Manitou BF S.A. of Ancenis, France, is the inventor and world's leading producer of all-terrain forklifts, as well as lift-trucks, pallet movers, and related vehicles for the construction, forestry, agricultural, environmental, and other industries. Manitou also produces a wide range of crane and derrick vehicles and bulldozer/loaders. In addition to the company's own line of Manitou brand vehicles and equipment, Manitou BF produces a range of similar vehicles through Toyota Industrial Equipment (TIE), a manufacturing partnership with Toyota, in which Manitou holds 34 percent. In 1998 the company reached a similar agreement to produce lifting vehicles for Fiat's New Holland subsidiary.
Manitou offers an extensive line of lifter/loaders and other vehicles for nearly every industrial, warehousing, construction, agricultural, and other light- to medium-weight lifting and loading purpose. The company's products are separated in four primary lines: flagship forklifts; Maniscopic telescoping lifts; the Maniloader line of bulldozers and articulated loaders; and a line of platform and basket lifts. Manitou produces lifting systems for a wide range of applications, from hand-operated pallet trucks for warehousing operations to platform cranes capable of raising as much as 9,000 pounds to heights of more than 50 feet. In addition to the Manitou lines, the company produces a related line of bulldozer vehicles for the construction industry through its Germany-based Ahlmann Baumaschinen subsidiary, acquired in 1994; a line of warehouse-specific pallet transporters produced by subsidiary Loc Manutention, based in France; the TIE line of electric-powered forklifts and loaders; and the company's small-quantity, professional-grade cement mixers, produced under the Braud et Faucheux name.
While the company's main production facility is located at its headquarters site in Ancenis, near Nantes in northwestern France, Manitou operates 17 subsidiaries, including an additional six production facilities, in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy, Israel, the United States, Belgium, Turkey, Portugal, and Singapore. In France, the company's sales are conducted through a network of some 50 authorized dealers, backed by more than 100 service centers throughout the country. International sales are conducted by a network of some 400 distributors, bringing Manitou vehicles to more than 90 countries. Foreign sales account for approximately 55 percent of the company's sales. Despite a long economic crisis in Europe, Manitou has been able to maintain its growth, with annual sales topping FFr 2.75 billion for net earnings of FFr 138 million in 1997. Manitou is led by president Marcel Braud and his son, and vice-president, Marcel Claude Braud.
Inventing a Market in the 1950s
The Braud family's involvement in machinery for the construction and other industries began before the Second World War, when the family's patriarch drafted plans to build a manufacturing plant producing cement mixers, derrick cranes, and motorized winches. These Braud products were to feature their founder-inventor's designs, for which Braud already had been granted a number of patents. World War II interrupted the family's plans, and Braud himself would not live to see the start of his company's operations: in 1944, during the liberation of the family's home town of Ancenis in the Loire region, Braud was killed.
Braud's widow determined to carry on her husband's plans. In 1945 the company was incorporated as Etablissements Braud under Madame Braud's leadership. Joined by son Marcel Braud, the company would begin production on the late Braud's designs. By 1946 the company was able to present its first line of products, chiefly cement mixers as well as a derrick winch, and other products dedicated to the construction industry. The devastation of much of northern France's infrastructure during the war years and the ensuing reconstruction effort would bring a strong demand for the company's products from both the public works and building construction sectors. The company continued to enlarge its product offerings, expanding sales beyond its Ancenis base.
In 1953 Braud formed a partnership with another local construction materials producer, renaming the company Braud & Faucheux. The company's product line now extended to include its first cranes, and the company's production facilities expanded to meet the demand brought on by France's steady economic recovery. By then, Marcel Braud, who had inherited his father's talent for invention, had begun work on what would become the company's flagship product.
