Something new in the forklift market

ETV 216i, Keyvisual, Route 1, Spot on, Stapler steht in einer Lagerhalle

Bringing with it new technology like lithium-ion batteries and state-of-the-art automation, Jungheinrich Australia is ready to make a lasting impact on the Australian forklift market.

Over the past 35 years not a lot has changed in the Australian forklift market, according to Grant Stewart, Sales and Marketing Director of Jungheinrich Australia. “There has been gradual technological tweaks over that time, but in general, everything has followed a market-driven standard that is as simple as asking customers what type of units they would like and how many,” he says.

Internationally, however, things have moved on. In Europe, Asia and elsewhere, rather than simply selling forklifts, suppliers offer complete warehousing ‘solutions’,” Grant says.

“The Australian market has now reached something in the order of 20,000 units and it’s ready for a change. It’s time for Australia to catch up with the rest of the world,” he says.

Jungheinrich Australia

As Stewart explained, the company began life three years ago when its German-based parent company Jungheinrich Group purchased a local dealership.

“After three years of strategy and planning, we are now ready to change the face of the Australian materials handling sector,” Grant says.

With 30 years’ experience in the industry, Stewart has held senior positions with international responsibilities within the material handling industry in Australia. His most recent role was as a Director of this country’s largest forklift company in Australia.

“I was actually retired, but the opportunity to come on board with Jungheinrich was enough to make me change my plans. The game-changing potential of their technology was something I couldn’t resist,” he says.

As Sales Director, Stewart oversees a team of five state-based sales managers who together boast in excess of 200 years’ experience in the electric forklift market.

In addition, the company recently welcomed David Calleia –  who previously headed operations at one of SE Asia’s largest OEMs, and himself has more than 30 years’ experience, as its Key Account Manager, in turn David has put together arguably the most experienced team of industry professionals available. They include Michael Harris, Chris Burns, Luis Astudillo, Johan Nieuwland and Brian Power and Calleia is still looking to employ more industry leaders.

With the majority of his team now in place, the company is ready to go to market.

New technologies

Jungheinrich Australia’s plan to bring Australia’s materials handling market into the 21st century rests on three key factors –  lithium-ion battery technology, automation and intralogistics.

The example of a major Australian retailer, which used to run forklifts equipped with traditional lead-acid batteries but recently converted to Jungheinrich lithium-ion battery powered units, illustrates the benefits of this lithium-ion battery technology.

Before the change, the operation required three batteries per truck to get through each shift. To do that, they needed to store two batteries, while the units were in use. With more than 100 units on site, they needed enough storage space for 400 batteries, as well as enough (skilled) labour to charge them.

“On the three-shift operation it would take half an hour to 40 minutes to change a battery and set it up to get charged. That’s two and a half hours non-recoverable labour before anything starts,” Grant says.

After changing to lithium-ion batteries, they could actually run three shifts on one battery. Unheard of in this country, this made it possible for the customer to immediately cut those extra labour hours.

Automation is another key development that Jungheinrich Australia brings to the market.

For example, the company’s automated guided vehicles (AGVs), available in either full or semi-automated models, can eliminate the need of an operator for the vehicle for those very repetitive tasks of moving product in a production or warehouse facility over the same path. These AGVs could be seen as the way of the future of MHE.

Jungheinrich has also introduced another semi-automated vehicle which is their ECE225 low level order picker with EASYPILOT remote operation. This order picker will follow the picker around the warehouse aisles therefore eliminating the need for the operator to jump in and off to move the vehicle to the next pick spot. Like Lithium-Ion batteries, they offer impressive efficiency improvements in terms of picking items, labour cost etc.

Then, the company’s warehouse management system, which enables communication between trucks, allows companies to fully integrate their operations.

One-stop materials handling provider

Jungheinrich Australia’s upcoming introduction of an intralogistics department is set to transform it into Australia’s first one-stop materials handing provider.

Far from a simple forklift supplier, it will become an intralogistics provider with the capacity to find Greenfield sites for clients, then build, automate and equip it with everything from racking, forklifts and cranes to software.

“Unlike the rest of the market, Jungheinreich Australia offers integrated solutions. It’s not about the forklift. It’s about the solution, the service, and the consulting,” Grant says.

Rather than delivering a single quote, the company works with each new customer to provide the best possible solution. Because their portfolio includes manual, semi-automatic and fully automatic forklifts, they have no bias for any of these options.

“If the right truck is an internal combustion model , we’ll use our internal combustion model, but if the right truck is a very narrow aisle turrow truck, that’s the way that we’ll go,” said Stewart.

In terms of automation a staged introduction is also possible. Customers can purchase a standard truck, then we can semi-automate it and then we can automate that same unit.

“A staged introduction means less disruption to a business in terms of things like cutting half an existing workforce overnight. It allows for more gradual change,” Grant says.

The Jungheinrich Group

An international market leader, Jungheinrich employs 18,000 people in 40 countries and sold 125,000 forklifts worldwide last year.

One advantage of dealing with Jungheinrich is that the company is able to negotiate contracts that cover the entire global operations of large organisations. In other words, they can service the needs of these customers in Europe, Asia, the US –  and wherever else they operate –  under the one umbrella agreement.

Now, Jungheinrich Australia’s introduction brings this capacity to the Australian market.

With this in mind, the company is particularly targeting larger ‘key accounts’ across all industries. Indeed, according to Stewart, the company has already had some major wins in this area.

However, as he was quick to add, this focus in no way diminishes the company’s dedication to its other customers.

“Our commitment to all customers, regardless of their size, is one of the main reasons we are a global market leader. However, because we live in a globalised world, we also recognise the importance of  guaranteeing our key accounts worldwide sustained quality as well as continuity of service,” he says.

“Recently we met a customer who said one of our main competitors had offered to fly him to Japan or the US to talk to their experts in semi-automation.”

Their response said it all.

“We didn’t need to put him on a 15-hour flight. We put him in the car and drove him 15 minutes to the next suburb to talk to our semi-automation expert,” Grant says.

Sounds like that ‘something new’ has well and truly arrived.