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Another big year for materials handling 5

09 Mar 2017 -
Industry 4.0, the integration of robotics and smart systems into logistics operations, was the major talking point for the industry. In April, business advisory firm PwC reported that more than half of US manufacturers are implementing automation in materials handling. Industry 4.0 was equally evident in Europe and a key theme at Linde's World of Material Handling show, according to vice president of sales and service marketing Massimilano Sammartano, who points out that seven of the 10 highlights were non-traditional forklift solutions. Later, at CeMAT in Hannover, Toyota Material Handling US president Brett Wood told Forkliftaction News he was struck by "a big increase in automated and semi-automated lift trucks". 

Jungheinrich chairman Hans-Georg Frey
Jungheinrich continues its strong performance. Ranked third in the latest DHF listing, the group reported growth in its last financial period, with sales and orders rising in the third quarter. The European market was the driving force, expanding by 13%. Following the collapse of recent years, Russia returned to its course for growth (+28%). The Asian market recorded a smaller gain, growing by 3% (+15% in the third quarter), with demand in China rising by 9% since January. Market volume in North America was up 3% year on year (+12% in the third quarter). Product highlights included two wins at the IFOY awards, with the EKX 516 winning the Warehouse Truck (highlifter) category and the Jungheinrich EJQ 325 snaring the honours in the Special Vehicle class. Meanwhile, the group continues to roll out its dealer strategy which saw the acquisition of a dealership in Malaysia and the majority stake in NTP Forklifts in Australia in 2015. Last year, it established a sales division in Chile, taking over the assets and staff of Spitec Renta Lift; and in South Africa, Jungheinrich took over the assets and operations of BME Group. 

KION group, the world’s second-largest manufacturer, closed out last year in a strong position after recording a solid third quarter. Driven mainly by growth in Europe, revenue grew by 3.8% to EUR1.283 billion (USD1.42 billion), while the group's earnings were up 4.6% on the same period last year, EUR126.8 million (USD140.72 million). The KION Group saw the number of trucks ordered go up by 10.3% in the third quarter of 2016. The group’s performance has been boosted by its May 2015 acquisition of Belgian automation specialist Egemin Group. "Thanks to a unique and comprehensive portfolio of products ranging from forklift trucks to fully automated materials handling solutions, we will be better positioned than ever to meet the needs of our customers and to support them with value-adding solutions," says KION CEO Gordon Riske. 

Lithium-ion was the battery technology to watch in 2016. The technology, popularised by Tesla in the automotive space, was recognised with its first coveted IFOY award  - also a first for a Chinese truck. BYD’s ECB18C, an 80 v lithium-ion stacker, took the title in the Counterbalance Truck up to 3.5 T category. The technology is finding its way into the ranges of mainstream manufacturers, with Carrefour Italy choosing a fleet of new EXU Li-Ion low-lift pallet trucks from STILL late last year. The retailer has deployed 66 new lithium-ion trucks. 

Manitou used its good performance in 2016 to fund a buy-back of 2.8% of its share capital from Toyota Industries Corporation. The transaction followed the termination of the industrial partnerships between the two companies, dating back to December 2014. The company reported growth in the third quarter, with sales rising 18% to EUR323 million (USD351 million). There has also been a modest rise in orders, with EUR206 million (USD224 million) booked in the quarter – up from EUR189 million (USD205 million) for the same time last year. Like other manufacturers, Manitou saw steady growth in Europe, but it found the going tougher in North America, where markets were "still weak and under competitive pressure". 

National Forklift Safety Day on June 14 brought together leading US companies for the third time, with a number of events around the nation. NFSD, sponsored by the Industrial Truck Association, serves as a focal point for manufacturers to highlight the safe use of forklifts and the importance of operator training. James J. Radous III, UniCarriers president and chairman of National Forklift Safety Day, led a number of events in Washington DC and met with legislators on Capitol Hill to raise awareness of the importance of forklift safety. Meanwhile, in the UK, September was marked as Forklift Safety Month (Safetember) as part of an initiative by the Fork Lift Truck Association. FLTA has been organising its safety campaign since 2008 to raise awareness of the dangers involved in forklift operations throughout the industry.