Combilift hits new heights in 2020

by Emily Atkins
Combilift says the need for distancing because of the pandemic means manufacturers are looking to maximize space.

In spite of Covid-19 lockdowns and challenges posed by Brexit, Ireland-based forklift manufacturer Combilift built more products in 2020 than 2019.

CEO Martin McVicar shared the news on a media call and unveiled the company’s newest product, a narrow-aisle order picker that is being sold under the AisleMaster brand.

In addition to the record production of 6,830 forklifts in 2020, McVicar shared that the company also had its best January on record this year, with US$11.2 million in orders from North America alone. Combilift generally does approximately $350 million in sales annually.

He chalks up the success to the rise in e-commerce thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic. Manufacturers have realized that to continue operations while ensuring distance between employees, they need to maximize space on the plant floor, he noted. One way they are doing this is by condensing storage areas, and employing narrow-aisle forklifts such as those Combilift manufactures.

The new order picker has a step-through cab.

New order picker

The company hopes to capitalize on the continued e-commerce boom with the new order picker it is bringing to market this year. The

Aisle Master-OP (AME-OP) is a stand-on electric powered model that combines a narrow aisle articulated forklift and an order picker.

McVicar explained that the development of this model was influenced by customer feedback – as has often been the case with Combilift’s innovations.

“Customers already using the Aisle Master for space saving, storage and efficiency in their warehouse asked if we could redevelop the Aisle Master to meet their ever-growing demand for order picking customized orders”, he said.

Step-through

A unique design element in the machine is its step-through operator compartment, which allows the driver to hop out of either side to collect items for an order. The floor height is 11 inches, making it ergonomically friendly, and speeding up the order-picking process.

The AME-OP truck also the ability to work indoors or out, and with its 39-for picking height, can be used for stock replenishment at other times during shifts when order picking is complete. It will have lift capacities from 1,500 kg to 2,500 kg and can operate in aisles as narrow as six feet.

Its patented chain steering system allows the truck to articulate more than 205°, with an inline drive motor and front drive axle assembly, all of which enable narrower aisle operation.

The programmable joy stick control lever in the operator compartment, which includes controls for the hydraulics and traction, is adjustable to enable comfortable and ergonomic working conditions for operators of all sizes. The Operator Presence Detection floor pad engages the parking brake automatically when the operator steps off the truck to carry out Order Picking.

“Before we officially launch any new model, Combilift carry out extensive field testing on customer’s sites, this was the case with the Aisle Master-OP”, McVicar said.

The AME-OP is now a production model within Combilift, with units currently in build for customers in the United States and in New Zealand. At the moment the company is building one unit a week, with a target of six coming soon. Sorted Logistics based in Christchurch New Zealand, is a third party logistics provider and freight forwarder which will be receiving eight AME-OP units shortly.

The North American market is the main target for the new unit, with the expectation that they will sell between 300 and 400 units through 2022.

“We are very optimistic based on the orders already received,” McVicar said.