As a turnkey provider of some of the biggest names in material handling and access equipment, David Maxwell, Managing Director of United Equipment Pty Ltd, tells us how the company truly gets to the heart of its customers’ needs.
DEVOTED TO LIFTING SOLUTIONS
United Equipment Pty Ltd (United), trading as United Forklift and Access Solutions, has been unwaveringly committed to providing lift trucks and access equipment for the Australian construction industry for almost 20 years.
The company was formed in 2005 following the acquisition of WA Fork Trucks, W.A. Access, NT Forklifts, and Wagmac Forklifts Sales Pty Ltd. Subsequently, United acquired Skymaster Plant Hire Pty Ltd, Western Forklift Services, and DFS Holdings in 2006.
Furthermore, in 2010, the company forged with Allforks Australia Pty Ltd, who had locations in Melbourne, Ballarat, Sydney, and Perth, with all its major city locations merging into United’s existing facilities whilst maintaining the regional location at Ballarat.
Next, the company set up greenfield facilities in Brisbane in 2012, alongside Adelaide and Tasmania in 2018, subsequently acquiring two other businesses in 2021 to support United’s presence in Mackay and Rockhampton in Queensland.
Evidently, the company’s inception and subsequent growth demonstrate the power of acquisitional expertise.
“United’s history is effectively 50 years in the making, dating back to 1973 based on one of the many acquisitions made,” introduces Managing Director, David Maxwell.
Today, United’s journey has led to the establishment of 11 branches around Australia, alongside a separate corporate head office located in Perth, Western Australia.
As a result, it is one of the largest privately-owned materials handling and access companies in the country, offering an extensive range of forklifts, scissor lifts, boom lifts, and telehandlers.
“We are a one-stop shop offering sales, service, parts, and rental for material handling and access equipment,” Maxwell explains.
Its product offering spans a range of lift truck and access equipment brands such as Cat®, Konecranes, Haulotte, and Almacrawler.
United is differentiated in the industry by its diverse customer base that permeates sectors such as transport and logistics, mining, manufacturing, retail, and construction, cultivating long-term partnerships with each client.
In order to sufficiently serve and meet the expectations of its customers, the company fosters deep-rooted partnerships with key original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), representing United and its products across Australia, providing it with a unique edge.
Additionally, the company is in the fortunate position to have been 100 percent owned by the Elphinstone Group since July 2015.
“This has been a key change for the business, giving us the strength, stability, and direction to enable year-on-year growth since 2016,” elaborates Maxwell.
POWER IN ITS PEOPLE
With over 2,700 members of staff in the Elphinstone Group and growing, United’s strength lies in its 430+ people. The company’s longest-serving employee recently celebrated 36 years of service at the company, whilst its four senior executives have more than 110 years of combined company experience.
Meanwhile, United currently has 32 senior management positions, totalling nearly 460 years of company experience.
Additionally, the company’s product offering is a major differentiator due to the vast range of material handling and access equipment available. For example, it offers a full range of forklifts from one tonne (t) to 60 t.
“Many of our competitors either do a limited range of forklifts or access equipment, but generally not both. United also has extensive coverage across Australia, which is attractive for national companies looking for consistency across their sites,” highlights Maxwell.
With a sole focus on the domestic market, the company also leverages a centralised ordering process, in which equipment and parts are managed on a local level when shipped to its branches across the country.
This enables United to move equipment between each branch efficiently so that it can best serve its customers’ needs.
As it stands, the company has centralised major parts locations in Perth and Melbourne, whilst its Sydney and Brisbane sites are quickly progressing to a size in which United can boast four major parts hubs. All sites carry an extensive amount of stock holdings to service each location.
In recent years, United has come on leaps and bounds in its capacity, thanks to the expansion of its people, sites, and product range.
For instance, in 2021, the company moved to a purpose-built facility for its Melbourne operations. The state-of-the art complex, spanning 5,000 square metres (sqm) on 24,000 sqm of land, comprises a top-class vertical lift machine (VLM) for simplifying parts storage, as well as a large spray booth that is tailor-made to fit the company’s largest machinery.
On top of this, United recently helped develop a unique tyre handler that is centred around safety and performance.
“This unique product offering has become the number one choice in Australia due to its specific innovation features. It is also now being offered as the first fully electric unit being sold to market. This has garnered sizeable attention from companies such as Rio Tinto, BHP, and FMG.”
To bolster its enviable products and services, United boasts a fleet of over 6,000 units nationally. It consists of a full range of small and large forklifts, including many reach stackers and empty container handlers, and a full range of access equipment.
Such an extensive portfolio enables the company to have a mix of long and short-term contracts.
“We were awarded the Rental Company of the Year in 2018, and our fleet is representative of the products we are the national distributors for,” Maxwell proudly highlights.
SHAPING THE FUTURE
United has been a devoted partner of the Clontarf Foundation, a school for Indigenous children, since 2020.
Having become involved with the foundation through its relationship with Rio Tinto, the company has greatly enjoyed its connection, attending several graduation ceremonies over the years.
United also provides apprenticeship opportunities to cater for the current shortage of skilled labour in Australia, as well as enabling high-quality training and qualifications for those joining the industry.
The programme provides people with the unique and rare opportunity to gain hands-on experience in the field whilst also attaining key theoretical knowledge to be able to progress in the materials handling sector.
It currently employs 13 apprentices and is open to taking self-driven, positive individuals who are keen to learn. The company’s first apprentice from the Clontarf Foundation will be celebrating completion of the qualification this year.
Meanwhile, the central pillar of United’s strategic plan going forward is people and safety, as its staff base is its most valuable asset.
“Our key priority is to be committed to maintaining a safe workforce, attracting, retaining, and developing our people, and establishing career development plans throughout the business,” concludes Maxwell.
With the development of United’s strategic plan in the last year, its key focus areas and goals are to expand further across Australia to maintain its position as a business that delivers value in a sustainable, innovative, and safe way.