Combilift says it is ‘setting the benchmark for mass customisation’ with its new €50 million production plant. PBM reports.
Built at a cost of €50 million, Combilift’s spectacular new 500,000 sq.ft Global Headquarters and manufacturing facility in Monaghan, Ireland will allow the leading material handling provider to double its production capabilities. The new factory is a fitting way to mark the firm’s 20th anniversary of ‘lifting innovation’ and Managing Director Martin McVicar states that the new facility will enable the company to set the benchmark for mass production of customised, innovative products.
Under the guidance of Martin and Technical Director Robert Moffett, the manufacturer developed the world’s first multidirectional all-wheel drive IC engine powered forklift in 1998. In its first year of operation, the business produced 18 units, 17 of which were exported. There are now some 40,000 units in operation around the world, with the business having more than doubled in size over the last five years. It currently exports 98% of its products to 85 countries through a 250-strong international dealer network.
Martin firmly attributes the company’s impressive growth since its inception to the concept of mass customisation. Aiming to maximise ROI for its customers, he explained the philosophy: “Mass customisation is the new frontier for both the customer and the manufacturer. Increasingly customers are expecting products to be tailored to meet their needs.
“Forklift producers that offer customised 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.”
Having manufactured products tailored to suit client requirements from the start, Martin continued: “The flexibility in our new facility means that Combilift can continue to accommodate any customer request for a customised 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.”
Martin argues that Combilift has become “much more than a forklift manufacturer” and an example of this is its free logistics and warehouse design service. Named Combi-Connect, this allows the customer to see the benefit a Combilift product will bring to their business. Martin explained: “Our engineers proactively design, plan and produce solutions in collaboration with our customers by offering material flow analysis and 3D animations. We work with customers to produce warehouse designs to visualise the capacity potential as well as the optimum flow of materials on their site.”
In addition to providing a tailored service to individual customer needs, the process allows the business to feed this information back into its production processes, responding to the comments of its customers. 7% of its annual turnover, for instance, is invested in Research and Development to enhance its customisation capability with a goal of “intensifying the collaboration” with its customers in the warehouse and material handling sectors.
Combilift’s product portfolio has expanded considerably beyond its first multidirectional lift trucks, with innovative product development and customisation being a cornerstone of the company’s ethos. According to Robert McVicar: “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.
“In the first 10 years we concentrated on the long load material handling sector. The multi-directional forklift revolutionised 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 range 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.”
Further developments have followed, with particular success attained in the pedestrian forklift market in the last five years.
Business expansion has also seen considerable investment in its workforce along with the creation of a number of high-level employment opportunities for skilled technicians, design engineers, logistics and supply chain specialists. The current workforce numbers 550 people and Martin said: “We have employed an additional 230 people since we announced our plans for this factory in 2015 (and) the investment in people will enable Combilift to meet its ambitious growth plans.”
Returning to the new factory, the purpose-built facility is set on a 100-acre site with room for further expansion when required. With 11 acres of roof space, it is said to be one of the largest manufacturing operations under a single roof in the Republic of Ireland. Incorporating what is described as “the latest manufacturing processes with a focus on sustainability”, the factory will enable Combilift to double its output in a single shift across all production lines where four 90 metre moving assembly lines produce a finished truck every 15 minutes.
For more information on Combilift’s range of forklifts and services click here.