Setting A new benchmark
Combilift has set the benchmark for mass customisation with its new
500,000 sq ft production plant in Monaghan, Ireland.


Marking 20 years of lifting innovation this year, Combilift unveiled its all-new manufacturing facility in Monaghan, Ireland to produce its complete range of material handling equipment. Built at a cost of Ç50 million, the new 46,500 sq m (500,000 sq ft) global headquarters and new manufacturing facility will allow Combilift to double its production.  

Grand opening
The inauguration of the new facility was graced with the presence of top personalities including the Prime Minister of Ireland, An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar TD and the Minister for Business, Enterprise, and Innovation, Heather Humphreys TD. Over 2,500 international visitors attended the official opening event of the new Combilift facility.
 
Speaking at the official opening, An Taoiseach said, "Combilift is an incredible home-grown Monaghan success story. When the company was founded 20 years ago, it had three employees, a brilliant concept, and the ambition to make it a reality. We need more home-grown companies like Combilift if we have to achieve our vision for a prosperous future for communities living in counties all across the country. Combilift is playing a significant role in the Monaghan's success, and I would like to congratulate Robert Moffett and Martin McVicar, their leadership team and staff, and everyone at Combilift on their achievements to date and wish them every success for the future."  

Heather Humphreys, addressing the function, pointed to the positive impact of Combilift on the border region. "As one of the most significant employers in Monaghan, the positive impact that Combilift has on the county, the border region and Ireland cannot be under-estimated. Perhaps above all, the company is living proof that you don't have to be in a big city to achieve global success. As Minister, I am focused on ensuring we have the right conditions in place to encourage job creation right across country, so supporting ambitious companies like Combilift is hugely important. I am delighted that the Government, through Enterprise Ireland, has part-funded the manufacturing facility, which paves the way for this exciting business to double its output and create new jobs in the region. Today is a wonderful day for Monaghan and Ireland."

Julie Sinnamon, CEO, Enterprise Ireland, says, "Enterprise Ireland has worked closely with Combilift from the outset of their incredible journey as a start-up to a global leader today, exporting to 85 countries. Combilift's success is a testament to the hard work of the team, and to an unrelenting focus on market-led innovation. These achievements represent the strength of Irish businesses who are achieving global scale and are positioned as global leaders in their own right. Their success has been built on being innovative and being the best in their field. Enterprise Ireland has worked intensively with Combilift to achieve their ambition, scale and phenomenal international growth."

Mass customisation
An acknowledged world leader in the material handling sector, Martin McVicar, Managing Director, Combilift, attributes the company's impressive growth to mass customisation. "Mass customisation is the new frontier for both the customer and the manufacturer. Increasingly, customers are expecting products to be tailored to meet their needs. Forklift producers that offer customised products generally produce low volume, but Combilift is setting the benchmark by offering the mass production of tailored products, resulting in a strategic advantage for our customers. Traditional forklift manufacturers focus on high volume mass production of the same products. We evolve with our clients, producing new products each year."

Since 1998, Combilift has been manufacturing customised products tailored to suit client requirements. "The flexibility in our new facility means that Combilift can continue to accommodate any customer request for a customised material handling solution," says McVicar. "Customer requirements are our standard. The new factory enables us to double production and remain focused on the needs of our customers and dealers. We have become much more than a forklift manufacturer and are transforming the transport and logistics sector with our innovative, space-saving products."

Combilift offers a free logistics and warehouse design service. Combi-Connect allows the customer to see the benefit a Combilift product will bring to their business. "Our engineers proactively design, plan and produce solutions in collaboration with our customers by offering material flow analysis and 3D animations. We work with customers to produce warehouse designs to visualise the capacity potential as well as the optimum flow of materials on their site," adds McVicar.

Combilift always listen to its global network of customers. "We work closely with our customers and dealers to identify solutions that best match their individual specific needs. Combilift invests seven per cent of its annual turnover (revenue) in research and development (R&D) to enhance its customisation capability. We are intensifying the collaboration with our customers in the warehouse and material handling sectors. The intention is to maximise return on revenue (RoI)," he points out.

Speaking on Indian market, McVicar says, "India is one of the fastest growing markets for us. There is a big growth in building cold storage facilities and warehouses in India which is an opportunity for us. We feel that a lot of investments are happening in this market and we see a massive growth opportunity in manufacturing, especially in the long goods."
    
Growth of Combilift
Established by Martin McVicar, Managing Director and Robert Moffett, Technical Director, in 1998, Combilift is a privately held and fully capitalised company. It 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. The company has more than doubled in the last five years and now has 40,000 units in operation in over 85 countries.