In 1957 Marcel Braud presented the first all-terrain forklift design. Using a three-wheeled dump truck as a base, Braud had invented a motorized forklift attachment that would prove far more versatile for the construction industry. By 1958 Braud had refined his design, manufacturing an all-terrain forklift with a four-wheeled MacCormick tractor as its base. The model, the MC 5, with a reach of up to 2.8 meters, was capable of lifting up to 1,000 kilos. The MC 5 would became the first Braud & Facheux machine to adopt the brand name Manitou, proposed during a family picnic (and suggesting a contraction of the French words for "handle" and "all"). Although the MC 5 was directed primarily as a warehousing aid for construction materials wholesalers, Braud quickly saw the means to extend his invention into new areas.
Before the end of the decade the MC 5 was joined by the larger MC 6, capable of vertical lifts of up to 2,000 kilos. The MC 6 also increased the MC 5's lifting range, with a vertical height of three meters. The MC 6 found ready acceptance in the construction industry, but also brought the company into the lumber industry, where the Manitou series would become a fixture.
By 1961 Braud & Faucheux had sold more than 500 forklifts. Less than a decade later the company would record the sale of its 10,000th forklift. The Manitou line expanded continuously through the decade, including the addition of the MC 7, which brought a weight range up to 3,000 kilos and would lead to the MB 20, with a vertical lifting range of nearly four meters. The Manitou line also exhibited a quality that would remain a company feature through the 1990s: subcontractors' components, both from the company's subsidiaries and from third party manufacturers, such as the MacCormick and, later, International Harvester engines of the early Manitous, to complement the company's own production. In this way, Braud & Faucheux built up a high level of expertise in specific areas of competence, including design and development, welding and assembling, and painting. This openness to third party products would prove important to the company's growth in the 1970s.
International in the 1970s
By the end of the 1960s Braud & Faucheux boasted not only the sales of more than 10,000 forklifts, but it also had developed an expanded line of derrick cranes, with production of these equaling those of its forklifts. The company's cement mixers, too, had been selling successfully more than 30,000 by the start of the 1970s. The Manitou forklifts, however, would take special prominence in the company's growth over the following decades, allowing the company to claim international leadership in this product category, while also leading the way to the expanded range of Manitou equipment.
Manitou sales had gone international in the early years of the 1960s, with the company's exports reaching Germany, Belgium, Greece, and Portugal by 1963. By the early 1970s the company, which had grown to nearly 400 employees, had outgrown its original Ancenis quarters. In 1972 the company began construction on an expanded Ancenis location, which eventually would reach more than 60,000 square meters of production space. Meanwhile, upon Faucheux's retirement in 1971, the company came under the leadership of Marcel Braud.
Marcel Braud would orient the company more firmly to the international markets. In 1973 the company opened its first foreign distribution subsidiary, Manitou Site Lift Ltd. in the United Kingdom. This subsidiary would come to represent one of the company's primary exporters, while also aiding the company to expand and adapt its product line beyond the construction industry to the agricultural market as well. In France, meanwhile, the company had built up a distribution network of some 60 Manitou dealers.
This distribution network would gain the attention of Toyota, which was preparing to introduce its own line of electric-powered forklifts to France. Toyota proposed that Manitou become its distribution partner for the Japanese giant's complementary line of forklifts--which were oriented primarily to lighter weight warehousing use. Manitou agreed, setting up a separate partnership company, Compagnie Françse de Manutention (CFM), for the distribution agreement. Although CFM later would come under 98.9 percent control of Manitou, the partnership agreement marked only the first step in a long relationship with Toyota.
World Leader for the 1990s
By the beginning of the 1980s Braud & Faucheux could celebrate its 50,000th Manitou. By 1981 the importance of that brand name finally was featured in the company's name, which was changed to Manitou BF. That same year saw the expansion of the company's product lines with the introduction of the first of its Maniscopic telescoping lifts. Manitou also was building its international presence, launching its U.S. subsidiary, KD Manitou, Inc., in Waco, Texas, bringing its production capacity beyond Europe for the first time.
