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Manufacturing: Meet the expert

Meet our materials handling specialist, Phil Blea

Phil Blea is an Area Sales Manager and materials handling specialist in the Manufacturing team at Close Brothers Asset Finance. Here he shares his thoughts about his role; discusses technological advancements and looks at which assets are currently most in demand within the materials handling industry.

Tell us about your work history…

My first role in materials handling was as an Area Sales Manager for Jungheinrich UK. Based in the Midlands, I was responsible for all new, used and short-term rental sales in Warwickshire. Within two years, I also covered the Leicestershire and Birmingham postcode areas, which have the highest concentration of forklift trucks in the country.

After five years I joined Linde where I became their ‘go to person’ for equipment suggestions, equipment capabilities, new concepts, fleet management and even automation, as well as the day-to-day of specifying and selling of trucks to new customers.

Then the exciting opportunity came along to join Close Brothers Asset Finance, whose values match my own. I’ve been here just over a year now and am working hard to establish a long and successful career.

How does your industry experience help you in your role?

Quite simply, credibility. I’ve been fortunate enough to be well trained and have a fair amount of experience. When talking to manufacturers, dealers or end users, knowing not only about the finance aspect but also the equipment and industry gives you greater credibility.

What technological developments have you witnessed in the field of materials handling?

There have been a number of developments over the years, including automation, particularly in the warehousing and transport areas. Any application where there is a repetitive process, companies are starting to see what sort or return they can get from introducing an aspect of automation.

Then there is increasingly a move in the industry from traditional lead acid batteries to Lithium Ion technology, which offers longer life expectancy and lower maintenance costs.

Monitoring of real time usage of materials handling fleets is also in high demand. Fleet management tools allow businesses to monitor equipment to ensure it’s not being misused and introduces an element of accountability to all stakeholders.

Workforce safety is continuing to be high on the agenda with manufacturers starting to introduce intelligent safety systems into their warehouses and factory floors.

What assets are currently most in demand?

Gas and Diesel counterbalance trucks are in high demand in the used equipment market. During the recession of 2008/2009 many companies chose to refinance their existing fleet of engine trucks due to the robustness of the machines. This cost saving exercise helped many companies in those difficult times, but the knock-on effect was that with no new trucks being ordered the used equipment market was not being replenished within the usual time scales. There is now a very low number of high quality used equipment engine trucks, which is driving up the price of older equipment.