Like many products, dealers are selling forklifts on a good, better, best strategy. Of course, the mid-range lift truck market will account for most of the sales. The larger warehouses favor the upper tier premium trucks that feature the bells and whistles including data capturing ability and integration ability with warehouse management software. The trucks that are supposed to cater to the low-end segment of the market don’t have the bells and whistles or many of the same features one would find on the mid-range models.
In recent years North American forklift manufacturers have been seeing a major increase in sales of low-cost models. More dealers who handle lower cost lifts as well as dealers who import low-cost lifts are popping up. In order to compete with the sale of the mid-range lifts, they are offering not just the lift trucks, but also parts and service. However, there are also dealers and manufacturers of low-cost lifts who do not provide the service or support. These dealers recommend that warehouses hire other forklift manufacturers to service the equipment. This may cause warehouses that buy the low-cost alternatives with no service to experience delays in the delivery of parts when they need them.
The top manufacturers who have already established a reputation that are expanding their lines to include low-cost lifts have made it a point to offer and emphasize support for their existing dealer networks.
The temptation may be there for a warehouse forklift fleet manager to go for the lowest up-front cost that does not include the support. So the issue of total cost of ownership concerning the purchase of new lift trucks continues to be an open one. Many dealers and manufacturers are of the opinion that some fleet managers are not thinking about this as they opt for the cheaper alternative. Those who are opting for the low-cost lifts need to be aware that these products may be using components with shorter life expectancy.
Good managers are aware that they need to depend on fleets that have a mix of both low-cost and premium equipment. In fact, savings that occur when purchasing low-cost trucks can be used to fill in the fleet with the upper tier trucks because they have the high-end features needed for some tasks the fleet is called on to perform.
There was a time when forklift manufacturers were expanding their product range based on the latest trends so that they could differentiate themselves from the competition. However, now manufacturers are making decisions on expanding their range based on need. An example of this is a manufacturer that created a new reach model with four-directional travel capability. The manufacturer recognized a need for a truck that could handle long, bulky loads.
As a result of all this, dealers have to carry a wider range of lift models, brands, and services.
Lift manufacturers also note that dealers must become better prepared to handle the changes in their customers’ businesses as well as the growth and changes of the workforce. They suggest that larger distribution centers are concentrating on the cutting edge of labor productivity. So they are looking to rotate and rebalance their equipment every two to three years to take advantage of new technologies.
Warehouses that decide to go with low-cost equipment should focus on the product only.