Firm looking at increasing customer profitability
Loader cranes are a vital part of operations in a host of different industries, from logistics to waste management, and even in brick and block-laying applications. Swedish manufacturer Hiab is one of the most popular names in the segment, with a product range that includes loader cranes, forestry and recycling cranes, demountables, truck-mounted forklifts and tail lifts. In the MENA region, its products are sold by Thor Middle East, formerly known as Hiab Middle East.
Thor, which sells Hiab and third-party products under the Thor brand name, organised an event in December at Dubai’s Meydan Hotel to showcase a new range to truck manufacturers, bodybuilders and key customers across different industries.
“Our three main segments are waste and recycling, logistics and building materials distribution. We’re also into maintenance and heavy lifting,” said Greger Jacobson, chairman at Thor Middle East, in an interview on the sidelines of the event. Thor showcased a number of new products, among them two new Hiab cranes designed for the region – the 8tm X-CL8 and 12tm X-CL12.
The company also displayed the X-CLX 178, which replaces the Hiab XS 166 and has undergone improvements to be lighter and more precise, Jacobson said. “We’re also launching two heavy-duty cranes, one 14tm and one 18tm. These cranes are aimed at really heavy-duty work like brick-and-block applications.”
In addition, the new Futura skip loader from Hiab Multilift was unveiled. Built in Finland, the skip loader is equipped with a host of safety features and boasts a new swan-neck design which increases its reach.
“We are also launching a new tail lift from Zepro, branded Thor Zepro. We have developed it jointly,” Jacobson said, noting that the tail lift is specially designed for the Middle East and will only be sold in the region.
Under the Thor range, the firm released a new twin skip loader, which allows a customer to carry two skips on the same truck. “The drawback with a normal skip loader is you can never fully use the payload of the truck. The truck is carrying much more than you can lift with the skip loader. With the twin skip loader, you can actually utilise the capacity of the truck.”
A new Thor road vacuum sweeper was also revealed, with a vacuuming power of 1.6t. The truck-mounted sweeper offers a speed advantage and can operate at speeds up to 40km/h. The dust and water-free sweeper comes equipped with self-cleaning filters, such that the air coming out of it is cleaner than the air taken in.
“It’s based on a normal truck, so when we transport the unit from one point to another, we can travel as per the speed limits, and we don’t need to carry it on recovery trucks.”
The rationale behind the extensive range of new products launched is Thor’s mantra of working to increase customer profitability, explained Jacobson. “The twin skip that we are launching right now is a wonderful example of how we can help customers do so. The sweeper is another example.”
With any kind of machinery, the need for solid after-sales cannot be understated. “We’re also offering a number of new service capabilities and different types of inspection and service contracts. We always claim that our Hiab and Thor products are the most reliable in the market,” Jacobson said.
The company has decided to back up that claim with a three-year warranty on all steel structures. “On top of that, we’re launching a 24×7 service number, so with our new service vans, we can help our customers around the clock.”
Although Thor oversees business for Hiab products in MENA and East Africa, its core markets currently are the GCC states and a few African countries, given the economic and geopolitical conditions in the wider territory. “Right now, the UAE is strong, Qatar is strong due to all the infrastructure projects, and Oman is a good market too,” Jacobson said.
Business in 2015 has been slower than before, but has been good. “We have in this year delivered a bridge inspection unit to the RTA, and we had some major deliveries of cranes to some bigger customers. We also have delivered six waste compactors to Ras Al Khaimah.”
Jacobson expects this year to be slightly better than the last one, and 2017 to be even more positive for business, although he does not expect drastic market improvements. “We all have a little bit a of a wait-and-see approach over what’s happening with oil prices. I personally believe that oil prices are not going to increase in the short term. It will take years before it recovers to around $60 per barrel. In the short term, it can fall even further down.”
Given the oil scenario, business has naturally slowed down in Saudi Arabia, where Thor Middle East has four partners currently. “They are in a big way starting to delay projects. But I must say it’s positive. They understand that they have an issue and they need to do something, and I think it’s positive. I would be more worried if they went on full speed ahead.”
Looking ahead, Jacobson sees opportunities in the waste and recycling segment, as well as in brick- and block-laying and building materials supply. “We can also see growth in normal distribution, where people are starting to use different types of lifting devices like tail lifts to do the job, which today is done by hand to a large extent.”
In terms of customer expectations, safety clearly tops the list, along with durability and a strong service offering. “More and more customers are starting to look into the lifetime cost and also the cost of standstills. No customer wants their truck off the road.”
“Our vision is to increase the profitability of our customers, and we will do that through supplying easy-to-use, reliable and long-lasting solutions.”
A customer’s perspective
Among the key customers at the Thor event were representatives from the Dubai Municipality, which has been a client for over three years. The municipality has about six Hiab cranes in operation, says Eng Fayez Saeed bin Kuwaiyer, head of the heavy vehicles maintenance section at the transportation department, which is in charge of purchasing and maintaining the municipality’s fleet. The cranes are currently being used for waste management, he adds, noting that cranes are also used by the horticulture and drainage departments.
As a customer, Dubai Municipality’s primary expectations are quality and after-sales support. The efficiency of the product and ease of operation is also crucial.
“There should be a representative in the UAE, and preferably in Dubai. Thor Middle East has a local representative here and a workshop here, so we like to deal with them, because they can give us good support. We hope to continue our good business with them in the future.”