Federico Ercoli flew to Dresden, Germany to see Jungheinrich’s new forklift refurbishing facilities.
During my many visits to manufacturing sites it’s not unusual for me to see forklift trucks roaming around the complexes.
Having proved themselves invaluable tools in almost any industry on the planet, forklifts are now the standard for internal logistics and, as it turns out without much surprise, their market is consistently growing.
A 2014 report from TechNavio showed that the global forklift truck market will grow at a CAGR of 6.98% over the 2013-2018 period.
Yes, Modern Material Handling’s list of the Top 20 lift truck suppliers say the combined value is down 3.5% compared to 2014, but companies have confirmed that this is due to unfavorable currency conversions, which often turns gains into losses.
The 2014 World Industrial Truck Statistics (WITS) figures on the other hand, showed that global orders and shipments increased by almost 8%, so manufacturers are not in a bad spot. Although, what percentages failed to identify, is the nature of the revenues.
To put it into context, it’s not widely known that there is a thriving market for refurbished forklifts. This is at the base of Jungheinrich’s latest strategy.
Mathias Lentfer, commercial director tells me: “In the industry, it’s absolutely unique. We are the only company in the sector who’s doing the refurbishment of these trucks.
“The idea behind us is to offer our customers good value for a premium product. Our products are mostly five or six years old when they come here and when they do, they are in a better than good condition for a second life.”
This is the byproduct of a major investment which resulted in the expansion of the existing Jungheinrich site in Dresden.
“The idea behind the investment was to carry out our 2020 future strategy and to increase our refurbishment goal of 8,000 trucks by 2018. Therefore we needed a big investment to increase the capacity of this plant: we invested €8.1m in the past 12 months,” Lentfer continues.
We are used to refurbished laptops; music devices; smartphones, and tablets as their quality controls and hardware replacement processes are relatively easy, but refurbishing a forklift is a totally different game.
The expertise required put Jungheinrich in a situation where specialists are needed for every single part of the assemble, Lentfer tells me. And, since not even Germany is able to escape the skills shortage, Jungheinrich set in motion a machine that is very familiar in the UK: apprenticeship schemes.
“Four or five years ago, we saw this trend and luckily in Germany we implemented a a system which we call “ausbildung” (apprenticeships). This means we have a two-way of training people when they’re young: at school they learn the basics then they go in the industry and learn on a daily basis how it really feels and what they have to do,” Lentfer confirmed.
From a relatively small company, Jungheinrich has grown globally and consistently over the years, and what strikes Lentfer in particular is that at a local level, training or finding skilled people is not the hardest part. Not even refurbishing the actual trucks is.
“When you come from a small workshop which started with 600 trucks and then developed into 2,000, going now to 5,000, you have a mindset in your colleagues. From your team leaders down to the worker. Taking them with you on your journey until the next step and explaining why you have to change, that’s the hardest part.”
But, a rapid look at sales numbers will confirm, so far so good.