Doosan, the name behind one of the UK’s leading forklift brands – is a major new force in materials handling. Established following the acqusition of Daewoo Heavy Industries in 2005 by the Doosan Group, the company is now part of a $12bn organisation that stretches across the globe.
The journey began with the Chosen Machine Works company, established in 1937.
The Chosen factory specialised in shipbuilding and machinery, becoming a major conglomerate in 1976 when the absorbsion of the Hankoo Machine Industrial Company led to the name change – Daewoo Heavy Industries Ltd.
Daewoo (meaning ‘big world’ or ‘great universe’) became synonymous with Korean manufacturing and by the time the Korean economy ran into difficulty, DHI was a truly global player.
The restructuring that followed meant that the profitable sections of the business – construction equipment, industrial vehicles, diesel engines, power supply equipment, machine tools, factory automation equipment, and defense products (armored vehicles and air defense weapons systems) became Daewoo Heavy Industries.
Daewoo began making forklifts in the 1960′s, and less than a decade later over 1,000 had been sold.
Daewoo reached an historic 10-year agreement in 1983 to build trucks under the Caterpillar brand.
The first factory to be built specifically to produce forklifts for export markets was completed a year later.
By 1998, DHI had established a name for product quality, with extensive R&D facilities and the completion of the renowned Reliability Center and in 2000, celebrated the sale of their 200,000th unit.
Doosan’s UK presence was established in 1994, firstly in Hinckley, before evenutally moving to their current location in Northampton.
Initially Daewoo forklifts were sold in the UK through Lex Harvey, the lift truck distributor.
After Finning bought Lex Harvey, Daewoo parted company with them and started their own operation (Euro Daewoo UK Ltd), making Daewoo trucks for sale here through a dealer network.
Perhaps best known for 2.5 tonne gas and diesel range in the UK (which account for around half of UK truck sales) the company experienced a rapid growth. The UK range covers over 100 models in total, spanning 1.3-16 tonnes, electric, gas and diesel.
The UK is not only one of the largest Doosan export market outside of the US, it is also strategically important for sales in Europe. Doosan holds 58% of the domestic forklifts market in Korea, but 65% of the total forklift production is exported, to over 90 countries, and 40% comes to Europe.
In May 2005, the Korean Government announced the agreed sale of a controlling share in the forklift manufacturer to Doosan.
South Korea’s sole manufacturer of power-generating equipment purchased the shares from the government-owned Korea Asset Management Corporation and Korea Development Bank, after a protracted bidding process involving a dozen of the world’s leading equipment manufacturers.
The successful bid from the Doosan Group, means Doosan Heavy Industry’s field of business now ranges from casting and forging, to nuclear and hydro & thermal power plant construction.
The group is also heavily involved in the desalination plant, environmental and material handling sectors.
In one year alone, Doosan won US$800 million in orders from the United Arab Emirates for a contract to construct the Fujairah Power & Desalination Plant, and has previously built two of the 2002 World Cup stadiums and Taiwan’s high-speed rail links.
Tim Waples, director and general manager of Doosan Industrial Vehicles UK, said: “This is a very exciting time for our organisation. This deal will give us even more opportunities to grow and develop as a business and provide our customers with a real alternative in the forklift market.”
In 2007 the business acquired the Bobcat Utility Vehicle business for $5bn, the single largest overseas acquisition ever made by a Korean company. This was swiftly followed by Moxy in 2008 and Skoda Power in 2009, now part of Doosan Power Systems.
In 2011 a new company was founded to give even greater focus to the forklift business.
All European forklift trucks are currently made in Korea, although the company also has manufacturing facilities in China.