Mark Dorman, who has a lifetime’s experience in the industry and the support of an equally well-qualified team, has set up Prins Forklifts UK Ltd with the help of investment from “Mr Prins” himself, Johan Ipenburg.
With the Prins range having a limited presence in the UK – a surprising state of affairs given the forklift’s advantages, which include the ability to go from yard to orchard and back without difficulty – Mr Ipenburg was delighted to back Mark’s bid to take on the UK operation.
As Mark’s plans began to take shape, the Prins company boss went further than backing the idea; he became a major shareholder in the fledgling business, unveiled at a well-attended open day at the company’s impressive new showroom and workshop complex at Lympne Distribution Park in east Kent.
Clearly a shrewd businessman, Mr Ipenburg no doubt recognised the difference his new business partner had already made to increasing the sales of Prins forklifts within the UK.
“The company’s original agent had sold a few Prins models as an add-on to what was essentially a horticultural supplies business,” explained Mark. “I took on the franchise on behalf of the company I was working for at the time and within a few months had sold more machines than the previous suppliers had in the past two years.”
Keen to offer a combination of quality machinery and first class aftercare, Mark decided to set up on his own launch of Prins Forklifts UK.
He stripped and remodelled the unit at Lympne to create a smart new building with offices, maintenance facilities and a showroom area, recruited a hand-picked team that includes service manager Andy Whyatt and operations manager Clive Richardson and is now showcasing the benefits of the Prins range to farmers and growers across the South East and in time the UK.
The Dutch-built machines start out as Toyotas, but the modifications go far beyond a respray and a new badge. Among other upgrades they are given better ground clearance and wider tyres to allow them to go from a concrete yard into the orchard to collect fruit – and back – with an ease not associated with more traditional forklifts.
“As long as it was reasonably dry, the Prins Tiger could drive across a ploughed field,” explained Mark. “They are two-wheel drive, light and compact with a much better turning circle than you normally expect. It’s a unique combination that makes them ideal for agricultural use.”
The Tiger’s standard clearview mast also gives much better visibility than offered by the more conventional design, while a hydraulic shock absorber can be added to the mast to cushion the load.
“The shock absorber is one of the things we added to the five individually-specced machines we sold to AC Goatham & Son for use at their new Flanders Farm storage and packhouse facility,” explained Mark. “It makes sure that the apples aren’t turned into juice during the journey from the field to the packhorse.”
AC Goatham & Son, one of the country’s biggest apple growers, is also hiring five more Prins Tigers from Mark’s new company and has taken delivery of two ride-on electric pallet trucks and a reach truck for the new packhorse.
Prins Forklifts UK also supplies equipment from manufacturers including Heli and Toyota and will source anything the customer needs, with the only proviso being that the team can look after it.
“Maintenance and service is critical to our business,” Mark explained. “If it’s mechanical, if our maintenance team can look after it and if we can get the parts, we will supply it. What we won’t do is sell someone something that we can’t then look after.”
Prins UK has already supplied a Kubota tractor and mower to A Pearson Growers in Sandwich and is providing maintenance and repair to customers old and new. The company has three mobile engineers, stocks fast-moving parts and offers an emergency 24/7 repair service.
Mark, who has been in the business for 31 years, learned his trade with BT Rolatruc, coincidentally now owned by Toyota.
After building a solid reputation for himself while working with two local, family-owned businesses, he decided to set up his own company, offering a reliable service based around a quality core product.
As well as supplying forklifts and other machinery, Prins UK provides racking and warehouse solutions, as well as offering driver training, casual hire and a truck-plus-operator service.
Alongside the Tiger range, which tops out with a 2.5 tonne machine, Prins Maasdijk also builds the lightweight Prins Sprinter and the Prins Boxer range, a low-masted variant. There is also a three-wheeled Tiger model that is ideal for use on sand and gravel bases such as glasshouses, where minimal compaction is a priority.
The Tiger and Boxer ranges can be powered by gas or diesel, while the Electro is a battery-powered version of the versatile forklift. The machines are ideal for agricultural and horticultural use, as well as in timber yards and for moving aggregates.
“One Prins machine can replace two or three different forklifts,” explained Mark. “If you took a standard forklift off a concrete loading area and put one wheel on to the grass, that would be that. Stuck fast.
“With one of these, the forklift can go into the orchard, collect a bin of fruit and take it across the yard and into store, safely and reliably, particularly with the hydraulic shock absorber fitted to the mast.
“They are also much in demand with marquee companies. Moving equipment across a carefully manicured lawn with a standard forklift is not going to do it much good. These machines are ideal, and with special grass tyres and a wider footprint they leave barely a trace.
“Four wheel drive machines are twice the price and twice as heavy – and they don’t have the ground clearance or visibility of the Prins. In my view, nothing else even comes close.”