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The UKMHA sustainability drive: Combilift

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For Combilift, the commitment to sustainable operations begins on its doorstep. Its products are helping customers to reduce energy consumption and consequently their carbon footprint for a more environmentally friendly operation.

Combilift is the world’s fastest growing forklift manufacturer, and since the company was established in 1998 it has sold over 65,000 of its highly customised handling solutions to customers in more than 85 countries. The majority of these units are still in operation, proving the longevity, engineering and build quality of these products.

The impact of climate change and the consequent push to cut carbon emissions has never been higher on the agenda, and companies are keen to point out how their products can help customers to achieve these aims. But sustainability can also begin at home, and this was the overriding priority when Combilift embarked on the design of its new global HQ in Monaghan around six years ago.

Let’s look at a few key facts about the company’ range of materials handling solutions and how they can enable greener operations for customers, as this may not be immediately obvious in the context of industrial vehicles. The multidirectional “3 forklifts in 1” models, for example, work inside and out and can significantly reduce the size of fleet required. The ability of these trucks to work in narrow confines even when carrying long loads can create up to 50% more space to maximise available storage capacity. This avoids the need to expand the size of a facility in times of growth, resulting in fewer new builds and lower energy consumption for heating and lighting, for significant reduction in the physical and therefore carbon footprint.

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When Combilift was established in 1998, diesel was universally acknowledged as the mainstream power source for heavy lifting equipment, but as is the case with the automotive industry, technology has advanced to offer more sustainable and greener alternatives. 60% of Combilift’s products are now electric powered for quiet, zero emission operation, and more electric models are being introduced across the range on a regular basis. This reflects the demands of customers who are  committed to sustainability and a circular economy. In regions or for applications where diesel and LPG is still preferred, Combilift uses engines which adhere to the strictest emissions and efficiency guidelines.

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The construction of the new 46,000 m² facility began in 2015, and the aim was to incorporate the latest and most innovative and energy efficient manufacturing processes with a focus on sustainability and the well-being of the workforce. Starting with a clean sheet ensured that no compromises had to be made, and local suppliers were used wherever possible for raw materials such as the stone, cement and steel required for the initial build phase to minimise transport miles.

Daylighting technology means that 30% of roof space is covered in skylights, enabling staff to work in a natural daylight environment with 173% more white light exposure. Large floor to ceiling windows increase the overall natural light inside the building to 84%. When artificial lighting is required it is supplied by LED lights with PIR sensors allowing for daylight dimming and areas of the factory not in use to be switched off automatically.

A 1Mw biomass boiler is used to provide heating for paint spray ovens and assembly lines. The biomass is fueled by supplier pallets, and 40 acres of willow on Combilift land by the factory have been planted to ensure sufficient ongoing supplies. Solar panels provide 185kW of energy which generate 10% of the daily electricity usage. A 110,000 litre rain harvest tank collects and stores rainwater which is used for jet washing and bathroom facilities.

The Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) levels that are contained in solvent based paints have a detrimental effect on the environment and contribute significantly to air pollution. Combilift uses water-based paints developed specifically for the company, and this technology has 74% fewer VOCs than regular solvent-based paints to keep levels as low as possible.

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And finally a few further statistics which demonstrate the company’s commitment to recycling and reusing materials to conserve natural resources. 92% of all components used in the truck assembly are 100% recyclable; 90% of the electric trucks’ batteries are recycled; Combilift is on track to save over 473 tons of CO2 by using carbon neutral wood chip instead of gas for heating within the factory; parts are stocked locally by 300 dealers in over 85 countries, eliminating unnecessary airfreight. From a small corner of Monaghan, Ireland, Combilift is helping its worldwide customers base to do their bit for a sustainable future!    

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