“My thanks to everyone at Combilift for inviting me to this informative and memorable event”Clare Hollister (Publisher Panel & Joinery Production)
Combilift welcomed hundreds of people from various continents to its global HQ and manufacturing facility in Monaghan at the end of September to celebrate the company’s 25th anniversary. The event was the culmination of a number of product launches throughout 2023 to mark this milestone, which is a remarkable achievement for a company that started with just a handful of – albeit highly skilled and motivated employees – working from a small factory in a village in rural Monaghan. There are now around 800 employees at the state of the art 46,000 m² manufacturing facility situated on the edge of Monaghan Town, more than a 100 of whom have been with the company for 15 years or more.
Visitors were taken on extensive factory tours, where they could see the various stages of product manufacturing from initial CAD design and the warehouse layout service, to welding and paint spraying, through to final assembly and pre-delivery inspection. Currently 180 units roll off the production lines each week and are shipped to customers in over 85 countries.
There was also the opportunity to get an insight into the reasons behind Combilift’s global success with a Q&A with Combilift’s CEO and co-founder Martin McVicar. “In the first year we manufactured 18 units and all but one were exported – from the outset we aimed to be major exporters,” said Martin. “We have since sold more than 80,000 units, most of which are still in operation today. Innovation and R&D are in our DNA. We invest seven per cent of annual turnover in research and development. Partly because of this, our portfolio has expanded significantly over the past 25 years and there are now around 25 different product families. Products are all designed around specific needs of the customers and solving their challenges.”
Five new products were launched this year, and the scope of these illustrates Combilift’s ambitions, not just geographically but also when it comes to entering new business sectors. The new Combi-LC Load Carrier model, which was unveiled during the factory tours, signalled a move into the offshore wind sector. It was developed in collaboration with Siemens Gamesa, one of the world’s largest offshore suppliers, and allows the safe and secure transportation of wind turbine blades and towers – some as long as 115m and weighing 70t, from production to storage locations.
More in line with the requirements of companies in the panel, joinery and timber industries are two models which were launched earlier this year, both of which are based on the original Combi-CB compact counterbalance design multidirectional forklift. The Combi-CUBE incorporates features that offer a high level of driver comfort – the driver’s position in the centre of the cab for instance offers generous room and excellent all-round visibility. The optional unique Dynamic 360 Steering enables seamless directional change, making this model the most manoeuvrable counterbalance forklift on the market.
The Combi-CB70E is the shortest 7t capacity counterbalance truck on the market whilst benefitting from multidirectional ability, enabling versatile space saving handling of long and bulky loads, even in very confined spaces. It features the optional new Auto Swivel Seat, which automatically engages and swivels the seat and armrest 15° to the right or left to accord with the direction of travel selected by the operator – reducing driver strain, particularly when reversing.
Further new developments were the introduction of the Combilift-AGT, Combilift’s first autonomous model, and a telematics software system Combi-Connect. This fleet management system enables real-time and comprehensive information on fleet performance, including location tracking, usage analytics and maintenance alerts.
Having enjoyed unparalleled success in the materials handling sector for the last quarter of a century, what does Martin McVicar envisage for the future? One certainty is that whatever the level of expansion, the company will remain firmly rooted in its home area of Monaghan, where it has deep ties with the local community. As for growth, Martin says: “we produced 10,000 units this year, and we aim to double these numbers every five years, so by 2028 we are expecting to build 20,000 units. And as for my future – I have committed to give 50 years to Combilift and I am only half way there, so God willing I hope to be here 25 years from now. And it would be nice to think that one or more of my three sons might be involved the business in future!”