Versatile forklift expansion
Published: 29 June, 2018
Forklift manufacturer and material handling solutions provider Combilift has officially opened its new global headquarters and manufacturing facility in Monaghan, Ireland. Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, the company also announced that it will be significantly expanding its workforce with the creation of 200 new jobs in the next three years. PWE reports.
Built at a cost of €50 million, the investment in the new 46,500 sq. m. (500,000 sq. ft) facility will allow Combilift to realise its ambitious growth plans. Martin McVicar, managing director said: “We have employed an additional 230 people since we announced our plans for this factory in 2015 and the combination of this state of the art production plant and the growing skilled workforce will allow us to double production within the next 5 years.”
Combilift currently exports 98% of its products to 85 countries through its 250-strong international dealer network. The current workforce stands at 550 people and the new employment opportunities will be for skilled technicians, design engineers, logistics and supply chain specialists and those with mechanical and electrical mechatronics skills.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, the Irish Prime Minister An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar TD said: “Combilift is an incredible home-grown Monaghan success story. When the company was founded 20 years ago, it had three employees, a brilliant concept, and the ambition to make it a reality. Combilift is playing a significant role in Monaghan’s success, and I would like to congratulate Robert Moffett and Martin McVicar and everyone at Combilift on their achievements to date and wish them every success for the future.”
The new 46,500 sq. m purpose–built factory is set on a 100-acre site with room for future expansion when required. 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. There are 60 welding bays, two plasma cutting machines, three paint lines which use sustainable water-based paints and three automatic shot blasters to cater for different sized products. 12,000 pallet locations ensure ample storage space for parts and components. The facility also includes a 50-seat cinema training room, 5000 m² of office space and a dedicated R&D Development and Testing Centre.
Twenty three percent of roof space is covered in skylights, enabling staff to work in natural daylight without the assistance of artificial lighting. Other lighting is provided through 1100 LED light with individual PIR sensors. Solar panels supply 185 kW of energy with a 1 MW Biomass plant fuelled by recycled wood (pallets etc.) to heat the spraying booths and assembly area. 110,000 litres of rain water are harvested for jet washing and bathroom facilities.
More than 50 truckloads of finished products are dispatched from the factory each week, and spare parts are shipped across the world 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.
Established by Martin McVicar, managing director and Robert in Moffett, technical director, in 1998, Combilift is a privately held and fully capitalised company. It developed the world’s first multidirectional all-wheel drive IC engine powered forklift in 1998. In the first year of operation it produced 18 units, 17 of which were exported. The company has more than doubled in the last 5 years and now has 40,000 units in operation in over 85 countries.
Combilift’s product portfolio has expanded way beyond its first multidirectional model according to McVicar: “Combilift has always focused on a number of niche market segments and has a proven track record of launching one or two new products annually. In the first 10 years we focussed on the long load material handling sector with the multidirectional range which revolutionised the handling of long materials, allowing 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.
Pedestrian products were introduced into the range in the last five years, enabling Combilift to gain a foothold in this growing market. The Combi-WR, Combi-WR4 and the Combi-CS all incorporate Combilift’s unique patented multi-positional tiller arm technology. “There is a growing demand for pedestrian trucks, driven by safety concerns where customers and/or employees are in the vicinity of operating forklifts,” said McVicar. “It is our intention to significantly expand this range, as can be seen with the launch of the new high lift capacity Combilift Powered Pallet Truck (Combi-HC-PPT).”
Martin McVicar attributes the company’s growth and its status as an acknowledged world leader in the material handling sector to mass customisation: “Combilift has set the benchmark for the mass production of customised innovative products. Mass customisation is the new frontier for both the customer and the manufacturer as customers are increasingly expecting products to be tailored to their requirements. We listen to and take feedback on board from our customers and dealers to identify solutions that best match their individual specific needs.”
The company highlighted that it invests 7% of its annual turnover in Research and Development to enhance its customisation capability and to maximise ROI for its customers. McVicar commented: “The flexibility in our new facility means that we can continue to accommodate any request for a customised material handling solution. We also see ourselves as much more than a forklift manufacturer and are transforming the transport and logistics sector with our innovative, space-spacing products and our services.”
Combilift also offers a free logistic and warehouse design service, which enables customers to see the benefit that its products will bring to their business. McVicar added: “Our engineers proactively design, plan and produce material flow analysis and 3D animations - 150 to 200 per day for our worldwide customers - which clearly illustrate the capacity potential as well as the optimum flow of materials on their site.”