Steelbro – Heritage, Innovation and Growth

The New Zealand sidelifter specialist Steelbro has a long history. For 137 years the Steelbro name has been synonymous with successful solutions for the transport industry. Things have come a long way since 1878 when brothers Joseph and David Steel set out to manufacture high quality horse drawn wagons, coaches, gigs and drays. Over the years Steelbro has had to evolve its business and its products to meet the changing demands of a global market.

Malaysia Among First Markets to Use Sidelifter

When the ground breaking sidelifter was developed in the to “stuff” and “de-stuff” their containers on the ground, rather than on the back of a trailer would save time and improve the sidelifter and the brand continues to enjoy a strong and reputable presence in the country.

Steelbro had over 40 sidelifters operating in the country when in 1996 the Malaysian operation began in Kuala Lumpur. The workshop was set up to focus on parts supply, repair work, maintenance and the assembly of new sidelifters.

“Kuala Lumpur is a large port area so there is obviously a big market for our product here,” says Steve James, General Manager International Market Development – pointing out that setting up a local entity has been a success from day one. “Since 1996, the workshop in Kuala Lumpur has more than doubled in developed, based on a solid reputation for quality and product support. It was just a natural progression to set up a local manufacturing presence as it enables us to immediately react to a changing market.”

New Owners

In December 2014, the New Zealand based company, announced that it had been purchased by Australian transport equipment manufacturer Howard Porter. The new owner also started life as a family based pioneering coachbuilder whose origins date back to the late 1800s. Howard Porter recognised Steelbro’s strengths and has shown great commitment to growing the brand and supporting the sidelifter growth strategy. They plan to continue to invest in and strengthen market presence.

“The support we have received from customers is acknowledged and we are committed to strengthening the foundations of the brand and growing the Steelbro brand globally.” said Roy Lombardi, Managing Director of Howard Porter.

The new owners are committed to provide adequate funding and capital expenditure to support innovation, quality manufacturing and transport return on investment for customers.

Steelbro now has the opportunity and backing to fulfil its potential in the Malaysian and world market. This move will significantly increase Steelbro’s ability to provide innovative engineering and support to their valued customers. It provides a formidable growth opportunity for the company. “Our experienced manufacturing, engineering, sales and marketing and management teams look forward with high expectations for the future of Steelbro Sidelifters within the Howard Porter operations,” says Roy.

“Following the new ownership we are now able to focus strongly on reducing lead times with units being held in stock to feed the increasing demand we are experiencing throughout Malaysia,” says Steve James.

Andy Ersalle, Steelbro’s Regional Manager South East Asia, is based in the Malaysian office. He added ” Other initiatives in Malaysia are the improved 24 hour/7 day service and support operating out of our wholly owned service facility. Among the improved resource and capabilities being introduced are new fully equipped service support vehicles, more factory trained technicians and an expanding regional support network.

We have also introduced new service and maintenance packages to help optimise efficiency, reliability and sidelifter resale value. Packages can be tailored to meet each customer’s specific needs.

These initiatives have been a result of listening to the markets needs and wants through extensive customer visits and consultation and ensuring we action them.”

Quality Focus

“The team will continue to focus on the stringent maintenance of quality standards across our manufacturing centres and through the very best quality materials and components in our equipment. We are proud to be associated with globally recognised manufacturers, that help us ensure commitment to quality, availability and support,” adds Lombardi.

Right product for the right market

“Having the right product for the right market is crucial,” says Steve James. Steelbro believe they managed to get it right with the SB450 sidelifter. Designed for heavy-duty use and demanding work environments, the 45 tonne unit has been optimised to suit the Malaysian market and has revolutionised the local wharf sector.

“In earlier times, the highest lift capacity we could safely offer was 40 tonnes,” says Steve. “The SB450 has a massive 45 tonne safe working load rating, enabling it to safely transport very heavy containers.”

He adds, “The market demanded added capacity, and we now know that the SB450 is the best solution. This is an example of Steelbro’s ability to adjust the product offering according to changing customer expectations. Customers across Malaysia have seen the huge benefits of a 45 tonne unit and recognise that smooth, efficient delivery solutions are the key to success in today’s challenging and fast moving transport market.”

One selling point that has convinced Malaysian customers is the SB450’s outreach of 3.9 metres, measured from the centre of the trailer to the centre of the lifted container. “The SB450 can lift to its full hydraulic capacity at a further distance than previous models, giving the operator more freedom and less reason to take risks. The unit is still very stable which is especially useful when transferring containers from sidelifter to a trailer and from sidelifter to rail wagon,” says Steve.

According to Steelbro, having a superior outreach is crucial to ensuring an efficient transfer of shipping containers to and from companion vehicles. Having a bigger outreach increases the efficiency of the whole operation by providing greater flexibility when lining up containers. Where other machines need to drive very close to companion vehicles in trailer-to-trailer operations, this sidelifter will even handle badly positioned or misaligned containers and in doing so speed up the whole process.

“Being a stronger, more powerful unit, less stress is placed on the unit, extending the life of the componentry and reducing the overall cost of life of the unit,”

A stand-alone power pack reduces running costs and adds fleet flexibility as can be sued with any head truck.

The idea behind the sidelifter concept is simple, yet revolutionary. A sidelifters ability to shift containers between different transport systems means operators can save time and thereby increase efficiency. The option to load and unload containers on the ground also increases efficiency and safety. To most organisations, this will eventually add more to the bottom line. In Malaysia, the concept has been embraced on the spot. ” Malaysia is a significant market for us and being present here helps us understand all the requirements of our customers in order to provide the best solutions for their current needs,” says Steve.

First published in Asian Trucker – September 2015

Malaysia News Item Photo | Steelbro

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