Despite our many years in the materials handling business, it’s still fascinating to see how the forklift ‘brand versus commodity’ debate never seems to end. Of course, the manufacturers would like to believe their products are distinctive. Or, better.

The counter argument goes that whilst some forklifts have distinguishing features or innovations, essentially they all work in the same way and are a commodity item. There’s little differentiation other than the colour.

Our business has developed and grown from being the exclusive supplier of the Komatsu forklift truck product range into a truly unique independent company, so perhaps we are well placed to provide an unbiased opinion. Whilst each brand of forklift offers, say, a different power to fuel consumption ratio, or variances in size, noise, speed, emissions and average work cycles, we are seeing the commodity item view becoming more persuasive.

However, this really is a reflection of the increased durability of equipment, thanks to improved manufacturing techniques, and they’ll always be some differences in toughness, ergonomics and finish. Developments in hybrid technology and the latest electric models have also reduced the perceived productivity gap between different truck types. Perhaps the truth is that no forklift can be judged alone.

Maintenance and breakdown response play such crucial roles that the brand itself may be less important. What matters most to users is performance, and that means great local support. At least we can all agree to that!