The factory cost $58 million to build, but the business value is so much more for the 20-year-old company, says co-founder and managing director Martin McVicar. "The combination of this state-of-the-art production plant and the growing skilled workforce will allow us to double production within the next five years," he says.
First in Class
The very first of their multi-directional forklifts rests in a corner in the lobby. Combilift now ranks #13 in forklift makers internationally, serving mainly niche markets that must handle long loads, like steel beams or pipes.
Moving laterally, along with forward and backwards, gives facility more flexibility in how close racks can be placed. With the Aisle Master, this could be as narrow as six feet in between. In some warehouses, this could save more than 25% of space. The vehicles in their own facility seemed more for demonstrative purposes.
In the offices located at the crux of the L-shaped building, Combilift engineers create 2D and 3D animation of proposed customer facility layouts to show how much space can be saved by using one of the forklifts, pallet trucks or straddle carriers made here. It's free of charge and an American aftermarket truck supplier says they saved 30% in two days of discussions and planning.
The 100-acre plot in rural County Monaghan was once a poultry farm. Now it gives Combilift, which is all about thoughtful use of space, plenty of room to grow.
Skylights cover 30% of the building's roof space, letting natural light stream into storage and assembly areas to cut down on energy costs (when the skies aren't shrouded in clouds). The roof is also adorned with solar panels that collect 185 kW of energy.
One thing Ireland does have plenty of is rain, and this plant soaks up as much as possible, about 29,000 gallons of it, for toilets water and other uses.
Palletable for the Environment
Old wooden pallets are tossed in the 1 MW biomass plant to generate heat for the spraying booths and assembly area.
The thoughtfulness of reusing renewable resources on the outside of the building has been brought indoors, as well. These color-coded waste receptacles are found throughout the production floor.
Investing in Innovation
The company dedicates 7% of its revenue to developing new ways to solve customer problems and improve quality. That's how a new paint was developed in-house for the vehicles. It uses 74% less VOCs and is water-based, making it better for the environment and easier on the human painters and sprayers. It's still effective and stands up to an 850-hour salt spray test.
The secret the Irish manufacturer was proud to show off lies in the chassis, which acts as the counterweight. Two pieces of 2 to 4-inch thick steel are welded together to create the heavy body, with no additional counterweight needed.
There are several different chassis, so variety springs eternal in the welders' daily routine.
Four production lines churn out a new lift truck every 15 minutes, all done by hand. Combilift has hired 230 additional people to support the new factory since 2015.
From afar, the floor looks like a mess of hoses and metal and racks. Look closer and you'll see everything is perfectly positioned to keep that breakneck production efficiency.
A Very Grand Opening Indeed
Out back, they have an ornate dining tent filled with some soul-stirring violin work.
A Very Grand Opening Indeed
There's also Irish dancers. I'm pretty sure this entertainment is always going on every night and not just for the opening festivities. OK, maybe 50/50 sure.