Celebrating 20 years as a manufacturer of forklifts, Combilift has built its brand on niche markets, including handling long products—such as pipes, lumber, and steel—as well as narrow-aisle warehouse applications.
After two decades, this niche strategy has created a company that is now the 13th largest forklift producer worldwide. But that success steadily pushed Combilift beyond the limits of its former manufacturing facility in Monaghan, Ireland. As a result, the company recently opened a new 500,000-square-foot production and parts distribution center in Monaghan, with additional space for its international corporate offices. Combilift welcomed customers, dealers, suppliers, and trade press from North America to a grand opening celebration of the new building on Monday.
The facility boasts four manufacturing lines, but it can be expanded to six lines as future growth dictates. It also features state-of-the-art metal cutting systems, environmentally]=friendly paint booths that use water-soluble paints, rooftop solar panels, water-saving systems, and specialized production processes that allow customized vehicles to move through the facility from fabrication to finished product within seven days.
Additionally, the company has ample space for new product development. "Seven percent of our revenue goes into research and development," said Martin McVicar, co-founder and managing director of Combilift. "Most of our new products come from our customers. We listen to their challenges and design products that solve their problems," he said.
McVicar added that Combilift is expecting major growth in the North American market. Some 25 percent of all sales are to customers in the United States and Canada, and the company is targeting sales growth of at least 30 percent in 2018. To date, Combilift said, it is already trending above that target.
Combilift's major customers in North America are steel fabricators and lumber and building-materials companies that use Combilift's straddle carriers and laterally moving forklifts for hauling long materials throughout facilities. On the warehouse side, the company's line of Combi-CS walkie pallet jacks and Aisle-Master articulated forklifts are potential growth areas, as they are adapted to narrow-aisle warehouse configurations and confined work areas. They can work comfortably in 6- and 7-foot-wide aisles, respectively.
Combilift only builds to customer orders, as all of their vehicles are customized to specific requirements. The new facility can currently produce 110 customized vehicles each week, but Combilift hopes to increase that amount to 140 vehicles weekly by the end of the year.