Lift truck sales, and spirits, picking up

Eager to forget 2009, lift truck manufacturers look to brighter future

By ·

Two years ago, the economy was particularly bleak and some of the most drastic downsizing had yet to hit the materials handling industry. When combined with January weather perfectly suited to the mood, ProMat 2009 was well-attended, but less than jubilant.

The North American lift truck market was particularly hard-hit, with a stunning 40% plunge in 2009 sales that neared 30-year lows. Since then, lift trucks mounted an equally shocking rebound of 40% growth in 2010, serving in both cases as a barometer for the state of the industry. At this year’s ProMat, manufacturers of lift trucks and lift truck accessories reported a marked change in the atmosphere.

“There is definitely exponentially more confidence today than there was at the height of the panic,” David Furman, vice president of marketing for Raymond, told Modern at ProMat 2010. “There’s more confidence, but there isn’t a cavalier quality to it.”

Companies are no longer adding capacity in anticipation of unending growth, said Furman. Instead, companies are trying to leverage the assets and real estate they have, and are looking to lift truck manufacturers for more than just trucks.

“It’s a different discussion,” said Furman. “They’re telling us all their problems, from storage to racks to order-picking, data management and sustainability.”

Raymond had in-house engineering and optimization specialists in the past, but those resources are being deployed more than ever as customers seek full-spectrum services from their OEMs.

“ProMat allowed us to showcase that we’re well-positioned for that demand,” said Furman. “We had three times as many booth visits as in 2009.”

According to Melinda Beckett-Maines, national marketing manager for Toyota Material Handling, the weather during ProMat 2011 played no small part in the event’s success.

“No one can argue that March is a better time to visit Chicago than January,” she said. “It was nice to see the shift in timing did not dissuade people from attending the show. ProMat brings together people from all facets of materials handling, making it a great meeting place. From Toyota’s perspective, and those we spoke to, it appears the industry is cautiously optimistic about the material handling industry in 2011.”

Jeanette Robinson, marketing and advertising manager for SMH, echoed this sentiment, reporting plentiful, qualified leads at her company’s booth.

“We were very pleased,” she said. “Almost all our customers said business is picking up. We’re not just at the beginning of the recovery, we’re in the middle of it.” And, as far as Robinson could tell, the recession was not without its silver lining.

“The downturn made our customers look into other markets, and that’s what we did as well,” she said. “You can’t do the traditional thing and make the same money.”

Accessory providers like SMH benefited from industry-wide efforts to bring older trucks and rental fleets out of storage. These small steps toward growth are timid when compared to new fleet purchases, which are increasingly structured as short-term leases, another sign of cautiousness. That said, if the industry can grow as projected while buyers are still pulling punches, increased confidence could lead to knockout lift truck sales, and that’s good news for everyone.

ProMat 2011 will be held March 21 - 24, 2011 at McCormick Place South in Chicago. The tradeshow will showcase the latest manufacturing, distribution and supply chain solutions in the material handling and logistics industry.

Read all of Modern’s ProMat 2011 coverage

 


About the Author

Josh Bond, Contributing Editor
Josh Bond is Senior Editor for Modern, and was formerly Modern’s lift truck columnist and associate editor. He has a degree in Journalism from Keene State College and has studied business management at Franklin Pierce University.

Subscribe to Modern Materials Handling Magazine!

Subscribe today. It's FREE!
Find out what the world’s most innovative companies are doing to improve productivity in their plants and distribution centers.
Start your FREE subscription today!

Article Topics

Forklifts · Lift Trucks · ProMat · · All Topics
Latest Whitepaper
Download the full 2016 Modern Materials Handling Salary Survey
How does your earning power match up with your peers across the material handling industry? Materials Handling salary survey, Warehouse manager salary survey, Warehouse Salary Research
Download Today!
From the November 2016 Issue
In Whirlpool Corp.’s Clyde, Ohio, factory, mobile robots have automated the delivery of parts to the line. The result is a more consistent, efficient and safer operation.
Optimizing home delivery: It takes more than planning
9th Annual Salary Survey: Success and Satisfaction Continue to Reign
View More From this Issue
Subscribe to Our Email Newsletter
Sign up today to receive our FREE, weekly email newsletter!
Latest Webcast
2016 Warehouse/DC Operations Webcast: Confronting omni-channel complexity
During this webcast we’ll examine the current activities, trends, and best practices in warehouse and DC operations management and how companies plan to address complex issues associate with omni-channel fulfillment.
Register Today!
EDITORS' PICKS
Systems Report: Whirpool puts mobile robots to work
In Whirlpool Corp.’s Clyde, Ohio, factory, mobile robots have automated the delivery of parts to...
Modern Materials Handling’s 2017 Casebook Collection
The 2017 Casebook features more than 35 case studies that put the spotlight on successful innovation...

Brownells: Designing for Efficiency and Growth
Brownells’ new Iowa distribution center has taken touches—and miles—out of the order...
Industry celebrates National Manufacturing Day
Fourth annual Manufacturing Day is a grassroots effort by U.S. manufacturers to improve the public...