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Forklift manufacturers are becoming software specialists

Classic forklift manufacturers are increasingly transforming into automation engineers and software specialists. After all, in the world of international competition, customers are demanding individualised and high-quality products and solutions at increasingly short intervals.

19 May. 2016
Staplerhersteller

"Booming e-commerce is giving rise to new demands from customers," explains Dr. Henry Puhl, Chairman of the Managing Board at STILL in Hamburg. "For example, consignment sizes are becoming smaller and smaller due to the variety of product options, which is leading to increasingly short-term seasonalities with major fluctuations in quantity." He believes that what we need to do here is stay abreast of this development with intralogistics solutions, and offer more individual products in smaller quantities. "It is also essential to take account of regional requirements imposed on us by globalisation," says Puhl. "Customers have to be able to shape their processes flexibly in order to remain competitive." At the same time, he adds, it is important to continually increase productivity and manage with less energy and resources in order to cope with growing cost pressure and the environment. He believes that it is no longer sufficient to sell the customer a forklift that he can use to transport his goods from A to B; instead, it is important to allow him to intelligently and flexibly control his logistics processes so that they can be formed in a faster, simpler and more cost-effective way. The interplay between forklifts and storage technology, software, services and customer service is key.

Permanent pressure to optimise

Logistics processes are under constant pressure to optimise. "We are currently seeing industrial trucks being integrated more and more closely into production processes," says Michael Röbig, Head of Marketing at Hubtex Maschinenbau GmbH & Co. KG . "As a manufacturer, we are faced with the challenge of offering our customers an individual and economical solution."

His company is attempting to shape developments in such a way that the individual requirement is met and can be transferred to other applications where possible. The result, he says, is the development of a kit of different assistance systems, which can be combined to form a fully automated system. "The added value for the customer essentially comes from the coordination of usage requirement and vehicle equipment," says Röbig. "The degree of automation generally increases with the complexity of the usage requirement."

A fast-growing market

Automation of industrial trucks is currently the fastest-growing segment of the logistics market – including for Toyota Material Handling . Alongside benefits in terms of safety, the reasons for the growing attention on this sector also lie in considerable efficency and productivity gains.

"Automation solutions require detailed process analysis as well as good advice that goes beyond the sale," says Mats Lindell, Head of Logistics Solutions at Toyota Material Handling Deutschland. "Transparent consulting that answers all of the customer’s questions and supports the change process, particularly during the introduction of the system, is essential."

He believes that there are many reasons for this development: "Firstly, we are seeing a change in customer structures: a growing number of big customers, known as key account clients, and their importance on the market are exerting increasing 'market power'," says Lindell. "This tendency is particularly strong in groups with a high handling volume." He says that more goods have to be handled in less time in order to guarantee efficient and reliable logistics around the clock. At the same time, however, he highlights that the job market is very healthy and has a high level of employment – which makes recruiting suitable skilled staff to operate industrial trucks more challenging. In addition, new software and hardware developments are driving the automation of industrial trucks and load carriers forward, he says.

Digitalisation and automation are very clear trends in intralogistics for Jungheinrich , too. "This is what we are experiencing with Intralogistics 4.0," says Member of the Board of Management for Marketing and Sales, Dr. Lars Brzoska. "We support our customers in internal workflows in the warehouse and production with control and optimisation software, networked sensor technology and automated vehicles and systems – as the only provider with holistic solutions entirely from a single source." He believes that the fact that the company is currently undergoing a process of transformation illustrates its mission statement: "Growing with Passion". He states that it is becoming increasingly clear that Jungheinrich’s future lies in the area of logistics systems, and therefore holistic solutions.

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