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60 seconds with Jim Moran, chairman of ITA

Modern spends 60 seconds with Jim Moran, the chairman of the Industrial Truck Association, talking about the state of the lift truck industry.

As ITA chairman, Jim Moran works with the executive board to determine the strategic direction of the association. He is also responsible for building a consensus behind that strategic direction and providing a voice to the association’s position on industry issues.

August 01, 2012

Jim Moran
Chairman, Industrial Truck Association (ITA); Board of Directors, Crown Equipment
Location: Washington, D.C.
Experience: 45-year industry veteran who has held several industry leadership positions and has presented at numerous conferences. He is a 20-year member of the ITA executive committee and a three-time president of the association.
Duties: As ITA chairman, Moran works with the executive board to determine the strategic direction of the association. He is also responsible for building a consensus behind that strategic direction and providing a voice to the association’s position on industry issues.

Modern: The lift truck industry has had successful back-to-back years. Where does the industry stand today in comparison to the years prior to the recession?
Moran: In 2005 and 2006, we had demand for more than 200,000 trucks in North America. In 2009, we had demand for just over 91,000. Last year, demand was back to 164,000 trucks, but that’s still lagging pre-recession demand by as much as 20%. If the last half of 2012 is as good as the first half, we’d be at roughly 180,000. It’s certainly good compared to 2009, but we’re not back to the good old days.

Modern: Have there been any significant shifts in the kinds of trucks being purchased today? If so, what’s driving it? 
Moran: If you look across the market, there have been slight changes in all of the truck classes. I think the most meaningful change has been in Class 3. That includes the smaller, lower-priced units like walkies and stackers. In 2005, Class 3 was about 25% of the market and now it’s about a third of the market. I think it’s a result of the economy. Where people once just added another lift truck to their fleet, today they’re buying only what they need. I also think that as logistics processes become more sophisticated, customers are looking for task-specific solutions. A department might buy one of these Class 3 vehicles so they don’t need to wait on a roving truck to bring them their material. More thought is going into lift truck selection and that’s been a positive result of the recession.

Modern: In our Top 20 article, you mentioned that end users are asking questions about green initiatives and the environment when it comes to lift trucks. How is that playing out?
Moran: First, companies are connecting purchases to their own corporate social responsibility initiatives. As part of due diligence, they’re asking their vendors about their sustainability initiatives. They want credible information from their vendors. Beyond that, there’s an increased interest in the energy consumption of the lift truck itself. It started in Europe, but you’re seeing a lot of effort to make trucks more energy efficient, whether it’s an internal combustion truck or an electric. More importantly, I think there’s going to be an interesting debate about whether that’s the best way to save energy or whether its more important to focus on the most efficient way to move goods through your DC.

Modern: In our information technology story this month, suppliers talked about the move toward the lift truck as a platform for smart technology. How do you see lift truck technology evolving?
Moran: The technology developments in lift trucks over the last few years have created tremendous value for our customers and the industry. The controls on trucks today know when the truck is making a very tight turn or the forks are at a certain height to maximize performance and keep the operator out of trouble. We’re into regenerative braking and mast lowering technology which is increasing efficiency and using less energy. When you look at the future, you can think about lift trucks connected in some way to a customer’s warehouse management system (WMS). This allows the lift truck to be used as a labor management tool because it knows what the operator is doing between the time the WMS issues a task and its completion. That’s where the development work is being done by many people in our business. That’s pretty exciting.

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About the Author

Bob Trebilcock, editorial director, has covered materials handling, technology, logistics and supply chain topics for nearly 30 years. In addition to Supply Chain Management Review, he is also Executive Editor of Modern Materials Handling. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Trebilcock lives in Keene, NH. He can be reached at 603-357-0484.

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