1.1 Market definition and structure
The first forklift truck was developed in the United States in the 1910s by Eugene Clark. It was a counterbalanced forklift truck, presented as a tractor with a platform on which to manually load and unload goods. The machine was then perfected through technological innovations. Then in 1923, Yale developed a model of electric forklift truck with a long mast and a fork system to lift heavy loads. In the 1930s, pallets replaced forks and in the 1940s, forklifts became more democratic and became key machines in the material handling sector.
From 1950 onwards, more modern, powerful and versatile trolleys, capable of being used in small spaces, appeared. Since then, there has been a succession of innovations, giving rise to sophisticated and specialized machinery.
Thus, the forklift truck market corresponds to machines designed for lifting loads, which is one of the segments of the material handling equipment market. Forklifts are very frequently used in the industrial sector to transport various loads in factories and storage warehouses. They thus facilitate the transport, loading and unloading of goods. There are now many different ranges of trucks, whose payload capacity generally varies between 1.5 and more than 40 tonnes. There are also various lifting heights, sometimes exceeding 10 metres, and different energy sources such as gas, diesel, electricity and hydrogen. For indoor use, it is necessary to use electric trucks since they are less polluting, while outdoors, it is better to use a diesel or gas thermal forklift truck.
These machines include manual trucks, which are fully operator-controlled, automatic trucks, without any control lever or driver's cab, only computer-controlled and hybrid trucks, which can operate in manual or automatic mode.
Every year, more than one million machines are sold worldwide, manufactured by American (Hyster, Yale, Crown Equipment), European (Kion Group under the brands Linde, Still, Fenwick, Jungheinrich, Manitou), Japanese (Toyota Material Handling, Mitsubishi-Logisnext under the brands Mitsubishi, Cat Liftruck, Unicarrier, TCM, Rocla) and Chinese (Anhui Heli, Hangsha) manufacturers.
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