Case Studies

Nissan Forklift Corporation, North America: Eco-friendly Support Across the Americas

  • Written by: Nissan Forklift Corporation, North America: Eco-friendly Support Across the Americas
  • Produced by: Nissan Forklift Corporation, North America: Eco-friendly Support Across the Americas
  • Estimated reading time: 5 mins

Nissan Motor Company Ltd. (Nissan), which is headquartered in Nishi-ku, Yokohama, Japan, began manufacturing automobiles in 1914, and by the 1930s the company diversified into trucks, airplanes and engines. Building on this experience in heavy industrial machinery, Nissan started manufacturing and selling lift trucks in 1957, and by 1965 the company began exporting them to the U.S. under the Datsun brand name (since retired).

In 1988 Nissan completed the acquisition of Barrett Industrial Trucks, and by 1993 Nissan Forklift Corporation, North America (Nissan Forklift) was born. As a result of the consolidation Nissan Forklift is headquartered in Marengo, Ill., where it manufactures and sells forklifts distributed to dozens of dealers (with hundreds of locations) all across the U.S., Canada and Latin America. In May of 2012 Nissan Forklift honored the 200,000th Nissan forklift produced in the U.S.

The company is proud of both its corporate heritage as well as its ability to advance the interests of the parent company. With additional manufacturing and administrative offices in Japan, as well as a sales- and logistics-focused office in Mexico, Nissan Forklift’s central location of operations in the U.S. has plenty of resources from which to draw.

Nissan Forklift also showcases its ISO-9001 and ISO-14001 certifications as a testament to its exceptional adherence to quality, code and safety throughout all five truck classes. Nissan Forklift is a supplier of engine-powered forklifts, electric sit-down riders, electric pallet trucks, electric tow tractors, electric walkie stackers and manual pallet trucks under the Nissan and Barrett Industrial Truck brands.

Reducing the Carbon Footprint

Nissan Forklift produces some of the finest quality forklifts for distribution worldwide, never losing its focus on the effect its products have on the environment. Ensuring that all its products and processes are working to reduce the carbon footprint, Nissan Forklift has forged new paths on the road to more eco-friendly industrial forklifts. In a study done by the Minnesota Center for Automotive Research (MnCAR), Nissan Forklift’s Platinum II Series engines outperformed other leading brands in fuel savings and productivity. The test used a pattern designed to simulate an everyday warehouse operating cycle.

Results showed Nissan Forklift’s Platinum II Series delivering 8- to 11-percent more fuel savings. Over the course of a five-year lease that percentage equals $25,000 in savings, which is nearly enough to buy a whole new forklift. In addition to this development, Nissan Forklift has pioneered new technology for powering forklifts.

Nissan Forklift’s passion as an environmental steward was crystallized through successful implementation of Nissan’s Green Program by taking its automotive origins and quickly converting them into actionable strategies for the lift truck manufacturer. From 2007 to 2011, Nissan Forklift’s Marengo facility achieved a 27-percent drop in CO2 through manufacturing process enhancements, lowered its harmful VOCs by 14 percent after installing new water-based paint technology, and expanded its recycling rate from manufacturing waste by 81 percent. New green targets are set for 2012-2016.

One of the latest projects at Nissan Forklift is the GO6 high-capacity pneumatic tire forklift designed for outdoor applications, including lumberyards, brickyards, warehouses, as well as manufacturing and recycling. It has approximately 17,500-pounds capacity and will allow Nissan Forklift’s dealers to acquire additional accounts within their chosen communities. The company has also developed an order picker forklift, which is a warehouse product, according to Peter Kruse, president of Nissan Forklift.

The order picker was based on a European design, which Nissan Forklift has imported and adjusted with some U.S. touches. This model is highly ergonomic and reduces strain on the operators’ part. “We’re always refreshing products every few years to make sure they have the most recent features and benefits available to them,” states Kruse. Nissan Forklift is committed to producing products that minimize environmental disruption, and that contribute to resource recycling and waste reduction.

Perseverance and Reward

Even with the company’s proactive agenda, the economic downturn caused Nissan Forklift to reprioritize and diversify. The year 2006 saw the peak of the forklift industry, and by 2009 Class I, IV and V truck business had plummeted nearly 60 percent across the U.S. Nissan Forklift put up a fight to hold onto its highly skilled workforce, however. “We needed to get creative and find ways to keep them at the company, even with reduced hours,” remembers Kruse.

Maintaining the company’s several hundred valued employees was key for ensuring that new products were still being developed and released to Nissan Forklift’s vast dealer network. “If you stop that for six to 12 months, it takes at least another six months to get it going again,” explains Kruse. In 2010 the company realized very strong growth, but the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that decimated the shores of Northern Japan caused more complications. “However, we were able to greatly minimize the impact on our customers and dealers,” Kruse recalls.

In fact, Nissan Forklift managed to curtail production delays with less than 3 percent affected by rescheduling. Of those orders, none were delayed by more than two weeks. Whereas other U.S. partners of Japanese businesses weren’t able to cope, Nissan Forklift worked to ensure the impact would be negligible. “In a spirit of transparency, we sent out weekly communications with our dealers so they knew what was happening,” recalls Kruse. All issues related to the natural disaster were resolved by the end of 2011.

In 2012 Nissan signed a definitive agreement with Innovative Network Corporation of Japan (INCJ), a public-private group, and Hitachi Construction Machinery Co. Ltd. (Hitachi) to integrate their forklift businesses, Nissan Forklift and TCM respectively. The two subsidiaries will form a new company called UniCarriers Corporation, which will be operated by INCJ.

Kruse mentions that while the company is currently looking at a relatively flat market for the remainder of 2012, it is on a path toward significant growth over the next two years due to the imminent partnership of TCM and Nissan Forklift. Partnerships are an important component of the company’s mental framework, and with Nissan Forklift’s durable product and highly evolved customer service skills it has been making connections from the beginning. In fact, Nissan Forklift credits much of its strength during the downturn to its impressive dealer network. All of the company’s 100-plus dealerships are operated independently across 250 different locations. “The commitment shown by our dealer network has always been a critical factor in our success. Our confidence in the upcoming merger is due to the strong growth plans with our dealer partners,” recognizes Kruse. “We have great expectations for our future.”

Nissan Forklift holds enormous respect for its heritage and prioritizes its ability to maintain ties in both the global and the local community. The company’s meticulous quality standards and manufacturing principles are applied to developing new products that are better for its clients’ wallets as well as the environment in which they work. Nissan Forklift Corporation, North America is a company that draws from over five-and-a-half decades as a leader in manufacturing and innovation, and it will use this experience to continue toward expanding its global reach while reducing the carbon footprint.

Published on: March 15, 2013

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