Value for money

03 September 2014

European Handling Equipment managing director Andy Williams tells HSS editor Simon Duddy that value for money and solid service back-up are the key to sustained success.

Andy Williams is an entrepreneur who has pulled himself up by his own bootstraps. Since forming European Handling Equipment in 1995, Andy was a trailblazer in the importation of MHE from China and has built a business that ships 6-7000 units annually.

European Handling Equipment markets a number of products alongside its own Warrior brand and prides itself on its longevity and its service back-up. This means it can back up its competitive pricing with the reliability that has allowed repeat business and consistent growth.

Andy explains: "The difference between us and the guy with a website bringing in a container from China is that we always deliver products that are value for money.

"We back the product up with service and support, with strong supply of spare parts. The Warrior brand has been around for quite a long time now and people ask and search for it.

"We have staff with the technical and application knowledge. We’re very easy to talk to, you don’t have to go through layers of people. We’re small enough to care and big enough to cope.”

In terms of market changes, Andy has seen the company grow since 2011 after the dip of the recession.

"There have been some important changes, business used to be 50/50 between forklifts and ancillaries, now it’s 90% ancillaries. We sell as many forklifts as ever, but the ancillaries have taken off.

"Our top three ancillaries are pallet stackers, pallet trucks and drum handling equipment. We’ve built beyond the FLT trade, who are still important, and also we have online traders, and companies such as Brammer, Cromwell, Arco producing industrial catalogues.”

Over the same time period, the company has seen end users become more important as customers, with the percentage of overall sales going to end users rising from 10% in 2007 to 40% this year.

Selling to end users has meant European Handling offering back-up services directly on a more regular basis with more of its own engineers on the road.

Bespoke offering

The company has also developed a strong reputation for specials - that is products adapted to solve a particular handling challenge.

European Handling supplied powered pedestrian trucks designed to lift the York containers  widely used by a major blue chip client to carry direct mail flyers. This product was designed with the ease of use and safety of the operator in mind, with a specially developed unit to hold cages firmly in place, a platform adjustable by height for ergonomic loading of the cage and a magnetised controller to walk the unit.

"We had a remit to come up with a truck to help with manual handling in this client’s distribution centres. The client sorts flyers by weight according to postcode. The operator places these bundles into a York container. It involved bending down, so there was a repetitive strain issue and the client wanted to find a way to lift the container off the floor. The problem with lifting a York container with forks underneath is that it causes the floor of the container to fold up and fall forward,” explains Andy.

"Our solution was to create a platform with wings on a powered pedestrian truck. This way the operator can roll the container on to the platform, where its back rests against the truck, the platform lifts with the wheels on the wings, and the operator with a wander lead can adjust the height to the level appropriate to him or her.”

Health and safety issues are increasingly a driver for investment in MHE. A company that had suffered an accident approached Andy for a solution, as they had been given 28 days by the Health & Safety Executive to improve the safety of their operations.

"One of the problems these companies have is finding a supplier that can come and see the application, carry out a rational site survey, understand the problem and suggest a convincing proposal within the time frame,” says Andy.

"In this case, our solution to the heavy lifting challenge was pedestrian controlled powered pallet trucks with 2 metre by 540mm forks.”

Andy is continuing to develop the company. It will achieve ISO 9001 by the end of the year, which is important when quoting for business with larger companies.

In addition, European Handling is committed to developing its product portfolio, with the newly released Warrior EasyRoller a good example. The pallet truck has a lifting capacity of 2500kg and is designed to assist the operator by utilising leverage from the handle and transferring the power to the main steer wheels, making it exceptionally easy to manoeuvre.

With product innovations such as this, European Handling is aiming to power growth for many years to come.