E-commerce and just-in-time delivery stimulate demand for forklifts made in Greene by Raymond Corp.
In the age of e-commerce and just-in-time delivery, it’s not enough to take all day to load up an 18-wheeler with pallet after pallet of goods. A customer wants one unit, delivered the next day.
“They don’t want three times as much or half as much. They want exactly the thing they’re requesting and they want it now,” said Raymond Corp. Chief Executive Officer Michael Field. “All of that requires some level of handling. Someone has to pick it and put it in a box. All of those things require forklifts to do that.”
Keeping up with the booming e-commerce market is one reasons Field and other Raymond Corp. executives cite in explaining the growth in a nearly 100-year-old heavy-manufacturing company based in a small village in the heart of a Rust Belt state that’s lost most of its industrial base. The company, part of Toyota Material Handling Group, recently added 47,000 square feet to its headquarters and flagship factory in Greene, and says its workforce is more than 1,600 there and growing.
Toyota Material Handling, a corporate cousin of the automaker, forecast about 3 percent growth in sales this year as of its most recent quarterly report, July 31. First-quarter sales were up about 14 percent compared to the same period a year earlier, attributed to increases in Europe and North America.
Six years after its then-president said the company might move out of Chenango County for a more business-friendly environment, Raymond Corp. finds business is growing steadily in part because it’s helping mass-marketers and warehouse operators cope with the rise of just-in-time delivery in e-commerce.
It won’t identify many of its ultimate customers by name – though they include Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, the Container Store and Binghamton-based Maines Paper and Food Service – but will say they include well-known mass retailers, grocery chains and home-improvement brands.
The company’s main products are forklifts, though the company often uses the term “truck.” It’s a competitive industry but steady as the world economy increasingly depends on getting goods out of factories, onto trucks and trains, and back out to stores and ultimately consumers.
“People don’t realize that they wouldn’t have anything if it wasn’t for forklifts moving it to get it to them,” Raymond Corp. Vice President of U.S. Manufacturing Rick Harrington said on a recent open house at Greene.
The expansion includes a second story for office space, team rooms and an employee fitness center. This allowed reconfiguration of 60,000 square feet on the factory floor. Raymond Corp. added another 15,000 square feet on the building’s west side for among other things a test bay 60 feet tall. Certain truck models have booms capable of handling loads four stories in the air. A machine referred to as “Conan” holds the steel I-beams that comprise the booms in sections for assembly onto the rest of the lift.
Raymond Corp. also installed advanced automated welding and laser-cutting equipment that can take sheets of metal and cut them into parts for its trucks.
The factory is a bit hemmed-in by the village, but they found a way to do it, Harrington said.
“Building onto the building is a little bit tricky here because we have the school on that side, state road on that side, the village here. So we got looking and said nothing wrong with going up.”
Raymond Corp. copes with other limitations. There’s no natural gas for heating the facility, for instance, and where once it could ship to western customers directly via rail, finished trucks now go out on tractor-trailers – the tall ones disassembled first – or are trucked to a rail depot in Syracuse, where the company also has its parts business. Tropical storms a few years ago took away a line that ran nearby.