‘Providing eco-friendly equipment is important’

The very name ‘Godrej’ implies world-class quality, reliability and durability of each product – material handling equipment is no exception. In this interview, H. N. Khumbatta, Vice President, MHE Division, Godrej & Boyce, Mumbai, shares with Dilip S. Phansalkar the company’s key strengths and changes taking place in MHE
How has material handling equipment industry evolved over the years to keep pace with India’s increasing construction activity?
India as a country has traditionally relied on manual labour to lift and shift material from point A to point B. This stems from the fact that labour is very cheap in India. However, with the country developing, core sectors like power, infrastructure, etc have shown tremendous growth. In sustaining this growth, the movement of material plays a very important role. Consequently the use of material handling equipment has shown an upward trend. Products like forklifts, tele handlers, access equipment which were not heard of have become prominent by way of their use in these sectors.
Godrej was the first Indian manufacturer to offer material handling equipment in India. Today, Godrej Material Handling is the only complete material handling solution provider in India with a majority market share. As these core sectors are expected to keep growing in the near future, the material handling industry as well is poised for a growth.
What are some of the bottlenecks faced by the industry?
The material handling industry is very dependent on the state of the economy. In times of recession, the material handling industry is the first to get the axe in companies’ procurement budgets; but when there is a general economic turn around, the industry is the last to pick up. The increasing raw material costs play a spoilsport by increasing input costs.
What transformation has traditional material handling equipment undergone in recent years?
The customer today has become very demanding and requires the best features, price, availability, etc. The customer today asks for equipment which is contemporary in nature and matches the best. Fuel efficiency is something that an increasing number of customers are laying importance on; today equipment with good fuel efficiency has a distinct advantage.
With most companies putting increasing stress on environmental concerns, providing an environment-friendly and lower polluting equipment becomes very important. With the requirements of customers becoming more specific, the need for specialized attachments is felt and providing appropriate attachments with basic equipment is a sure way of making a customer happy. All customers have now come to expect only the latest technology in the machines, meaning that equipment with outdated technology or features will lose out.
How does rising competition impact your business?
Most of the western market is saturated. Companies are looking at good sources of demand to grow. India is among the fastest growing economies of the world today. The core sectors which contribute to growth in the material handling equipment are also growing. To tap this demand, many international players are setting up shop in India.
Today, the Indian market is catered by the following:
i.      High technology and high-priced imports from Europe and Japan.
ii.     Low-priced basic equipment from China.
iii.    Indigenous equipment which are available at a mid-price point with most of the features available on high-end equipment.
With almost all the international players present through some medium, the competition is intense. The extreme competition results in:
iv.    The customers playing off one supplier with another to reduce cost.
v.     Increased competition to get inquiries and even tougher to convert to orders.
vi.    Competitors crashing prices to get orders.
To succeed in this highly competitive environment, it is imperative that the manufacturer is able to provide complete material handling solution to the customer. Presently, Godrej is the only full line material handling solutions provider in India.
What changes has logistics brought about in the material handling equipment?
Logistics is defined as planning and carrying out the movement of material. Warehouses are an integral part of any logistics business. Since the logistics industry is growing, the demand for material handling equipment dedicated to warehouse use is also growing. The logistics companies are adopting best practices from around the world, and that includes the use of warehouse lift trucks. This in turn has accelerated the use of various types of material handling equipment
What precautions are taken at the design stage of equipment for ease of operation?
The ease of operation is of paramount importance, especially in case of industrial equipment such as forklifts. The design team ensures that operating the equipment is an easy process. This is ensured by:
vii.   Reducing the floor height enabling easy ingress/egress.
viii.   Providing a comfortable seat to reduce operator fatigue.
ix.    Providing automatic transmission to ensure that operator focuses on moving material rather than driving the equipment.
The overall aesthetics are improved to ensure safety of operator and ease of operation.
What are the company’s key strengths that help deliver top quality products?
Godrej is an ISO 9001 and 14001 certified company. These certifications are ample evidence of the importance Godrej puts on quality. Godrej has its own manufacturing facility spread over 12,000 sq. m. in Vikhroli, Mumbai. The range of material handling equipment is manufactured here. The raw material and components are inspected to ensure high quality. The entire product is manufactured in-house, including critical assemblies and components. Godrej equipment undergoes a rigorous quality assurance system to ensure the highest standards of quality.
What’s the company’s current range of material handling equipment?
Godrej manufactures a range of material handling products. We manufacture the following:
x.     Diesel powered forklifts: 1.5 to 16 ton capacity.
xi.    LPG/petrol powered forklifts: 1.5 to 3 ton capacity.
xii.    Electric battery powered forklifts: 1 to 3 ton capacity.
xiii.   Hand pallet trucks and battery powered pallet trucks.
xiv.   Manual and electric stackers.
xv.   Special equipment like:
1.     Tire handler forklifts.
2.     Heavy capacity container stuffing forklifts.
3.     Wide range of attachments for forklifts, namely: Side shifter, fork positioned. Paper roll clamps.
4.     Bale/block clamps.             
5.     Lifting steel coils.               
6.     Barrel/drum grabs.
7.     Shovels                             
8.     Furnace chargers.              
9.     Rotating forks.
What’s your recent addition to the industrial equipment range?
We have recently launched the following:
xvi.   Powered pallet trucks
xvii.  Tow trucks
xviii. Platform trucks
xix.   Counterbalanced stackers
xx.    Electric forklifts with AC technology
How do you help clients solve material handling problems?
Godrej has a nationwide network of company-owned branches. We have a strong sales force of about 150 sales executives. These sales executive are well trained in the material handling domain. The sales executives undergo extensive training on various aspects of selling, the product, technology, etc to ensure that they are prepared to provide solutions to customers’ problems. They are trained to understand the customer requirements and suggest suitable material handling solutions. Usually, standard equipment suffices for most requirements; but in cases where the inquiry requires non-standard equipment, the design team custom designs and manufactures suitable equipment to satisfy customer requirements.
In fact, in extremely specialized requirement, the design team visits the customer facility to better understand the requirement and accordingly design and suggest a product.

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