BORAL Limited, Australia's largest building and construction materials supplier, has begun taking delivery of the first of 550 forklifts under a landmark contract awarded to equipment handling specialist Linde .
The supply agreement includes a combination of equipment purchase and operating leases over three, five and seven years, providing Boral with the flexibility it requires.
Boral began its tender discussions with a list of 13 potential suppliers before selecting Linde.
The multi-million dollar contract is expected to yield Boral a significant reduction in material handling overheads over the next three years.
Boral produces and distributes building products, including clay bricks and pavers, clay and concrete roof tiles, concrete masonry products, plasterboard, windows, formwork and scaffolding and timber.
The recent decision to select Linde follows an exhaustive nine month review of Boral's needs and available equipment.
The switch to an entirely Linde forklift fleet throughout the company's Australian operations will occur in a staged process as the current fleet reaches the end of individual site agreements.
"Most Boral businesses use forklifts," said Divisional Procurement Manager, Michael Sax.
"They are an essential part of the operations of our masonry, roofing, bricks, plasterboard, timber, windows, formwork and scaffolding businesses and are also used in the concrete and quarrying businesses.
"We rely on forklifts as part of our manufacturing operations and also as part of our distribution activities. Around Australia our forklifts are at work at nearly 120 sites.
"It wasn't just about saving money up front. We wanted to find a company which could work with us to provide reliability, innovation and the quality of product that we needed."
The Boral review team ranked requirements such as occupational health and safety, service, quality, back-up, reliability, innovation, fuel economy and several other criteria. Productivity and fuel efficiency ranked particularly highly.
"As part of the process we put a loan machine from Linde to work along side the existing forklift from another manufacturer," said Michael Sax. Tested side by side, performing the same tasks, the Linde achieved consistently better fuel economy.
Russell Trewin, operations manager for Boral Masonry Queensland said reliability of the equipment was another vital requirement.
"We don't have spare machines," he said. "So if one is out of action for an extended time it creates major difficulties. Because of that we were also looking for a commitment to service back-up and after sales support."
Boral's Wacol masonry plant in Brisbane previously operated Linde forklifts before making an unsuccessful switch to a conventional forklift brand.
Even before Boral's enterprise-wide decision to select Linde as sole supplier, the company's Queensland masonry operations had switched back to Linde.
"We are commissioning a new wet-cast paving plant and we had a particular challenge overcoming a storage issue with moulds," Russell Trewin said.
"Linde came to us at the stage when we were still designing the factory and they worked with us to design a solution which saved us money, gives us complete flexibility in storage and also makes the operation of forklifts in the facility much easier than it otherwise would have been.
"We were convinced to switch from LPG to diesel powered forklifts because of the extremely low emissions of the Linde diesel engines. When you have forklifts running about within factories you are very conscious of their exhaust emissions.
“Previous generations of diesel forklifts just would not have been suitable, but with the latest Linde models we don't have a problem."
Adam Hunt, the forklift trainer for Boral's plasterboard operations is preparing drivers for the switch over to Linde machines.
"I tell them that within two to three days they will be familiar with the hydrostatic transmission and will be better and safer drivers," he said.
“Within a week they will be totally familiar with the hydrostatic drive system and after two weeks they will never want to go back to the traditional system.
"With Linde machines the controls are at the end of an armrest, so your arm is not going to be aching. You haven't got to ride an inching brake. You haven't got to rev the accelerator to get the hydraulics working well.
“You'll be a lot less fatigued. There's an ergonomic seat that's comfortable and the engine automatically accelerates when the hydraulic controls are operated."
Adam says the main reasons for this preference stem from experience, which had shown the Linde to be an easier machine to operate, provided better visibility and was more fuel efficient.
"This stands out, particularly at manufacturing sites where every piece of equipment is tested by being used to its maximum capacity just about all the time," he said. "Any shortcomings are very quickly apparent."