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The days when forklift truck companies simply sold hardware are long gone. The modern truck user expects a total range of managed services from his equipment provider from warehouse planning and fleet rationalisation analysis through productivity and utilisation reports to fully managed maintenance packages and operator training. And most users will not hesitate to switch suppliers if their expectations are not met. This is the view of Nicholas Allen, After Sales Director of Jungheinrich UK.

"A truck supplier's asset management expertise has become a critical aspect of any truck deal,' says  Allen. Indeed, effective fleet management is now regarded as essential if optimum truck performance is to be achieved and, at sites where a mixed forklift fleet  is in operation, ie, there is more than one truck brand working at the facility, it is increasingly popular for a single supplier to assume total responsibility for managing the entire fleet. Such arrangements are known as multi vendor service (MVS) contracts.
 
MVS contracts offer a number of benefits to the truck user. For instance, clarity on support cost as the user receives a single invoice from a single supplier. Also, the fact  that there is a single point of contact for the entire fleet simplifies the user's management control  process and allows set key performance indicators to be introduced across the entire fleet which invariably leads to reduced truck downtime and greater producitivity. Having one partner also means accountability issues are straightforward in the event of a problem.
 
However, successful multi-vendor service contracts require a high level of professionalism from the materials handling company if the potential cost savings and productivity increases that successful MVS partnerships should provide are to be achieved.
 
"Many companies simply cannot undertake true MVS contracts because their supply chain will not support the demand for spare parts that the MVS agreement requires," says Allen. He continues: "For any truck user forklift downtime is unacceptable. A multi-vendor service partner has to be able to draw parts through its supply chain for every make and type of truck in operation at a client's site. At facilities where several truck brands are working this is a lot of parts and there are very few companies with the supply chain sophistication to meet a user's demands for minimal downtime.
 
There are also issues surrounding the training of engineers to the level where they are competent to work across a range of lift truck brands, as Nicholas Allen explains: "Engineers may have been trained to work on counterbalanced trucks but have no experience of dealing with, for example, reach trucks. They may also be competent at repairing a certain brand of truck but be unsure about another less well known manufacturer's products."
 
Jungheinrich offers a range of managed services for all major brands and the company's investment in stock, backed up by an industry leading supply chain, means that Jungheinrich customers enjoy class leading first time fix rates and therefore benefit from maximum up time and greater productivity for their business.
 
"We have been offering MVS  for  number of  years and our highly skilled engineers and support teams are able to provide total maintenance cover for all major brands of materials handling equipment" says Allen. "Where a breakdown is reported, we are able to complete most on site calls the same day."
 
Although in the region of 70 per cent of all trucks in operation in the UK are acquired in some form of contract hire package a considerable number of truck users still prefer to buy their trucks outright and it is these companies that have the most to gain by switching to multi-vendor service agreements.
 
One user of Jungheinrich's MVS throughout the UK is a large distributor of tyres. The company has over 100 retail outlets nationwide and these are served by a number of distribution centres around the UK.
 
A varied range of materials handling equipment including reach trucks, low level order pickers and electric counterbalance trucks - operates at each of the sites and, until recently, the company had agreements in place with a number of different truck manufacturers to carry out service and maintenance on their forklift fleet. However, this was proving difficult to manage, as the company found that the levels of service it was receiving varied dramatically between the different suppliers. As a result, it became clear that a 'one-stop shop' approach would provide a uniform level of service and easier billing.
 
To overcome these problems the company reached an agreement with Jungheinrich to take on responsibility for the ongoing maintenance of the entire fleet. Jungheinrich is now providing a full maintenance support package. "We were able to create a custom support solution for the company's unique business requirements which it is now enjoying the benefits of," concluded Nicholas Allen.

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