Combilift opened its new plant in Monaghan and aims at doubling sales
In Italy, the Irish company manufacturing handling equipment is represented by Euro Assistance Group
Represented by Reggio Emilia-based (Arceto di Scandiano) Euro Assistance Group as its sole distributor in Italy, Combilift has several competitors in the Italian reach stackers and handling equipment market. Thanks to its new plant opened in Monaghan (Ireland) while celebrating its 20th year of activities, Combilift can manufacture one unit every 15 minutes, distributing them to its customers in 85 countries (for a total amount of 40,000 units).
While Linde and Yale are its main competitors worldwide (out of over 200 equipment manufacturers), in Italy Combilift has some fifty competitors: “In the past 5 years we achieved good results, also because in Italy there are many distribution operators”, managing director Martin Mc Vicar explained.
Although the doubling of production over the next five years resulting from its new plant (built in 3 years with a 50 million euro investment) will not have an outlet in Italy, Combilift has two important customers in the Italian market: Bricoman and Synthesis Chimica (headquartered in Pavia and working within LPG container logistics).
Founded in 1998 by the engineers Mc Vicar and Robert Moffett, Combilift currently exports 98% of its production, with the USA (amounting to 25% of its 220-230 million euro turnover in 2016, and witnessing a 16% increase compared to the previous year), the UK (with a turnover percentage similar to that of the USA and an increase in sales, despite Brexit), Germany (where sales witnessed a double-digit increase over the past 5 years) and Australia (with a 10 million turnover in 2017; with the bricolage chain Bunnings, the construction and engineering company Civmec and the Liberherr group among its customers) as its reference markets.
According to its managing director, besides Brexit, Combilift's greatest concerns are Donald Trump's protectionist measures, although it aims at doubling its profits in the USA over the next 2 years. During the opening of the plant, Mc Vicar explained that Italy provides “good opportunities”.
The premises extend over a 27 acres surface, including both the new headquarters and the plant, which is currently the only productive plant and the only Combilift spare parts distribution centre. The premises have 4 operating assembly lines for specific models (each machinery is manufactured in 7 days, including reliability tests and disassembly in case it is oversize), which are not covering all the 46,500 sm of the plant, that could have another 2 lines.
According to Mc Vicar, an increasingly close connection with customers is the key to exploit production capacity fully.
“From the very beginning - the manager explained - we realized that in order to be successful we have to aim at something different”, thus designing the first internal combustion multi-directional reach stacker that can turn on itself in restricted spaces (allowing also for an optimisation of warehouse spaces).
“Following the economic crisis, we decided to diversify our offer addressing the food and road infrastructures sectors”, the manager continued. Combilift's strategy is based on mass customisation: “Customers want tailor made products based on their needs. Trailer manufacturers supplying these services can provide only small quantities, while Combilift can manufacture large quantities of tailor made products, which in turn provided competitive advantages to our customers. Traditional trailer manufacturers focus on large standard products production volumes, while we are planning to develop new models every year”.
Allocating 7% of its profits to research and development, and having single out reach stackers controlled by a pedestrian operator as the most promising sector, Combilift uses its customers' feedback to develop at least a couple of new models per year, consistent with the market demand. It also provides its customers with an instrument allowing for a three-dimensional layout of their warehouses to choose the most suitable trailer for their operations.
For this reason, engineers – within the 550 employees in its new premises - have a barycentric position (at a maximum distance of 600 meters) compared to production and assembly departments.