In times past Kiwis used to crack on about machines made in Europe, especially England, and scorn Asian products.
Not any more. And there is as much confidence in Japanese machines in the forklift market here as in the Europeans. But what does that prove about quality?
Here at Northern Forklifts 2014 is our third year of importing and distributing forklifts built in China. That shift is a shock for some since for over 25 years we enjoyed a great deal of success as dealers for a well-known Japanese forklift maker.
We had taken a close look at what was happening in China and unlike the people who exported their local manufacture to China so we can all have cheap toasters and kettles, we were looking for something to impress us.
Why real steel?
If you’ve heard our radio ads, you’ll know we bang on about “real steel” and “knock, knock“ – the sound of steel v. plastic. It makes for amusing ads but it’s also really what our change was about.
Our concern was that the Japanese forklifts were becoming too “automotive” with loads of plastic, lightweight panels and lots of electronics.
“Fine” you say, “ that’s the way the world’s going and it makes the machines nicer to drive and nicer to look at.”
Well, actually not so fine.
Granted the bells and whistles are all very nice and, just like on your car, are (mostly) good to use, but on a forklift which is pretty much at the bottom of the ‘careful user’ foodchain, the bells and whistles are all too fragile and all too costly to repair.
The working machine
We wanted to be able to supply a forklift that’s a working machine, not an automobile, one that could stand up to structural and mechanical punishment and not cost anyone a fortune to maintain. No bells, no whistles, just a tool to do a job every day and keep doing it even in harsh conditions.
So why did we go to China for this tool. Well, the fact is China now has serious export-orientated manufacturers who understand that domestic quality doesn’t cut it for export and are constantly improving their products.
You may be aware of the Global and China Forklift Industry Report 2013 which shows Chinese forklift makers getting stronger and more sophisticated as they work with industry standard technology.
Experience is there
Hangcha is one of China’s two biggest forklift makers (having launched in 1956 as the US played tough) and these two are sharpening their responses to dealers like ourselves.
The industry report from the Beijing- and Shanghai-based researchers confirms what we find on visiting the Hangcha factories. The staff are qualified, conscientious and responsive. There is expanding research in the emission-reductive electric range.
We are confident about parting ways with our previous Japanese brand (many of whose products we respect and appreciate) because our Hangcha connection supplies machines with rugged simplicity, good build quality and real support and interest from the factory.
Our clients are enjoying the benefits of lower damage and maintenance costs with the same level of productivity and product support and, incidentally, all at a very competitive price.