Linde Forklift has been in the local market for well over 30 years and in that time has established itself as one of the leading brands in the materials handling market. Linde forklifts had carved a niche for themselves in certain markets with some die-hard customers in the past, but today the product is very much used in general materials handling applications ranging from heavy container handling to delicate foodstuffs.
The local company is 100% owned by the KION Group, which rates as a worldwide leading provider of forklifts, warehouse equipment and other industrial trucks. They employ roughly 21 000 people and in 2012 achieved net sales of more than Euro 4,7 billion. With their leading brands, Linde (Germany), STILL (Germany), Fenwick(France), OM (Italy),Baoli(China) and Volta (India), they have representation in more than 100 countries. As a global player they have set a benchmark for quality, innovation and profitability in the premium segment of the industry.
Phil de Wet, Managing Director of Linde South Africa, says Linde forklift trucks are not the cheapest on the market but in terms of long-term economic benefits, have been well accepted by the majority of the blue chip corporate companies.
Proof of this has been the way that the products have satisfied the needs of most customers in the best possible way and also the ability of the company to be close to its customers and be on the spot whenever products and services are required.
De Wet admits that the period towards the end 2012 and well into 2013 was the most challenging for the company, but with a little restructuring, mostly in the area of efficiencies, they have survived the negative market forces without having to look at a retrenchment strategy. Some customers, however, had kept their machines longer than normal, but since then sales have shown an increase in spite of a reducing market.
On the plus side, Linde is the market leader in container handling machines, a market which has shown remarkable growth in new machine sales. Although the total market has been down some 23-25%, Linde has only shown an 18% drop in sales, which augers well for the brand and establishes it as a product of choice irrespective of market conditions.
Since taking over the reins over four years ago, de Wet has concentrated on many of the support functions that are essential to maintaining a high level of customer service. Setting up a call centre has provided a communication level that has given customers access to around-the-clock service not available previously, hence having a direct impact on improving the service levels the logistic companies can give their clients in return.
A technical training programme has given the Linde technicians the edge in the industry and their ability to keep these sophisticated machines operating at the highest levels has been a hallmark of customer satisfaction. This training programme, which includes incentives for the technicians, has ensured a low level of staff turnover.
De Wet is well pleased with the level Linde Forklift has achieved in the materials handling industry, where it enjoys some 15% of the market, but his aim is to grow this a few more points in the short term by concentrating on more basic sales, the rental fleet, service backup and expanding the dealer footprint into key activity segments of the market.
“Linde in South Africa is improving all the time and are poised to become a leader and major contributor to the global group,” he says.