In conversation with Francis Kindlon, Regional Manager, Combilift

Francis Kindlon

The demand for e-commerce and therefore warehousing space will continue to rise, as the pandemic-induced growth and change in shopping habits will remain in place. As costs will also rise, making best use of existing space will be a priority.

What are your best-known solutions/products/services?

When Combilift was established in 1998, our flagship product was the C4000 model – the world’s first IC powered, three wheel, all-wheel drive multidirectional forklift. Having developed at least one new product every year since then, we now manufacture a wide and unparalleled range of material handling solutions for the safe, space saving and more productive handling of long loads, palletised goods, containers and oversized and bulky products such as concrete and modular structures. These include not just the multidirectional models but also the Aisle Master narrow aisle articulated trucks, pedestrian stackers and straddle carriers.

Another offering which sets us apart from other suppliers is our unique, free warehouse design and layout service that we provide to our potential clients so that they can see first-hand the benefits our products can bring to their operations. Our team of highly experienced engineers design, plan and produce material flow analyses and 3-D animations which illustrate the capacity potential as well as the optimum material flow of materials on site.

A combination of this plus the ability of our forklifts to work in narrow aisles can enable companies to benefit from as much as 50% more storage space in any given area. As space is one of the most expensive commodities for most operations, this service has proved invaluable for clients.

Which industry sectors are your customers in, and which ones are growing fastest?

We supply almost every industry sector from A – Z, from the aluminium sector to zinc coating. Customers, amongst many others, include those from the manufacturing, timber, metals, pharmaceutical, shipping, logistics and transport sectors.

Due to the huge surge in e-commerce driven by Covid-19 restraints, warehouses around the world are faced with unprecedented demand on storage capacity and throughput. This is an area where the Aisle Master range of articulated trucks can be a game changer.

The ability to work in narrow aisles can reduce or avoid the need for clients to expand current warehouses or relocate. Instead they can optimise their existing facilities with the potential to double storage capacity depending on current layout.  

The cost of cold store warehousing compared to ambient is a lot higher per m² and this is also a reason for the increased popularity of the Aisle Master cold store spec models. These make a significant contribution to reduced overheads by enabling maximum pallet density in any given area for reduced per pallet costs. The enclosed heated cab also keeps drivers warm and comfortable. The extreme cold can be unforgiving on equipment, quickly draining batteries for example, but the powerful 930 Ah batteries used in the Aisle Master cold store models counteract this, enabling prolonged operation in temperatures as low as -30° C. 

What are your most recent product innovations?

Earlier in the year we launched the 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 applications. The main feature of this is the step-through operator compartment which has design copyright protection across multiple markets in 4 continents. The low floor height of just 280mm enables convenient, single step access from both sides of the truck which speeds up order picking compared to the operator having to get in and out from a seated position. The AME-OP truck has all the key advantages of the conventional Aisle Master – indoor/outdoor operation for loading/offloading and for stock replenishment at other times during shifts when order picking is not required. The Aisle Master-OP is a major innovation in the warehousing sector and is available in a number of variants, with lift capacities from 1,500kg to 2,500kg and lift heights of up to 12.1m.

What’s your strategy for succeeding in the current climate?

We see Combilift not just as a supplier of forklift trucks, but as a solution provider that takes a holistic approach to the whole subject of materials handling, storage, warehousing and space saving. Customers come to us for the expertise we have acquired over many years that can really make a massive difference – and improvement – to their operations. We also work with a global network of dealers, local and on the ground wherever our customers are based to ensure a valuable source of knowledge. 

Can you tell us about any of recent customer contracts and how you helped the customer meet their challenges?

The recently launched Aisle Master AME-OP model is a good example of how we work with customers to develop products that they need. Sorted Logistics, a 3pl based in Christchurch New Zealand were  already using the Aisle Master for space saving, storage and efficiency in their warehouse . They asked if we could redevelop the Aisle Master to meet their ever-growing demand for order picking customised orders. So we took their feedback on board and have now delivered eight of these units to Sorted Logistics.

Rewi Te Whatu, Director of Sorted Logistics commented: “Having visited the Combilift Plant early in 2020 to review the ongoing design work on the Order Picker, I can confidently say that Combilift’s innovative passionate team produce machines to the highest quality. They were committed to deliver a solution tailored to our Order Picking requirements, which will be an integral part of our expanding operations.”

In the aluminium sector, Hammerer Aluminium Industries (HAI) is now using three multidirectional forklifts – two 14t capacity C14000 models and an 8t C8000 truck – to ensure the safer and more efficient handling of extrusion billets at the company‘s HQ in Austria. Christian Ertl, Group Manager of transport logistics casting said: “The advantages of the 4-way concept that combines front and side loading technology are significant compared to conventional forklifts. The ability to turn the wheels with just the touch of a button to change the direction of travel is of great benefit where space is pretty limited.” 

What’s the latest news from your company?

The 60,000th unit has been manufactured and is now in use at a customer in Australia. See press release recently received. This also mentions the impressive growth of sales for this year so far.

Could you please share your views on Warehousing & IntraLogistics Industry for our readers?

The demand for e-commerce and therefore warehousing space will continue to rise, as the pandemic-induced growth and change in shopping habits will remain in place.

As costs will also rise, making best use of existing space will be a priority. Also companies are looking to set up smaller, more local distribution hubs, which will require very versatile and efficient handling equipment, such as our one machine truck to rack Aisle Master range can offer.      

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