Combilift's product portfolio has expanded way beyond its first multi-directional Combilift, with innovative product development and customisation being a cornerstone of the company's ethos, according to McVicar. "As a company, Combilift has always focused on a number of niche market segments and has a proven track record of launching one to two new products annually. In the first 10 years, Combilift concentrated on the long load material handling sector. The Combilift multi-directional forklift revolutionised the handling of long materials as it allowed customers to handle long products in less space more safely. Between 2008 and 2018, Combilift diversified its product range by developing a number of innovative space saving warehouse and heavy load handling products: the Aisle Master articulated truck and the Straddle Carrier (Combi-SC), respectively. Combilift entered the pedestrian forklift market with the introduction of a number of unique products (Combi-WR and Combi-CS) in the last five years, which benefit from its patented multi-positional operator tiller arm technology."

Combilift sees a growing demand for pedestrian trucks, driven by safety concerns where customers and/or employees are in the vicinity of operating forklifts, according to McVicar. "It is Combilift's intention to significantly expand its pedestrian forklift range as can be seen with the launch of the high lift capacity Combilift Powered Pallet Truck (Combi-PPT)."
 
New job opportunities
Combilift is also investing in its workforce, adding a considerable number of high-level employment opportunities for skilled technicians, design engineers, logistics and supply chain specialists and those with mechanical and electrical mechatronics skills. According to McVicar, Combilift has added about 120 people to its workforce in 2017 and another 100 people will be added this year.
 
"The investment in people will enable Combilift to meet its ambitious growth plans,ö says McVicar. "We have employed an additional 230 people since we announced our plans for this factory in 2015. The combination of this state-of-the-art production plant and a skilled workforce will allow us to double production within the
next five years,ö he concludes on a positive note.


FACTORY FACTS
The new 46,500-sq m purpose-built factory is set on a 100-acre site with room for expansion. With 11 acres of roof space, it is one of the largest manufacturing operations under one single roof in the Republic of Ireland.

Incorporating the latest manufacturing processes with a focus on sustainability, the new factory will enable Combilift to double its output in a single shift across all production lines. Four 90-m moving assembly lines produce a finished truck every 15 minute.

About 30 per cent of its roof space is covered in skylights enabling staff to work in natural daylight without the assistance of artificial lighting. Lighting is provided through 1,100 LED lights with individual PIR sensors. Solar panels supply 185 kW of energy with a 1 MW biomass plant fuelled by recycled wood to heat the spraying boots and assembly area. About 110,000 litres of rain water is harvested for use throughout the facility.

More than 50 truckloads of finished products are dispatched to 85 countries each week. Spare parts are also shipped across the world from Monaghan to the dealer network.

Certified to international quality and safety management standards, the new headquarters and manufacturing facility has been awarded ISO 9001 international quality management system, ISO 14001 Environment Management and OHSAS 18001 Occupational Health and Safety Assessment Series.


NEW PRODUCTS
During the opening of the new production facility, Combilift launched two new products: the Combi-OP and the Combi-PPT. The Combi-OP is the first purpose-built order picker on the worldwide market for long products. Previously customers had to modify traditional order pickers to cope with the specific demands of long loads. The Combi-OP now guarantees much more efficient and non-compromised operation for easy picking of long profiles in, for example, steel service centres. 
 
This man-up truck features a long platform to enable the operator to access long products stored at height. It is fitted with guide rollers to enable it to operate in existing guided narrow aisles of just 1.4 m - the same width as those needed for Combilift's GT truck. It enables operators to easily and safely hand-pick orders for customers from the roomy elevated platform and it has a capacity of 450 kg. Its overhead guard, light anti-slip floor, self-closing platform gate and guard rails guarantee utmost safety, as does the travel speed and steering angle, which automatically adjusts according to lift heights.

Important features include: Standing operator over-head guard, multi-function steering/function control, dual speed control, operator display, guide rollers, AC electric steering, and AC motor technology.

The Combi-PPT is a high capacity powered pallet truck with lift capacities of 3,000 kg and 6,000 kg, with models with even higher capacities of 7,000 to 16,000 kg available on request. The optional operator's platform enables stand-on or walk behind operation. Equipped with Combilift patented multi-position tiller arm, the Combi-HC-PPT offers safer operation, maximum operator visibility and narrow aisle performance.

Features include power steering, AC motor technology, rear wheel drive, and patented multi-position tiller arm. Optional features can be: fork configurations for reels, wider forks, longer forks, closed fork height, and slave pallet system available.