Forklifts and telehandlers for delicate pallets

Which materials handling units are most popular in the Middle East?

Bobcat's range-topping T40180 telehandler received its global launch at INTERMAT Middle East 2014 in Abu Dhabi, UAE.
Bobcat's range-topping T40180 telehandler received its global launch at INTERMAT Middle East 2014 in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

PMV explores the popularity of forklift trucks and telescopic handlers in the Middle East, and finds out why it’s so important to have well-trained operators at the controls

The PMV industry might vary somewhat from region to region but there are plenty of perennial favourites, including forklift trucks and telescopic handlers.

Wherever goods need to be lifted or stacked, materials handling equipment will be close by. Of course, the nature of the materials that are being handled will influence the types of equipment that you are likely to find.

As with many of the region’s most iconic buildings, demand for materials handling equipment in the Middle East tends towards the larger end of the spectrum. In addition to typical warehouse applications, the construction industry and the oil and gas sector usually require a little extra reach.

“In Europe, around half of telehandler demand is generated by the agricultural sector,” says Gaby Rhayem, regional director of Doosan Infracore’s Middle East activities.

“These types of application usually require working heights of around 6m to 7m, and capacities of three to four tonnes,” he adds.

US-headquartered compact equipment manufacturer, Bobcat, which forms part of the Doosan Infracore family, is well equipped to cater to such applications with its range of telehandlers. However, as Rhayem explains, the brand’s smaller agricultural-minded units are of little use to him in the Middle East.

“Here, we don’t have the same level of agricultural demand,” he tells PMV. “We might have some of the largest farms in the world, but they do not typically employ telehandlers. Wheel loaders tend to be the agricultural units of choice in the Middle East.

“There are much higher levels of demand emanating from the rental and construction sectors. The capacities required remain at the three-to-four-tonne level, but these types of application tend to necessitate working heights upwards of 13m,” says Rhayem.

Of course, it’s not only the long-armed telehandlers that are in demand in the Middle East. The region also has its fair share of warehouses and construction yards, and extreme height isn’t always the order of the day. Sometimes, it’s a simple matter of transportation.

UAE-headquartered RAK Ceramics, for example, runs a multi-brand forklift fleet of around 240 units. However, the Ras Al Khaimah-based company is looking to rejuvenate its materials handling battalion, placing an order for 55 Komatsu forklift trucks with Galadari Trucks & Heavy Equipment (GTHE) earlier this year.

“We have supplied forklifts for major operations in the past,” explains GTHE’s Omar Qsrawi.

“We previously sold 36 units to Fujairah Bulk Shipping, for instance. RAK Ceramics, however, has purchased 55 Komatsu FD30HT-17 forklifts in one shot. These units are primarily for warehouse applications. With their high-tech transmission systems they are economical, lightweight, and easy to operate.

“In total, I believe that RAK Ceramics owns approximately 240 forklifts, but the company is looking to update its fleet. The units that have been ordered are scheduled to be delivered before the end of August,” he adds.

Although a significant order, the forklifts purchased by RAK Ceramics are just a fraction of the business that GTHE has conducted in Ras Al Khaimah this year. The UAE-based dealer is also in the midst of supplying 96 construction machines for the government-run Aly Aaref development [page 26]. What’s more, Qsrawi is confident in the FD30HT-17’s ability to generate repeat business.

“RAK Ceramics is planning to change all of its forklifts, maybe by the end of the year,” he says. “Obviously, we would like to provide all 240 units. We have made a good start.”

Forklifts and telehandlers are clearly sought-after pieces of equipment in the Middle East market, but no matter how practical they are, the machines are all but useless – and potentially dangerous – unless accompanied by effective operators.

As assistant manager of Emirates Driving Institute’s Instructor Training Centre (ITC), P M A Razak is acutely aware of this fact. He warns that operator ignorance can easily lead to injury, and in extreme cases, death.

“Carrying a load that impairs the driver’s ability to see is an obvious hazard; drivers always need to have a clear line of sight when the forklift is in motion,”Razak explains.

“Ignorance of load rules is equally dangerous. Each type of forklift is designed with a load limit. A tip-over accident can occur if an operator ignores the limit label on the vehicle,” he adds.

Razak warns that behaviours such as excessive speeding and braking, poor communication, and horseplay are also hazardous activities. Moreover, he notes that it is vital for drivers to employ safe practice when dealing with battery-powered units.

“Forklift batteries are extremely heavy; they can weigh as much as 900kg,” he explains. “In addition, they can emit toxic gases when charging, which can lead to explosions. Special equipment, such as specialised carts and protective footwear, should be used when moving these batteries. Organisations should also install fume hoods or exhaust fans to prevent emissions from reaching volatile levels.”

In a bid to aid safe operation and maintenance, and to maximise productivity, manufacturers have gone to significant lengths to simplify the forklift trucks and telehandlers that they produce. Bobcat, says Rhayem, is no exception. Ease of use was a top priority for the designers of the firm’s latest telehandlers.

“I think that end users in the Middle East are looking for simplicity,” Rhayem comments. “Ease of use, therefore, represents a key consideration in the design of our machines. Modern Bobcat telehandlers can be controlled with a single joystick. All of a machine’s primary functions are integrated into this one control, from its hydraulics to its movement.

“Reliability is also a key consideration for end users, and so is longevity. These are the things that customers are looking for, so these are the things that Bobcat is working to provide,” Rhayem adds.

The drive for efficiency is a trend also acknowledged by Razak. Whilst cost savings represent an increasing priority for many, he warns that the region’s equipment owners should never be tempted to skimp on maintenance. On the contrary, Razak argues that an effective maintenance strategy is a key component of operational efficiency.

“In the current market, everybody is focused on reducing costs to improve their bottom lines and to increase profits,” he says. “By implementing effective forklift checks and maintenance programmes, operators can reduce downtime, increase performance, and improve safety.”

As the old saying goes, however, you have to speculate to accumulate. In order to reap the maximum long-term rewards from a maintenance strategy, equipment owners must ensure that the right staff and procedures are in place from the outset.

“In addition to a skilled forklift technician, organisations should ensure that they have access to reliable parts to help minimise interruption to the workflow,” Razak explains. “In turn, this will reduce the impact of downtime on their businesses.

“Regular inspections and timely maintenance will help to extend the life of a machine, and ensure that the owner achieves the maximum return on investment. Preventative maintenance should also be employed to help reduce costs ahead of time, and to avoid catastrophe,” Razak concludes.

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