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Rogier van der Linde, MD UK & Ireland at Hiab, at the official opening of the Bishops Stortford service centre

HIAB, the UK market leader in truck-mounted lift trucks (TMLT), skip and hook loaders and truck-mounted cranes, is opening a network of eight dedicated service centres around the UK to provide a one-stop-shop for the repair and maintenance of this increasingly sophisticated equipment. MT caught up with Rogier van der Linde, MD UK & Ireland at HIAB, at the recent official opening of the first of these centres in Bishops Stortford, Hertfordshire.

He traces the current strategy back to HIAB’s origins 70 years ago.

“HIAB invented the loader crane and the Moffett, and you could argue Hiab invented the tail-lift,” he says. “Then 10 or 15 years ago HIAB maybe became a little arrogant and we lost that pioneering edge. We were internally focused and profitability was low, meaning we couldn’t reinvest in the business.

“I joined the parent company [Cargotec of Finland] 10 years ago and moved to HIAB five years ago when we changed the strategy and started to turn it around. I then moved to the UK two years ago where we had similar problems of under-investment, internal focus and no clear vision.”

Number one

Since then HIAB has set itself the ambitious goal of being the “number one partner in global on-road load handling, inspiring and shaping the industry”.

“That isn’t about becoming the biggest but rather that we want to be the partner of choice for the industry,” says Van der Linde. “That means three things – number one is our employees, because if our people are happy our customers will be happy. If they don’t believe in the vision they won’t put the customer first.

“Second is understanding our customers’ true needs. That isn’t buying a new crane – they want to deliver something in the most safe, efficient and productive way.

“Third is working closely with our partners, the bodybuilders, the truck OEMs and our service partners.”

As well as new products such as the latest Moffett M5 lift truck (see panel), HIAB is investing in a network of eight regional centres, which will offer repair and maintenance and, at the larger sites such as Ellesmere and Dudley, installation services. They will cover Scotland, North West England, North East England, Midlands, South Wales, London, South West England and Ireland.

Each region will be responsible for the whole life of the full range of equipment sold by HIAB, be it loader cranes, DEL or Zepro tail-lifts, or Moffett forklift trucks.

“They are responsible for sales and services - the whole customer journey,” says Van der Linde. “It’s not a guy throwing a crane over the fence. We are almost becoming a consultant to our customers, helping them run their businesses in a better way. HIAB is becoming a customer-centric solution provider, and that will make us the number one partner.”

Full R&M

Already, 30% of HIAB customers are now on a full R&M package, with this percentage being higher in cranes and TMLTs, as operator maintenance is more common with skip and hook loaders.

“In the truck industry it is way higher,” says Van der Linde, “so there is a massive opportunity. We don’t need to educate our customers to buy a maintenance contract because they do it on their truck. That makes sure they have a preventive maintenance scheme in place so the equipment does not break down.”

To further increase reliability, HIAB has introduced HiConnect, a telematics-based predictive maintenance scheme that monitors the performance of equipment in real-time to warn of impending problems before they cause a breakdown.

“If one operator is doing 10,000 cycles a year and another 50,000 say it is wrong to have the same [time-based] maintenance schedule,” says Van der Linde.

While it is intending to cover the UK with its network of service centres, it will still partner with up to 20 authorised service centres (ASC).

“Finding the right balance is very important and that is why we do not have a 100% direct set up,” says Van der Linde. “We will still be depending on our other 15 to 20 ASCs. We have gone for the high density areas – this region for example covers 23 million people. That is why we have started here as we are sure we can fill the place.”

Mobile option

That is not to say operators will have to bring their vehicles into the HIAB centre – Bishops Stortford will retain around six mobile technicians able to carry out repairs and maintenance away from base.

“Operators can either bring the vehicle in and get a discount or somebody will go out,” Van der Linde says. “Some jobs are easier to do at the centre.”

Despite HIAB’s manufacturing base being in the Republic of Ireland, Van der Linde is unconcerned about a hard Brexit and the possibility of import duties in the UK.

“There are three main drivers for us – the economy, construction output and truck registrations,” he says. “Crisis always breeds opportunities and we are investing in the UK whereas others are not. There are always opportunities to increase sales even if the market is down.”

Cleaner, greener lift trucks

At the 2018 CV Show, HIAB introduced the latest NX (next generation) version of its popular Moffett M5 truck-mounted lift truck (TMLT). The M5 sits between the M4 and M8 models and with a gross weight of 2.5 tonnes it is able to lift a load of between 2,000kg and 2,500kg across the full width of a truck and trailer. It is ideally suited for on- and off-road applications such as construction sites and garden centres as well as kerbside deliveries of heavier pallets.

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The Moffett M5 NX in front of its smaller sibling the M4 NX

According to HIAB director – international key accounts John Bailey, despite the Health & Safety Executive failing to set a limit on tail-lift pallet weights, more and more operators are electing to use TMLTs rather than expecting drivers to shift heavy pallets on pump trucks.

“Truck-mounted forklifts are a big growth market,” he says. “Manual handling is becoming a no-no.”

Moffett is a by-word for TMLTs and is clear market leader in the UK. Just as with trucks and trailers more operators want to contract hire or rent TMLTs with full repair and maintenance, and Hiab is investing in a network of dedicated service centres to help deliver this requirement cost effectively.

“If you look at Europe, you won’t see a service van,” he says. “Everyone goes to a workshop whereas in the UK they expect us to go to them, which inevitably puts the price up.

“Fewer operators want to own assets – now they prefer to hire. Our UK rental fleet used to be quite small but it now has 100 machines for hire and turns over £500,000 a year.”

In addition to easier maintainability and improved health and safety features for the driver, a key feature of the NX series is that it is now ready for the cleaner Tier 6 engines that will be required for power ratings over 25hp after 2020.

As well as cleaner diesels, HIAB can now offer full electric power for its M4 NX fixed-mast range of on-road TMLTs, which leading customers such as Pets at Home and Topps Tiles are now adopting for quiet, emissions-free night-time store deliveries in urban areas.

The 120Ah to 180Ah batteries will give up to three days work on a single six hour charge from a normal 230V supply, while a faster three-hour charge or trickle charge from the truck’s 24V supply are also possible.

An alternative approach for larger machines might be a hybrid power unit, with a smaller engine coupled with an electric motor, to avoid fitting the more expensive Tier 6 unit.

“A Tier 6 engine is twice the price of the current model,” says Bailey, “so we could look at a hybrid using an exempt 22hp engine with an electric motor booster.”