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Many options provided

12 December 2012

Jungheinrich is best known for forklifts but director Steve Richmond emphasises how the company's history in providing integrated solutions including fullyautomated systems, stacker cranes, racking and WMS gives cus

Jungheinrich is best known for forklifts but director Steve Richmond emphasises how the company's history in providing integrated solutions including fullyautomated systems, stacker cranes, racking and WMS gives customers many options for kitting out the warehouse.

Simon Duddy: How has the intralogistics market fared in recent years? Steve Richmond: The automated projects arena has been slower to recover than the forklift market, which has been positive over the past three years, although there is still a cautious approach to large scale investment. I believe companies have now reached the point where they can no longer putoff investing in systems and processes.

The lack of investment in recent years means that, in many cases productivity and efficiency is not being maximised and, for many firms, operational costs remain higher than they need to be.

In short, failing to invest in updated intralogistics systems is at odds with accepted business drivers.

The majority of the growth in the automated handling sector will come from mid-level solutions that can demonstrate a quick return on investment.

SD: What role does Jungheinrich have to play? SR: Our strength is our ability to offer best practice advice on intralogistics solutions, whether they be manual, semi or fully automated systems.

Sometimes, there can be a lack of innovative thinking among warehouse planners when it comes to adopting different solutions. Clients do not always know what products and services are available and what can be achieved. We do, and it is up to us to demonstrate how such solutions can be of benefit and improve their operational efficiencies.

SD: Do some businesses have a mental block regards automation? SR: In the past some companies shied away from automation because they felt that a move to an automated system would mean that every aspect of the operation would have to be automated. This is simply not the case. If designed correctly, semi- and fully-automated solutions can be flexible and scalable to allow for growth and investment strategies and that will prove attractive.

SD: What are Jungheinrich's ambitions? SR: Jungheinrich is already a market leader ranking in the top three manufacturers of forklifts in the world. We will continue with our already mature strategy to ensure that we also maintain a top three position in the provision of complete intralogistics solutions. In this arena we regularly compete with the other market leaders in the field of automation. We've been selling integrated systems for over 25 years in the UK. We now have a global strategy, and all of our Group subsidiaries will be in a position to offer complete intralogistics solutions.

SD: Do you have the ability to build automated systems to the complexity provided by dedicated automation players? SR: Absolutely, we've got references in the UK and Europe that are of that complexity, including fully automated cranes and conveyor systems, minload and picking systems. All of that is within our core competence.

SD: How do you compare price-wise with dedicated automation companies? SR: It depends on the type of system - these can be highly complex stacker crane systems, or fairly simple conveyor and sortation systems. We are a premium brand in the intralogistics market but if you take the market leading companies in this field, we are cost competitive, but it is important to remember that with such systems, it is not just the initial capital value of the solution that is important, but the whole life cost of the operation. We also offer after sales that is second to none and this is extremely important when looking at the most suitable partner for these types of system.

SD: Forklift manufacturer or systems integrator, which comes first? SR: The entire range of forklift trucks will always be our core product, and indeed is central to many intralogistics solutions. However we will grow and develop market position in the conventional truck market, but in parallel, we want to make sure we grow in intralogistics.

It's not one or the other - it is a complementary strategy.

SD: Do you have a bias towards forklift-based solutions? SR: No, we will give unbiased advice.

We're able to do that because we supply everything from a hand pallet truck to a fully integrated solution.

The key is not having to shoehorn products into a customer's application. If we speak to a customer who thinks he wants automated stacker cranes, and we see from our analysis, VNA or reach trucks would work better, we will recommend the right solution for that customer.

Conversely we may say, if the profile is right, go with a stacker crane. It is unbiased advice. We can move up and down the MHE spectrum, and the objective is always to give the right solution.

SD: How does the Jungheinrich WMS compare with market leaders? SR: In terms of warehouse functionality, it is comparable with market leaders although our focus is on internal operations and not on transportation. We spent a lot of time developing the WMS from our point of view as a MHE provider, so it's a bottom up not top down approach.

We understand the operations, and that benefits the customer.