Multidirectional Forklift Continues to Revolutionize Handling Procedures, Built to Customer Specifications
Combilift brings to market products that other manufacturers are not capable of engineering or bringing to market in tight time scales.
Posted: July 8, 2021
BY PAUL SHORT
Combilift (Monaghan, Ireland) is globally acknowledged as a leading supplier of a wide range of material handling solutions. But when it was established in 1998, it focused on just one product which was a world first — an IC-powered all-wheel drive multidirectional forklift. The two founders, CEO Martin McVicar and Technical Director Robert Moffett, who are both still at the helm of the company, had identified a gap in the market for a niche piece of equipment that could solve the problems previously associated with handling long and bulky loads. This led to the creation of the first Combilift C8000 truck. The models in the C-Series range are still one of Combilift’s core products.
The limitations of mainstream forklifts that could only travel either forwards or in reverse, none of which were specifically designed for long load handling, made moving these products and accessing storage or manufacturing areas a tricky procedure. This could involve complicated multiple maneuvers, using trucks in tandem at either end of the load or travelling with elevated loads over and around obstacles.
Revolutionary at the time was the Combilift concept and the design features that were incorporated into the first models. Moffett and McVicar had rightly concluded that a three-wheeled truck would offer superior stability, particularly when travelling over uneven surfaces. The ability to quickly change the direction of its wheels by the push of a button in the cab to enable sideways travel meant that getting a 15-foot load through a 6-foot-wide door, for example, was suddenly quick, easy and safe. Other design features addressed safety: the very low center of gravity and integrated platform provides a low-level base for resting loads on during transportation, and with the cab mounted to the side of the mast, the operator has a clear view of the load.
Furthermore, the Combilift combined the capabilities of a counterbalance forklift, sideloader and narrow aisle truck in one vehicle. This enables customers to replace various types of other lift trucks with the universal and versatile Combilifts, which work indoors and out, reducing the need for time-consuming double handling of loads. Further operational and financial benefits include a reduction in fleet numbers, lower costs for maintenance and quicker training for drivers.
Combilift’s C-Series models now offer lift capacities from 5,000 pounds to 55,000 pounds, with electric and LPG and diesel power sources, in line with a general shift towards greener technology. Each truck can be specifically designed and built to individual customer requirements and can be fitted with a wide range of attachments to suit the exact application. In certain sectors these can include a four-forked spreader bar, which can be hooked on and off in seconds, to offer even greater stability when handling extremely long or heavy loads.
The ability to handle ever longer loads with Combilift’s range has changed practices and driven the market forward in a wide number of industry sectors. Materials can now be delivered and offloaded in longer sizes to cut costs and increase productivity, and these benefits can also be passed on to customers. The availability of additional storage space allows stock such as steel to be bought in when the price is advantageous and stored for later use.
Recognizing that there are some scenarios where multidirectional technology may not be ideal for the application in hand, Combilift has introduced at least one new model every year and now offers about 30 products. From pallets to containers, to very oversized loads such as wind turbine blades, Combilift can provide a handling solution. Combilift’s ethos is “if we haven’t got a solution, we’ll build one for you!”
Taking customer feedback into account when developing new models has also been instrumental in the expansion of the product portfolio. This has been particularly noticeable in the so-called warehousing range that includes the Aisle Master articulated forklifts, which work in narrow aisles; the newly launched Aisle Master Order Picker to help e-commerce keep up with demand; and the various pedestrian stackers now available.
“Basically, our aim is to provide a company with the safest, most productive piece of material handling equipment that is specified for your application, and which offers the best possible ROI, which is now seen as being just as, if not more important than, the purchase price,” states Anthony Rooney, sales president, North America. “Every product is designed for robust, long-life operation and by using standard easily available components, maintenance and service is simple no matter where in the world a truck is based. With customers in over 85 countries this is an important issue for those ‘off the beaten track.’ And when it comes to longevity — the first ever C8000 that was built in 1998 is still working at a builders’ merchant near Combilift’s global headquarters in Monaghan, and the owner is very reluctant to part with it.”
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