After introducing automated production techniques in its Ancenis plant and expanding its forklift fleet with its own line of warehouse-ready electric forklifts, Manitou joined the Paris stock exchange in 1984. The newly public company quickly made its first acquisition, that of Sociéte Materials Termit, followed by the purchase of a controlling share of Italy's Fargh, which would be renamed as the company's Manitou Costruzioni Industriali SRL (MCI) manufacturing subsidiary.
Toward the end of the 1980s Manitou deepened its relationship with Toyota, reaching a licensing agreement to manufacture Toyota forklifts for the European community. By the mid-1990s more than 25,000 Toyota lifts would leave the Manitou production lines. Rounding out the decade, Manitou strengthened its warehousing equipment capacity with the formation of Compagnie Industrielle de Matérials de Manutention (CIMM). At the same time, as the Manitou reached weight limits of 5,000 kilos, the company introduced the latest development in its Maniscopic line, the MLT series of lifter/loaders.
Manitou would continue to expand its product range in the 1990s. In 1991 the company joined with Treco to create its Belgian subsidiary Mantrec S.A., responsible for the production of a new line of electric-powered pallet loaders under the Manitrec brand name; this range would be expanded two years later with the addition of the complementary line and with the acquisition of controlling shares in Paris-based LOC Manutention. After celebrating the production of the 100,000th Manitou in 1992, the company moved to reinforce its position in the growing Asian market, establishing its Manitou Asia subsidiary in Singapore.
By 1992 Manitou had reached sales of more than FFr 1.35 billion. The company's sales would be hurt in the 1990s, because of an extended economic recession, forcing the company to lay off workers and take steps to lower its production costs. Manitou nonetheless began to see relief as early as 1993, as sales once again picked up, enabling the company to near FFr 1.8 billion in 1994. Aiding this growth was the company's purchase of the rival forklift line from Germany's Ahlmann, creating Manitou's Ahlmann Baumaschinen subsidiary. At the same time Manitou increased its share of Mantrec to 96 percent, while acquiring Empilhadores de Portugal--in time for the vast construction program related to Lisbon's hosting of the 1998 Universal Expo. The company also established a Turkish subsidiary, Manitou HMK.
These moves helped Manitou top FFr 2.5 billion in annual sales in 1995. In that year Manitou's long-standing relationship with Toyota reached a new level, as the companies agreed to establish the Toyota Industrial Equipment (TIE) subsidiary (held 34 percent by Manitou) for the assembly of Toyota's forklifts for the European market. The agreement called for Manitou to transfer its existing Toyota assembly activities to the new joint venture, which launched its activities in 1996; nonetheless, Manitou still was able to produce a light growth in its revenues for the 1996 year.
The following year Manitou entered a partnership with another competitor, New Holland, the Fiat subsidiary and European leader in agricultural vehicles. As the agricultural market began abandoning traditional loaders for the Maniscopic-type telescoping forklift, New Holland approached Manitou with the proposition of participating in the creation of a French-based plant for the manufacture of a line of New Holland-branded telescoping lifts. While cannibalizing to some extent the market for Manitou's own line of telescoping lifts, the 1997 agreement, which called for Manitou to produce some 2,000 New Holland vehicles per year, would represent a strong boost in Manitou's revenues, as well as reinforcing Manitou's position as the world's leading manufacturer of all-terrain forklift equipment. In the year following the New Holland agreement Manitou saw its revenues top FFr 2.75 billion.
Principal Subsidiaries: Compagnie Françse de Manutention; Compagnie Industrielle des Matériels de Manutention; Manitou Tous Terrains & Industriels; Savim (98.95%); Loc Manutention (66.5%); Manitou Site Lift (UK); KD Manitou (USA); Manitou Construzioni Industriali (Italy; 61%); Ahlmann Baumaschinen (Germany); Manitou HMK (Turkey; 48%); Epmilhadores de Portugal; Toyota Industrial Equipment (34%); Mantrec (96%).