Combilift continues to be the global leading manufacturer of customised and innovative material handling solutions for a wide range of applications across varied industry sectors. As well as Combilift’s flagship product – the multidirectional C-Series trucks, the company’s range has expanded rapidly over the years and now comprises very diverse products. These include compact pedestrian stackers and powered pallet trucks, sideloaders, stand-on trucks, as well as straddle carriers and mobile gantries designed to handle the most extreme and oversized loads. And of course, the world’s biggest selling narrow aisle articulated forklift – the Aisle Master. From Combilift’s manufacturing facility and global HQ in Monaghan it exports its products to more than 85 countries and over 60,000 units have been produced since the company was established in 1998.
Martin McVicar, CEO and co-founder of Combilift spoke to Warehouse & Logistics News.
What products or services does your company offer?
We see ourselves not just as a manufacturer of handling equipment, but as experts in enabling customers to optimise one of their most valuable commodities, namely their space. All our products are designed to work in the smallest possible footprint according to their design, which makes for more efficient, cost effective and productive operation whilst ensuring the safest possible working environment. To this end we offer a free logistic and warehouse layout design service, which is a major aspect of our business which drives sales forward. Our team of highly experienced engineers design, plan and produce material flow analyses and 3-D animations for our worldwide customers, which illustrate the capacity potential on site. This can be done within a turnaround of just 24 hours. When personal site visits were a problem due to Covid restrictions we also offered a virtual service using video apps, and take up for this increased substantially in the last year or so. With the significant increase in the demand for warehouse space, compounded by the growth in e-commerce, we have seen a 100% increase in demand for our free warehouse design service.
Has your company celebrated any milestones this year?
Yes we have had some major milestones this year. Our 60,000th unit came off the production lines and was delivered mid-year to Metroll, a leading Australian manufacturer and supplier of steel building products. The new Combi-CB3000 is a further addition to Metroll’s fleet of 13 Combilifts that are operating in its sites across Australia. Combilift number 60,000 has been fitted with features such as 4.9m triplex mast with a 3050mm spreader to safely and easily manage the long loads that are typically handled by Metroll.
We also delivered the largest multidirectional forklift to come off our production lines so far to modular data centre manufacturer BladeRoom. The giant 30t capacity C30,000 truck is working at the company’s factory in Gloucestershire, ensuring the efficient handling of components for its server rooms, as well as finished products, which are comparable in size to shipping containers and can weigh up to 19 tonnes @ 1200mm load centres. The truck measures around 5m x 5m, has a wheel base of 3725mm and is fitted with a John Deere Diesel 127 kW (170HP) engine, and also incorporates customised features which enable the safe and stable lifting and transportation of BladeRoom’s very oversized loads.
Have you launched any new products this year?
Yes, as ever our R&D department has been busy. In February we launched the new Aisle Master-OP (AME-OP) – a stand-on electric powered model that combines the advantages of a narrow aisle articulated forklift and an order picker for versatile operation in warehousing and manufacturing applications. This is a major innovation and its development was influenced by feedback from customers already using Aisle Masters for space saving storage and efficiency who wanted a solution for the growing demand for order picking customised orders. A main feature is the step-through operator compartment, and its low floor height of just 280mm enables convenient, single step access from both sides of the truck. This speeds up order picking compared to the operator having to get in and out from a seated position. The AME-OP is available in a number of variants, with lift capacities from 1,500kg to 2,500kg, lift heights of up to 12.1m, and can operate in aisles as narrow as 1650mm. This model is now operating with clients in multiple markets.
Do you think some of the trends that began or were accelerated during Covid-19, such as the increase in e-commerce, will become permanent?
Yes, e-commerce for example was already on the up before the pandemic, and online shopping has now become more mainstream. This is resulting in more demand for warehousing facilities, faster loading cycles and increased levels of order picking. Logistics companies are also looking at setting up smaller distribution hubs near urban areas where optimum use of increasingly costly space is vital. These requirements offer great potential for our space-saving warehousing trucks such as the Aisle Master and our pedestrian stacker range. The growth in e-commerce is here to stay. All our clients in this sector are continuing to expand.
What is the company’s commitment to sustainability?
This has been a major focus for Combilift this year and we recently launched the new Combi-XLE multidirectional model to meet the growing demand for electric powered vehicles, in line with the wish for more sustainable and greener operations. The Combi-XLE combines quiet, emission-free operation with powerful performance for a wide range of industries. We made our first electric C-Series over 18 years ago, and now over 60% of the trucks we manufacture are electric, with availability in almost all models across our range. As more and more of our customers are opting for electric power it is obvious that they are as committed to sustainability and a circular economy as we are. The improvements in battery technology mean that the performance of electric trucks are equally on a par with diesel or LPG forklifts for handling very bulky and heavy loads. Additionally, 92% of all components used in the manufacture of our vehicles are 100% recyclable.
Will you be exhibiting at any major trade shows in 2022?
We are looking forward to finally being able to meet up with customers and contacts next year to showcase new products launched this year and others that are currently in the pipeline. We have large stands booked for LogiMAT in Stuttgart, and Modex in Atlanta in March and of course IMHX in September. We will also be exhibiting at industry specific shows such as timber and aluminium events. Although virtual events have been a necessary compromise in the last year or so, I think everyone is keen to actually get out there now and see new innovations hands on.
What industries do you believe offer your business the most potential over the next year?
Going by the best-ever year we have had for incoming orders since we were established 23 years ago, many customers in diverse industries across the world are experiencing growth. They are relying on our products to overcome some of the issues that come with expansion and the additional volumes they need to handle. Manufacturing is buoyant in sectors such as pharmaceutical and packaging, the modular building industry is also growing, and of course warehousing is at an all-time high. This offers great potential for our business in 2022. As space becomes more expensive and sustainability is at the forefront of everyone’s mind, the need to maximise warehouse cube space offers Combilift massive potential in the future.
How would you sum up your company in three words?
Sustainable Warehouse-Storage Solutions.
+ 353 47 80500