customers in? Can you tell us about them?
STILL covers a broad spectrum of customers – that’s the beauty of having the full product range! We are particularly strong in the food and drink sector, along with 3PL organisations. Our fleet range is particularly suited for our partners to gain from our total cost of ownership savings.
WLN – You’ve been carrying out a major restructuring in the UK. What prompted it at this time? Have you been personally heading it up? Can you talk us through what’s been involved? Is it complete now?
Yes, it is complete. I started the reorganisation in July 2008. It was instigated due to our acquisition of the DAC business. At the time, we were making very severe cuts and changes, at a point when our competitors were continuing to employ personnel.
This created some market rumours, however I believe in taking a ‘quick knife approach’ to such changes. This enabled us to come through the other side quickly as the market dropped severely. Now, we are growing and recruiting! Without being arrogant, we see many businesses still going through the ‘big changes’, while we are now focused on improvements to our customer service and growth.
WLN – DAC was previously your largest UK distributor. Do you plan to own more of your UK distribution network, or is there still a role for independent regional distributors to work side by side with you? Are you looking for more distributors?
Well, first of all, 2008 seems a long time ago! There was a need to bring DAC and STILL together at this time, which provided a great platform for our development. Having said that, we are very proud of our established exclusive distributors and are very clear that they form part of our long-term strategy, and are able to serve our mutual customers extremely well in their regions. We will not be adding to this portfolio, but will be developing what we have already.
WLN – Following the reorganisation, how would you sum up the Still proposition? Why buy a fork lift fleet from Still?!
The re-organisation of our structure was heavily influenced by our desire to become the company that was closest in contact with its customers and best in service. All the changes we have made have led to closer interaction with customers.
We believe personal contact is key in both sales and service. One of our most innovative and unique products is STILL Report – not a forklift truck itself but an online service management package, bespoke to individual customers. So to answer the question “Why buy a forklift from STILL?,” it has to be for unrivalled account management.
WLN – Which products are in your UK range? Which are your best selling ones?
Every customer of STILL benefits from what is probably the most comprehensive and innovative range of materials handling equipment available from a single source manufacturer. From the most basic hand pallet truck right through to semi-automated warehousing equipment, STILL can offer the right product for the right job. A true “one stop shop”!
STILL are probably best known for their high performance electric counterbalance truck range but recently all the talk has been about the RX70 with Hybrid Technology.
WLN – Why is the RX70 doing so well at this particular time?
Economic challenges have prompted companies to look at ways to save money and this is where the RX70 comes into its own. Through Hybrid Technology that STILL developed and has used for many years, the RX70 is saving customers up to 30% on fuel costs compared to their previous trucks but the savings do not stop there. Maintenance free braking, unrivalled performance and long service intervals all add up to make the RX70 the truck with the lowest TCO – Total Cost of Ownership.
WLN – Have you launched any new products in 2010? Can you tell us about them?
Investment in R&D at STILL is paramount to our future, and we have a reputation for being the innovators. Exciting new products brought to market in 2010 include the innovative, multi-purpose CiTi truck, an electric powered pallet truck with superelastic tyres for loading and unloading vehicles in town and city centres.
2010 has also seen the launch of a new modular family of Powered Pallet Trucks including the EXU-SF, which is particularly suited for the UK market with its flip down rider platform, which offers unrivalled comfort for the operator with its unique suspension, height adjustable side guards and the “combi-tiller” which extends or folds depending on whether it’s in rider or pedestrian mode.
There has also been the Kanvan, a multifunctional truck that operates as a trailer/tractor unit but has the adaptability to operate as a fork lift truck with flip down forks and mast, and of course the new STILL RC40 torque convertor truck, allowing our team to offer the complete ”solution sale” and provide customers with the right truck for their applications and budget.
WLN – Do you provide driver training?
We offer a comprehensive in house training programme. We have our own driver training centres, and have been successful in providing training to 650 operators at one of our major clients.
WLN – Do you offer tailor-made trucks in small batches, if clients require them? Do you provide LPG trucks if clients request it?
We can offer customers bespoke specification in terms of factory modifications. We would survey the application first to ascertain what changes from standard are required and give the customer professional advice in terms of requirements and timescale.
LPG Trucks are a major part of what we supply, and are available from within the Hybrid RX70 range and the Torque Convertor RC 40 range.
WLN – Do you offer related materials handling services such as warehouse design and racking consultancy?
Yes we do. Clients invite the STILL team to take responsibility for the site, and in return we plan for them the best optimisation of the space available.
WLN – You claim to be ‘First in Intralogistics.’ For the uninitiated, what exactly is ‘Intralogistics,’ and what does you being first in this area mean to the end users?
Intralogistics is a cutting edge term which describes the internal flow of materials between different logistics functions in a company – from materials handling in the production process to distribution of the products as well as the corresponding flow of information.
STILL are well known for offering world class products, and now that can be said about the innovative solutions we also offer including RFID, stock management control systems, semi automation and racking systems.
WLN – Do you offer on-site fleet management? Is this side of your business growing?
This is one of our major strengths: STILL has its own suite of fleet management products. We have the fleet manager fitted directly to the truck, allowing STILL and the customer the opportunity to monitor and drive down damage or as we call it at STILL, 3D. It also allows us to watch utilisation and pick up on any inefficiency within the operation. On top of this we have the unique STILL Report System, an on line fleet management system.
STILL Report gives a detailed look into how both STILL service and its products operate on the customer sites. The system allows all the standard KPI reporting programs that everyone offers: what is unique to STILL Report is the facility to dig deep and analyse all aspects of the contract. If there is a problem then it will be shown in the Reports, which enables us to improve and continue to better our service to our valuable customers
WLN – You offer a high quality both of products and service. In the present climate, do you think customers are prepared to pay for quality, or is it a buyer’s market?
Of course everyone knows the Materials Handling Industry is high in its capacity of suppliers, and you can buy equipment from within our Industry at extremely low prices for the front end of the contract. However, you need to ask what is the true cost of these contracts? What I can guarantee you from STILL is a return on your investment.
WLN – How do you think the UK forklift market has changed, as a result of the recession?
I’m relatively new to this industry, having worked in Oil & Gas, Construction and so on, but for me it’s clear that the days are over of market share dominance being the key to success.
To survive now, we have to not only be the best in service, but also understand our true contract profitability. This means we have to make courageous decisions and sometimes to walk away from a deal!
WLN – What do you see as the most important issues for forklift manufacturers and distributors?
In my view, the industry is quick to celebrate the success of winning the deal, but then puts far less energy into delivery of the contract during its lifetime. We had a business case to make big changes anyway in 2008, but the recession has focused everyone’s minds on looking into the detail. It’s obvious that the days of profit contribution from the sale of a truck has gone, therefore we have to ensure our margin by sustaining our relationship with the customer through our service offering. The goal of high customer retention, partnership and mutual success is key to our strategy, and we are balancing our sales and service to work in partnership.
WLN – Where do you see STILL UK going from here?
We have been through all the big changes and are now focused on customer service and growth. We have a great team, a service-focused culture, a great infrastructure across the UK with Direct and Distributor coverage, and a new Demonstration Arena which opened in October at our Midlands Depot. At the end of October, we launched our new Torque Converter Product, the STILL RC40. With a high focus on service and a great product range, STILL is now well placed for growth in the UK. We are really up for it!
STILL Materials Handling Ltd Tel: 01772 644300 www.still.co.uk