The waiting game: Aichi talks about its gradual global growth

12 July 2010

The Skymaster WZ09ASM, a 800 kg cage capacity, self-propelled boom that has the ability to work in t

The Skymaster WZ09ASM, a 800 kg cage capacity, self-propelled boom that has the ability to work in the vertical or horizontal plane using a single control.

A little over two years ago Aich launched its global range of machines, the recession has meant that the machines are rolling out a little slower than was originally intended, Maria Hadlow spoke to the Aichi team at Bauma about their plans for the future.

Early in 2008 Aichi launched its new global product range and declared an intention to become global number one in powered access. The growth plan was modest 2-3% a year based on the new global products. The recession may have slowed progress but is Aichi still moving in the right direction to attain its goals.

Speaking via mobile phone to Ken Nezuka, Aichi Corp executive officer and president of Aichi USA, at Bauma (the volcanic dust cloud kept him in the US longer than he expected), he said that Aichi has been steadily increasing its dealer network in North America and in Europe.

Aichi plans further expansion of the dealer network in various countries, "We are already well represented in some parts of Europe," he said "Netherlands, UK, Benelux and Germany we are currently moving into the Nordic countries and will gradually expand into the whole of Europe."

In North America Aichi is using the connection of its parent company Toyota to expand its reach

"We use the Toyota Material Handling network," says Mr Nezuka, "which is very strong in the industrial market."

Mr Masaharu Katou, Aichi's project general manager for overseas marketing and sales, went out to the US in July 2008 to help set up the distributors' network, "The timing was right," he said, "it is a mature market but very quiet at the moment. We currently have 28 dealers in the US, it is step-by-step growth and Aichi has had some good success with 40 ft plus booms in the industrial markets."

"As yet there is no indication of a rebound," says Mr Nezuka, " We must be patient and cultivate the markets. We had planned to expand the dealership network to a greater level but the current climate has made it difficult to stick to the original of plan. We review the situation regularly."

The Chinese market is of great interest to Aichi, "Mr Sato [Aichi's president] is focusing on the Chinese market strongly," said Mr Nezuka. "We are running some joint venture projects with Chinese companies. We have a strong strategy and are putting a lot of effort into the developing Chinese market."

In its home market Aichi has comfortable majority market share in the power utility sector, telecom lifts, and construction/rental machines. During the recession sales to the rental market has fallen around 30 to 40% in Japan and in Europe and the USA that drop is 70 to 80%, "The power companies have remained stable," says Mr Nezuka.

"Production has kept going throughot although we ave closed the factories down longer during schedules shut-down periods."

Aichi European sales office based in Oosterhout, Netherlands is headed up by general director, Rene Den Ouden, "We have around 7500 Aichi machines operating in Europe," he said, "4000 of those are the global range. People in Europe are becoming more familar with the brand and we are looking for new distributorsaround Europe, but don't want them already selling too many other brands."

One of Aichi Europe's biggest challenges has been proving to customers that although the machines are not cheap to buy they are cheap to own. They say that customers tend to come from small and medium sized rental companies because many of the larger rental operations are required to buy on price.

As more companies experience the machines, often larger rental operations will rent Aichi's from smaller companies, the machines become easier to sell. For example Aichi Europe has sold SP14 without the customer seeing or trying it, "It is vital that each new model in the global range has to be of the same high quality," said Mr Den Ouden, "which places huge pressure on the development team."

Aichi Europe estimates that maintenance of a Aichi platform costs on average of €251/year per - including accidental damage. Aichi Europe recently bought a 21 year old Aichi with all its maintenance records and found it had cost the owner €8000 over its lifetime including a broken engine which had to be replaced - the rest was consumables.

Aichi may have delayed the development of its 'global' product line - customers will have to wait a bit longer for its rough terrain scissors and articulated booms - but it decided to make its Bauma stand interesting by showing some 'niche' products that have long been available in its domestic Japanese market.

Most obvious here was the Skymaster WZ09ASM, a 1760 pound cage capacity self-propelled boom that has the ability to work in the vertical or horizontal plane using a single control.

"The WZ09 is a proven machine in Japan", says Ken Nezuka, (later in the week and now in person) "Customers like the vertical and horizontal controls, and it is good for tunneling work."

The heavy carrying capacity allows workers to have tools and small compressors in the platform while they work. It's a big machine - it weighs around 15000 pounds and it measures 7.4 feet (W) by 9.2 feet (H) by 12.5 feet (L). It is also expensive; "I'm afraid to give the price!" said a laughing Mr Nezuka.

Also on the stand was a tiny vertical mast machines, the tracked, 12.5 foot platform height RM04B, another machine in production in Japan for over a decade. This weighs 1400n pounds and has a platform capacity of 440 pounds.

Completing the niche platform picture were several modified Aichi tracked booms. Aichi's Netherlands-based 'master' dealer, Aichi Sales Europe (ASO), has added 1100 pound capacity cages to its standard models by removing the fly jibs and using the reduction in boom weight to increase the carrying capacity.

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