Forklift Maker Combilift Opens 500,000-Square-Foot Global Headquarters
Irish material handling manufacturer & FSDF member Combilift recently held a grand opening of its 500,000-square-foot global headquarters. The new manufacturing facility, which cost €50 million (about U.S. $58 million) to build, will allow Combilift to double production.
Established in 1998, Combilift currently exports 98 percent of its products to 85 countries through its 250-plus international dealer network.
Martin McVicar, managing director of Combilift, attributes the company’s growth to mass customization. “Mass customization is the new frontier for both the customer and the manufacturer,” McVicar said. “Increasingly customers are expecting products to be tailored to meet their needs. Forklift producers that offer customized products generally produce low volume, but Combilift is setting the benchmark by offering the mass production of tailored products, resulting in a strategic advantage for our customers. Traditional forklift manufacturers focus on high volume mass production of the same products. We evolve with our clients, producing new products each year.”
Combilift offers a free logistic and warehouse design service. Combi-Connect allows the customer to see the benefit a Combilift product will bring to their business.
“Our engineers proactively design, plan and produce solutions in collaboration with our customers by offering material flow analysis and 3D animations,” said McVicar. “We work with customers to produce warehouse designs to visualize the capacity potential as well as the optimum flow of materials on their site.
“The flexibility in our new facility means that Combilift can continue to accommodate any customer request for a customized material handling solution. Customer requirements are our standard. The new factory enables us to double production and remain focused on the needs of our customers and dealers. We have become much more than a forklift manufacturer and are transforming the transport and logistics sector with our innovative, space-spacing products.”
McVicar emphasizing the importance of listening to the customer. “We work closely with our customers and dealers to identify solutions that best match their individual specific needs,” he said. “Combilift invests 7 percent of its annual turnover (revenue) in research and development (R & D) to enhance its customization capability. We are intensifying the collaboration with our customers in the warehouse and material handling sectors. The intention is to maximize return on revenue.”
Combilift developed the world’s first multidirectional all-wheel drive IC-powered forklift in 1998, the company said. In its first year of operation, Combilift produced 18 units, 17 of which were exported. The company has more than doubled in the last five years and now has 40,000 units in operation in over 85 countries.
Combilift’s product portfolio has expanded. “As a company, Combilift has always focused on a number of niche market segments and has a proven track record of launching one to two new products annually,” McVicar said. “In the first 10 years Combilift concentrated on the long load material handling sector. The Combilift multi-directional forklift revolutionized the handling of long materials as it allowed customers to handle long products in less space more safely. Between 2008 and 2018 Combilift diversified its product ranged by developing a number of innovative space saving warehouse and heavy load handling products; the Aisle Master articulated truck and the Straddle Carrier (Combi-SC) respectively. Combilift entered the pedestrian forklift market with the introduction of a number of unique products (Combi-WR and Combi-CS) in the last five years, which benefit from its patented multi-positional operator tiller arm technology.”
Combilift sees a growing demand for pedestrian trucks, driven by safety concerns where customers and/or employees are in the vicinity of operating forklifts according to McVicar. “It is Combilift’s intention to significantly expand its pedestrian forklift range as can be seen with the launch of the high lift capacity Combilift Powered Pallet Truck (Combi-PPT).”
The new 46,500 square-meter purpose–built factory is set on a 100-acre site with room for expansion. With 11 acres of roof space, it is one of the largest manufacturing operations under one single roof in the Republic of Ireland.
Incorporating the latest manufacturing processes with a focus on sustainability, the new factory will enable Combilift to double its output in a single shift across all production lines. Four 90-metre moving assembly lines produce a finished truck every 15 minutes. Thirty percent of Comblift’s roof space is covered in skylights enabling staff to work in natural daylight without the assistance of artificial lighting. Lighting is provided through 1100 LED light with individual PIR sensors. Solar panels supply 185 kW of energy with a 1 MW Biomass plant fueled by recycled wood (pallets etc) to heat the spraying boots and assembly area. 110,000 litres of rain water is harvested for use throughout the facility.
More than 50 truckloads of finished products are dispatched to 85 countries each week. Spare parts are also shipped across the world from Monaghan, Ireland, to the dealer network.
Certified to international quality and safety management standards, the new headquarters and manufacturing facility has been awarded ISO 9001 international quality management system, ISO 14001 Environment Management and OHSAS 18001 Occupational Health and Safety Assessment Series.