Combilift opens new $60 million manufacturing facility and global headquarters

Celebrating its 20th anniversary, the company has produced more than 40,000 customized forklifts.

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Celebrating its 20th anniversary, Combilift recently welcomed thousands of dealers, customers and suppliers to the official opening of its new $60 million manufacturing plant and global headquarters.

After ranking 19th on Modern’s 2009 Top 20 Lift Truck Suppliers list with $98 million in revenues, the company has steadily climbed to 13th place with $280 million in annual revenues.

However, Martin McVicar, co-founder and managing director, said the company has no plans to compete with the top suppliers of standard forklifts. Next to investments in people, McVicar attributes Combilift’s growth to mass customization. The company invests 7% of its annual revenue in research and development to enhance its customization capability.

“We’re not trying to be high-volume,” McVicar said. “Mass customization is the new frontier for both the customer and the manufacturer. Combilift offers the mass production of tailored products, with new products each year. We have several niches where we have no real competition, and there are still more niches to serve. We want to be the number one player in any market segment we enter.”

From the chassis to remote controls, each customized lift truck is assembled – primarily manually – in seven days, from fabrication to final product. Employing more than 550 locally, will allow Combilift to double production within the next five years. Combilift is also investing in its workforce, adding a number of high-level employment opportunities for skilled technicians, design engineers, logistics and supply chain specialists and those with mechanical and electrical mechatronics skills.

McVicar said the company also employs another 100 people globally and has hired 230 employees since announcing plans for the factory in 2015.

“The investment in people will enable Combilift to meet its ambitious growth plans,” McVicar said.

The plant produces 110 units per week, with plans to grow to 140 per week by the end of the year. Four existing moving production lines have the potential to produce 45-50 units each weekly, and there is space for two more lines.

McVicar explained that the company was founded to develop solutions for the handling of long goods common in steel, lumber and other construction industries.

“Following the economic downturn, we realized we were dependent on those industries, so we were inspired to diversify,” he said.

The warehousing market, with its escalating emphasis on space and safety, was a logical next step, he added. The North American market is both the fastest-growing and the region with the most potential, he said.

“Back in the boom times, it was just ‘buy another truck.’ Now the customers take more time to analyze what they’re buying,” he said. “They want to save space and cut costs, but of course safety is top of mind. Safety is a big driver for us in North America.”

Established in 1998, Combilift currently exports 98% of its products to 85 countries through its international network of 250 dealers.

Combilift also offers a free logistic and warehouse design service, where engineers use material flow analysis and 3D animations to design, plan and produce solutions in collaboration with customers.

Located in Monaghan, Ireland, the manufacturing facility incorporates several green features. The roof consists of 23% skylights, includes solar panels producing 185kW, and harvests 30,000 gallons of rainwater.

Established by McVicar and Robert in Moffett, technical director, in 1998, Combilift developed the world’s first multi-directional all-wheel drive IC engine-powered forklift in 1998. In its first year of operation, Combilift produced 18 units, 17 of which were exported. Globally, there are now more than 40,000 Combilift units in use.

About the Author

Josh Bond, Senior Editor
Josh Bond is Senior Editor for Modern, and was formerly Modern’s lift truck columnist and associate editor. He has a degree in Journalism from Keene State College and has studied business management at Franklin Pierce University.

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