Expert speakers at the British Industrial Truck Association (BITA) AGM cast an optimistic glow on the outlook for the UK’s lift truck sector, despite continuing market challenges.
A positive economic forecast for the sector, together with industry news from across the Atlantic, BITA’s successes in attracting young people to the industry, and the forthcoming IMHX 2013 event, all gave cause for buoyant mood among BITA members.
The AGM, on 11 May 2012, marked the completion of the two-year BITA presidential term of Tim Waples, of Doosan Industrial Vehicle UK Ltd, and his successor paid tribute to his achievements in office.
Incoming president David Rowell, of Hyster, said: "Tim has presided over BITA at a time of much change in our industry. All of it has been extremely positive, particularly the continuing recovery from the depths of recession and the launch of an industry apprenticeship scheme under the aegis of the BITA Academy at City of Bristol College.
"His will be a hard act to follow but I am committed to playing my part in achieving BITA’s aim of ‘lifting industry standards’ for the benefit of BITA members."
BITA members remain optimistic about the economic outlook according to the results of qualitative research carried out by Oxford Economics to inform the twice-yearly economic forecast it produces for BITA members.
The 2012 UK Forklift Truck Market Outlook, which is available exclusively to BITA members, was presented by Scott Livermore of Oxford Economics.
He said: "Although output in 2011 has been weaker than expected and the statistics indicate that manufacturing activity is expected to remain sluggish this year, evidence provided by the BITA members themselves provides room for cautious optimism for the sector.
"Order books and actual sales in the sector appear to be in better shape than the macroeconomic position would suggest. Although manufacturing felt the brunt of the weaker-than-expected second half of 2011, with growth averaging just 0.5% compared to an expected 2% last September, survey data has picked up over the last six months. This has been helped by a rebound in new orders, both total and export orders."
Jim Moran, president of the Industrial Truck Association shared insights from across the Atlantic where similar trends are apparent with the market showing modest recovery but subject to vagaries of market and the political backdrop of the forthcoming Presidential election.
More news from the AGM
Encouraging ‘new blood’ into the industry where the average age of engineers is over 50, has been a priority for BITA since last year’s AGM in 2011. Led by Bill Goodwin, the BITA apprenticeship programme has gone from strength-to-strength. Goodwin announced the establishment, in April 2012, of an industry steering committee on apprenticeships comprising most major companies.
There are now 108 fork lift truck engineer apprentices currently in place across the UK, with another 29 planned for later in the year, against BITA’s industry target of 200. The establishment of the BITA Academy at City of Bristol College in November 2011 has played an important part increasing the number of apprenticeships on offer.
Looking to the future, the BITA apprenticeship programme will be focusing on establishing closer contact with schools to attract young people into FLT apprenticeships.
Finally, although the next IMHX show, the joint venture between BITA and Informa Exhibitions that is the pre-eminent materials handling event, is almost a year away, IMHX 2013 already promises to exceed both the size and ambition of the 2010 show.
Rob Fisher, Informer director and organiser of IMHX, said: "Exhibitor feedback from 2010 shows that IMHX delivers excellent leads and prospects. It’s unequivocally Europe’s leading materials handling event. As a result very little space remains unsold for 2013, in spite of an expanded footprint for next year’s event."