Forkway Group, a Yale Materials Handling distributor, is celebrating its first half century of success this Christmas. From a small business based in Buckinghamshire, Forkway now has branches in Amersham, Dewsbury, Doncaster and Southampton and supplies forklift trucks and warehouse equipment to over 2,000 live accounts across the UK and Ireland.
Forkway Chairman Martyn Fletcher, who also chairs the Fork Lift Truck Association, hosted a gala evening at the Bellhouse Hotel, Beaconsfield on Saturday 26th November, with guests including Forkway staff, partners, longstanding customers, suppliers and industry colleagues.
Among those raising a glass to Forkway’s first fifty years were a number of very long serving customers, including some that were present at the quarter century celebrations in 1986, among them Tuffnells, Mitchell Cotts, then Hellmans Parcel Systems, Air Products, Circle Express and Nacanco, now Rexam. Incidentally, Forkway Chairman Martyn Fletcher was already on the management team back then, having joined in 1985 as Sales Director from his previous job running a warehousing operation in Greenford, using trucks supplied by Forkway.
Forkway began business in Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, moving to Chorleywood then Little Chalfont, before moving the final 50 yards to their present base in Amersham. In 1992 they opened a small unit in Sheffield, which grew rapidly. Four years later, Martyn Fletcher led a buyout with fellow director Richard Greaves, supported by Investors in Industry. In 1998 Forkway acquired Solent Forklift Trucks in Ower, near Southampton. In the North another depot followed Sheffield, in Morley, Leeds: Sheffield and Morley were then merged into a customised building in Dewsbury, and as Forkway expanded in the East Riding, they opened further premises in Doncaster in 2007.
Forkway’s FLTA connections have remained strong over the years: under founder Frank Davies, Forkway became a founder member of the Fork Truck Hire Association, forerunner of the FLTA, in 1972. In recent years, Martyn Fletcher has served as an FLTA board member since 2002. He was FLTA Vice Chairman from 2007-9 then became Chairman in October 2009, and hopes to take over as President in 2012.
Forkway Group has a similarly long association with quality forklift brands. In 1979 Forkway was one of the UK’s first Nissan (Datsun) dealers, and then in 2008 took over as distributors of the Yale brand.
Today Forkway distributes Yale’s complete range of warehouse and counterbalance trucks, providing customers with cost effective, forward thinking products for all requirements, coupled with an unrivalled support structure for service and parts.
For customer needs that fall outside the Yale range, Forkway Group has evolved strategic alliances with leading specialist manufacturers, and can also provide expert advice on warehouse efficiency.
Forkway also offers Thorough Examination and driver training from novice to instructor, on all types of forklift trucks, warehouse trucks and associated equipment. This year Forkway have taken on apprentices at Amersham, Southampton and Dewsbury under the FLTA scheme, and plan to do so again in 2012. The company is committed to training: “This industry is greying noticeably, but we’re doing our bit to reverse it,” says Martyn Fletcher.
Forkway have customers in every industry sector. Representation in manufacturing is strong, especially in the North, and transport and distribution more so in the South. Southampton is a mix of manufacturing, transport, distribution and maritime customers, with Forkway supplying the latter with Yale’s higher capacity trucks, which take 16-tonne loads in their stride.
“The last twelve months have been hard all round,” Martyn concedes, “but in these tough times the Doncaster depot has gone from strength to strength, a great team effort. It’s even more noticeable that our biggest contract hire success has been with the larger customers. The smaller customers who are our bread and butter haven’t been so active recently, but we certainly haven’t turned our backs on them, and still guarantee them the same level of service.”
As the company starts its second half-century, the Forkway management team has big plans for 2012: “We’ve won some very significant contracts in the last few months, which will go live in the New Year. We’re taking on additional engineering staff and increasing our contract hire fleet. We’re also putting in a new computer system, giving greater access to information and enabling us to manage the business more closely.
“But even with these enhancements, our biggest asset remains our people. Forkway is a close-knit team with a high percentage of long serving staff, which is a huge benefit to our customers. We acknowledge long service every February, and the next such occasion, in 2012, will be even more special than previous years, as a number of members of our original Yorkshire team will be receiving their twenty year awards alongside their long serving colleagues in the South.”
Forkway Group are part of the Yale Europe Materials Handling distribution network which operates through Briggs Equipment UK.
Tel: 0844 854 8899