Combilift, the material handling solutions provider, has set the benchmark for mass production of customised innovative products according to Martin McVicar, managing director. Martin McVicar was speaking at the official opening of the new Combilift Global Headquarters. Built at a cost of €50 million the new 46,500 sq m Global Headquarters and new manufacturing facility will allow Combilift to double production.

Built at a cost of €50m, Combilift has unveiled its new 46,500 sq m global headquarters – a facility which pates the way for the company to realise its ambitious growth plans. Combilift's managing director, Martin McVicar, says: “We have employed an additional 230 people since we announced our plans for this factory in 2015 and 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.”

From left: technical director Robert Moffett and managing director Martin McVicar

Combilift currently exports 98% of its products to 85 countries through its 250-strong international dealer network. The current workforce stands at 550 people and the new employment opportunities will be for skilled technicians, design engineers, logistics and supply chain specialists and those with mechanical and electrical mechatronics skills.

Irish Prime Minister An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar TD walking the new facility with Combilift MD, Martin McVicar and technical director Robert Moffett

Speaking at the opening ceremony, the Irish Prime Minister An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar TD said: “Combilift is an incredible home-grown Monaghan success story. When the company was founded 20 years ago, it had three employees, a brilliant concept, and the ambition to make it a reality. Combilift is playing a significant role in Monaghan’s success, and I would like to congratulate Robert Moffett and Martin McVicar and everyone at Combilift on their achievements to date and wish them every success for the future.”

In addition to forklifts, Combilift designs and manufactures straddle loaders for large and complex loads

Humphreys TD, Minister for Business, Enterprise, and Innovation pointed to the positive impact of Combilift on the border region. “As one of the most significant employers in Monaghan, the positive impact that Combilift has on the county, the border region and Ireland cannot be under-estimated. Perhaps above all, the company is living proof that you don’t have to be in a big city to achieve global success. 

"As Minister, I am focused on ensuring we have the right conditions in place to encourage job creation right across country, so supporting ambitious companies like Combilift is hugely important. I am delighted that the Government, through Enterprise Ireland, has part-funded the manufacturing facility, which paves the way for this exciting business to double its output and create new jobs in the region. Today is a wonderful day for Monaghan and Ireland.”

Speaking at the opening of the new manufacturing facility, part-funded by Enterprise Ireland, Julie Sinnamon, Enterprise Ireland CEO said “Enterprise Ireland has worked closely with Combilift from the outset of their incredible journey as a start-up to a global leader today, exporting to 85 countries. Combilift’s success is a testament to the hard work of the team, and to an unrelenting focus on market-led innovation.  

"These achievements represent the strength of Irish businesses who are achieving global scale and are positioned as global leaders in their own right. Their success has been built on being innovative and being the best in their field. Enterprise Ireland has worked intensively with Combilift to achieve their ambition, scale and phenomenal international growth.”

New factory

The new 46,500 sq m purpose–built factory is set on a 100-acre site with room for future expansion when required. With 11 acres of roof space, it is one of the largest manufacturing operations under one single roof in the Republic of Ireland.

The impressive production facility is bright and airy and features four 90m production lines producing a new Combilift truck every 15 minutes

Incorporating the latest manufacturing processes with a focus on sustainability, the new factory will enable Combilift to double its output in a single shift across all production lines. Four 90m moving assembly lines produce a finished truck every 15 minutes. There are 60 welding bays, two plasma cutting machines, three paint lines which use sustainable water-based paints and three automatic shot blasters to cater for different sized products. 12,000 pallet locations ensure ample storage space for parts and components. The facility also includes a 50-seat cinema training room, 5000m² of office space and a dedicated R&D development and testing centre. 

Creating an light and airy interior working space, 23% of roof space is covered in skylights, enabling staff to work in natural daylight without the assistance of artificial lighting. Other lighting is provided through 1100 LED light with individual PIR sensors. Solar panels supply 185 kW of energy with a 1mW Biomass plant fuelled by recycled wood (pallets etc) to heat the spraying booths and assembly area. Some 110,000 litres of rain water are harvested for jet washing and bathroom facilities. 

More than 50 truckloads of finished products are dispatched from the factory each week, and spare parts are shipped across the world to the dealer network. 

Certified to international quality and safety management standards, the new headquarters and manufacturing facility has been awarded ISO 9001 international quality management system, ISO 14001 Environment Management and OHSAS 18001 Occupational Health and Safety Assessment Series.

Growth of Combilift

Established by Martin McVicar, managing director and Robert Moffett, technical director, in 1998, Combilift is a privately held and fully capitalised company. It developed the world’s first multi-directional all-wheel drive internal combustion engine-powered forklift in 1998. In the first year of operation it produced 18 units,17 of which were exported. The company has more than doubled in the last five years and now has 40,000 units in operation in over 85 countries.

Robert Moffett, centre, with the first-ever Combilift delivered in 1998 to J G Kelly Supplies – and it's still providing sterling service!

Combilift’s product portfolio has expanded way beyond its first multi-directional model according to Martin: “Combilift has always focused on a number of niche market segments and has a proven track record of launching one or two new products annually. In the first 10 years we focussed on the long load material handling sector with the multidirectional range which revolutionised the handling of long materials, allowing customers to handle long products in less space more safely.” 

Between 2008 and 2018 Combilift diversified its product ranged by developing a number of innovative space saving warehouse and heavy load handling products; the Aisle Master articulated truck and the Straddle Carrier (Combi-SC) respectively. 

Pedestrian products were introduced into the range in the last five years, enabling Combilift to gain a foothold in this growing market. The Combi-WR, Combi-WR4 and the Combi-CS all incorporate Combilift’s unique patented multi-positional tiller arm technology. “There is a growing demand for pedestrian trucks, driven by safety concerns where customers and/or employees are in the vicinity of operating forklifts,” said McVicar. “It is our intention to significantly expand this range, as can be seen with the launch of the new high lift capacity Combilift Powered Pallet Truck (Combi-HC-PPT).”

Mass customisation

Martin McVicar attributes the company’s impressive growth and its status as an acknowledged world leader in the material handling sector to mass customisation. “Combilift has set the benchmark for the mass production of customised innovative products. Mass customisation is the new frontier for both the customer and the manufacturer as customers are increasingly expecting products to be tailored to their requirements. We listen to and take feedback on board from our customers and dealers to identify solutions that best match their individual specific needs.” 

Combilift invests 7% of its annual turnover in Research and Development to enhance its customisation capability and to maximise ROI for its customers. “The flexibility in our new facility means that we can continue to accommodate any request for a customised material handling solution. We also see ourselves as much more than a forklift manufacturer and are transforming the transport and logistics sector with our innovative, space-spacing products and our services.”

Combilift offers a free logistic and warehouse design service which enables customers to see the benefit that its products will bring to their business. “Our engineers proactively design, plan and produce material flow analysis and 3D animations – 150 to 200 per day for our worldwide customers – which clearly illustrate the capacity potential as well as the optimum flow of materials on their site.” say Martin.

Combilift was a business that was already in rude health expanded its customer base steadily for 20 years. This investment is strong statement of intent and serves to underline the company's ambition – and capability – moving forward. As the final frame of the company's video commemorating Combilift's 20th anniversary and the opening of its magnificent new facility says: "This is only the beginning!"