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Expansion for Linde

10 May 2018

Linde Material Handling UK recently opened its 24th UK location in Wellingborough, near Northampton. At the opening event, HSS editor Simon Duddy sat down with Linde’s UK MD Max Sammartano to hear how expanding infrastructure is only one of the manufacturer’s recent innovations.

One of the first things Max says to me when we sit down in Linde’s impressive new depot, is that Linde is always looking to improve.

“We had 23 sales and service centres in the UK. That gave us the most dense network in the industry, as we understand it. But we undertook a complete scan of the UK territory to understand where the customers were and where we were.

“This analysis showed a white spot. There is a lot of logistics at play in the Northampton area, and we were not covering the territory in the most responsive way, so we created the 24th location.”

This allows Linde to give customers more responsive service, greater access to short term rentals, and engage more readily on solution design. Linde will also position its national account fleet there, shifting from Basingstoke to a position that is geographically more central. 

Max says: “Our personnel will also benefit from having a base closer to the centre of the territory.”

It is in this fleet business where Linde recently scored a spectacular success - securing the contract to provide some 170 lithium-ion powered forklifts to food logistics specialist Fowler Welch. This is the first big fleet contract for a lithium-ion solution in the UK.

Max says: “The technology is not new but it is starting now to get market traction. It is very energy efficient, improves availability, users can opportunity charge the battery, it is maintenance-free, and it provides longer service life.

“We are very well equipped for the challenge, as all of our trucks can be fitted with lithium-ion batteries. In addition, we are developing a range of battery sizes for each truck, as depending on the application, you may need different, bigger batteries.”

But Linde is not on a mission to sell lithium-ion for the sake of it.

“We take a consultative approach,” says Max. “We have recently had a client who inquired about it, but we recommended lead-acid powered trucks because it made sense for them.”

The end user is king, and manufacturers are adapting solutions to suit specific needs. Linde is seeing a lot of interest from customers in its automated vehicles.

Max says of the firm’s tie-up with French automation specialist Balyo: “The technology we have chosen gives us a top notch solution. It doesn’t need wires, reflectors and so on, it will automatically adapt to objects in the warehouse.”

A big selling point is that the trucks can be used in dual mode (can be switched to manual), and without the need to re-set the truck.

“This has strong practical benefits. You can switch between automated and manual operation at shift-change. You can move the trucks between different areas in the warehouse immediately, with no need for reconfiguration.”

This is not at the concept stage, for example, Linde has a fleet of 15 automated trucks with one customer in the UK.

Not all development is in automation. Linde is continually revamping its traditional forklifts. 

Max explains: “Forklift equipment is replacing manually operated models, because kit is becoming more accessible in price.”

Linde has added several products to its traditional portfolio, notably a light range, which takes in powered pallet trucks, light stackers, and pedestrian tow tractors.  The MT 12 electric powered pallet truck, for example, can be used to help unload lorries for last mile deliveries and can be deployed in the warehouse also.

It isn’t just about the trucks though, it is about how the trucks interact within the warehouse solution. To this end, Linde has launched the Logistics Solutions division, responding as customer requirements change, explains Max.

“We need to make sure we are able to engage and consult beyond the forklifts, so we set up a team to consult and deliver a holistic warehouse solution.”

This includes storage solutions, where it often makes sense to have a combined offer and design, as MHE and storage often need to be closely aligned for the solution to work optimally. Safety is another key area, with Linde helping customers make the warehouse as safe as possible. Its trained specialists consult with customers on safety and recommend adjustments.