Fleet Management

Supplier or Partner?

By Mark Nicholson

May 2023

Why you should work more closely with your forklift Dealer

How can you get more out of your relationship with a forklift dealer? The answer, essentially, is to be open to the full range of help on offer. With the right approach from both parties, your business will run more smoothly, efficiently and productively. Mark Nicholson looks for guidance from an international leader in this field.


Benjamin de Castelnau is CEO of multinational materials handling equipment and service supplier Aprolis. Through its group of companies, Aprolis is the exclusive distributor for Cat® lift trucks in France, Italy, Luxembourg, Portugal, Spain and the UK.

Connect with our digital world

Benjamin de Castelnau’s advice begins with a focus on today’s digital world. “To make the most effective, efficient and economical use of your forklift fleet, you and your dealer need good data. That’s why Aprolis invests heavily in digital tools, including the latest advances in ERP (enterprise resource planning) and CRM (customer relationship management). We ask you to join us in using them to full advantage.”

An Aprolis dealer can fit lift trucks with devices which continuously gather and transmit accurate data. The dealer’s systems connect and correlate these inputs with large amounts of data from other sources. Through a customer portal, you can easily access all the up-to-date information you need. That includes: details of your fleet; the condition and location of each truck; complete servicing histories; records of all spending; and much more.

For you, it gives a sound basis for decision-making and management. For the dealer, it provides vital intelligence that allows optimisation of fleet performance, maintenance timing and overall costs.

“Our digital connections and sharing of data are signs of the close relationship which we build with our customers. Our aim is to work hand in hand with you as a business partner rather than just a supplier.”

“To make the most effective, efficient and economical use of your forklift fleet, you and your dealer need good data."

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Digital tools provided by dealers open up huge opportunities for business improvement.

“We can demonstrate, using your customer portal, the true cost of your fleet."


A thorough understanding of truck choices is only the start. Dealers can reduce your operating costs and increase your profits in many ways.

Look beyond the lift truck’s price

The purchase, lease or rental price you pay is of course important, especially in these days of high inflation. However, Benjamin de Castelnau stresses that the cost of the truck itself is only about 10% of its total cost of operation (TCO).

Dealers can reduce your TCO and increase your profits in many ways. Digital tools are important aids in this respect. For example, they can help to monitor drivers and reduce damage caused to trucks and facilities. They can identify potential for savings on materials and services supplied outside your truck supply and maintenance contract. Crucially, they also enable you and the dealer to deploy the right trucks in each location and task for maximum productivity.

“We can demonstrate, using your customer portal, the true cost of your fleet – and the effects of any proposed changes. In addition, we are increasingly being asked to consider the environmental costs – through carbon emissions – of forklift operations. We can lower these, of course, by replacing IC engine trucks with electric models. Our software will show the measured CO2-lowering results of these replacements, and how they fit into your overall carbon reduction programme.”

Before making recommendations to a new customer, the dealer carries out a thorough audit. This looks not only at the existing forklift fleet and its operation but at the related facilities and environment. One issue frequently raised is the quality of the floor. For AGVs (automated guided vehicles) in particular, floors must be flat, smooth and clean. A good floor will also enhance the performance of other lift trucks, as well as reducing wear.

One further suggestion from Aprolis is to include your on-site managers in decision-making processes on your forklift fleet. “Some buyers are very distant from the day-to-day management of lift truck operations. In that position, it’s difficult for them to understand the issues affecting the TCO of a forklift fleet. The danger is that decisions may be made purely on truck price. In our discussions with customers, we like to meet with managers who are closer to the lift truck fleet. We appreciate their operational challenges and enjoy working together with them to find optimum solutions.”

Get to know our service engineers

The dealer’s service engineers can be very helpful to your operation, and you should make the most of their knowledge and skills. As well as being highly trained, and committed to the success of your business, they have an important connecting role. Aprolis estimates that around 50% of its contact with you is through its engineers.

“Tell them your problems and ask for their advice. They can give you instant answers, or obtain information quickly from us, to speed up decision-making. The information they gather from you, and from observations on their regular site visits, is essential to us. It all adds to our understanding of your needs, which in turn allows us to make adjustments and improve your results.”

It’s worth investing some time initially to show the engineers around your premises. Anything you can tell them to make their future visits run smoothly will be helpful. You should also introduce them to the managers they need to talk to when service-related decisions are needed.

Every extra supplier adds to the complexity of running your business.


The dealer’s specialist engineers are a valuable source of advice.

Keep on talking to us

Regular communication makes relationships more effective and benefits your business. If something changes, or if a problem arises, the dealer needs to know. As already mentioned, optimising your fleet and operation depends on having up-to-date and accurate data.

“We use our CRM to manage our regular contact with you. In addition to planning of things like service visits and truck replacements, it tells us when it’s time for a conversation. But if you want to discuss anything with us in the meantime, please don’t hesitate.”

And crucially, if there’s something you’re unhappy about, don’t keep quiet about it. “To us, a ‘complaint’ is a valuable opportunity to look at a problem and find a solution together. The sooner we do that, the better.”

Answer our surveys

Aprolis acknowledges that businesses receive many requests to fill in feedback forms. “Maybe you don’t have time to deal with all of them, but please answer ours! Customer surveys are another useful source of information that helps us adjust our solutions. It’s in your company’s own best interests to respond.”

For multi-site companies, these surveys have an additional value. It can be difficult for centralised managers to know what’s happening on each of the sites. Aprolis survey reports give a clear picture of the nature, activity and performance of their forklift fleets. Along with an overview, they allow comparison between sites and identify opportunities for spread of best practice.

See us as a one-stop shop and a partner

Every extra supplier adds to the complexity of running your business. Sourcing a variety of equipment from a single supplier simplifies management and adds economy. While many forklift manufacturers and dealers simply supply and support their own lift truck brand, Aprolis does much more. It provides and services a wide range of other industrial equipment at the same time.

Along with lift trucks of all kinds, Aprolis offers AGVs (automated guided vehicles) and optimal mixed AGV and conventional forklift packages. Examples from its wider product range include container carriers, aerial lifting platforms, yard tractors, cleaning machines, road sweepers, road-rail vehicles and airport ground support equipment.

In fact, Aprolis is Europe’s leader in this model of materials handling and related machinery supply. “But don’t just think of us as equipment suppliers,” Benjamin de Castelnau concludes. “Think of us as partners, working closely with you to make your business more successful. We will do everything we can to optimise your efficiency and work flow, minimise your costs and make best use of your fleets.”

For further information on Aprolis, visit aprolis.com/en

For further information on Cat® Lift Trucks and its dealer network, visit catlifttruck.com