All Stories
6 min

BAOLI on course for growth

Our subsidiary BAOLI has big growth plans. Currently, the international material handling manufacturer is represented in more than 40 EMEA countries, but in the near future, they want to be successfully represented in all of the nearly 90 most important countries in the EMEA economic area.
What exactly the expansion plans are and how BAOLI's business is organized, you can read in the following interview with Christian Bischof, Managing Director of Baoli EMEA.


Mr. Bischof, you had an enviably interesting job in the KION Group for a long time. Why did you leave your ‘comfort zone’ to be the Managing Director of the industrial truck manufacturer BAOLI in EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa) a few months ago?

Bischof (smiling): After three years in Head Office as the Senior Director of Market Intelligence & Corporate Strategy, I wanted to expand my horizons and do something new. And I get to stay within the Group. Since BAOLI is also one of the KION brands, I am still fortunate enough to be an employee of the Group which I have been a part of for such a long time. I had already established connections with BAOLI during my time at KION North America as in the USA, I was responsible for the introduction and expansion of BAOLI, among other things. At that time, I also recognized the great potential behind the brand, which really excited me.

That leads us naturally on to the next few questions – what do you mean by “potential”, and where do you envisage taking BAOLI in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa?

Bischof (now more serious): My answer to this question may seem a little ambitious, but a clear goal of mine is to develop BAOLI into one of the leading providers in all EMEA countries in the entry-level industrial truck segment. Here we want to achieve ‘top of mind’ positioning on the market. In the future, whenever anyone thinks of robust solutions for day-to-day material handling, with reliable and easy-to-use devices and a good price-performance ratio in the future, we want BAOLI to be the first name that springs to mind. Having said that, I am also very well aware that we are operating in a very sought-after and thus very competitive environment. The entry-level segment is currently growing extremely quickly—much more quickly than the rest of the market. Nevertheless, I can see some very good opportunities for BAOLI in EMEA.

Christian Bischof took up his new role as Managing Director of BAOLI EMEA in 2021.

That is indeed a very bold prediction. But you must surely be aware that there are still strong reservations about Chinese industrial truck manufacturers, especially in Germany and the rest of Europe?

Bischof (now extremely serious): Of course, I am aware of this bias—even if it isn’t always justified. In our case, however, the situation is completely different from that of our Chinese competitors. Although the forklift brand BAOLI was founded in China in 2003, it was taken over by the global intralogistics group, KION Group, in 2009—the second largest manufacturer of industrial trucks in the world. Membership of the Group comes with copious mutual benefits and strengthens our brand immensely, especially as KION GROUP AG is based in Frankfurt, which is in Germany. We offer European quality standards for our products, but we use our Chinese manufacturing expertise—which is cheaper than in Europe. In other words: We combine European development DNA with cost-efficient Chinese production methods. This results in high-quality and very competitive products which are unrivaled by the rest of the industrial truck entry-level segment on a global scale.

And how are things looking for Service? As I’m sure you know, no industrial truck user can afford to wait four weeks or more for spare parts to be delivered from China.

Bischof: This is another area in which we are fundamentally different from our competitors, as we have significantly expanded our range of after-sales solutions over the past few years. For example, we set up a central product and spare parts warehouse in Rolo, Italy. With a floorspace ofaround 14,000 square meters, the warehouse stores around 700–800 trucks ready for immediate delivery, and also has more than 11,000 square meters of space for spare parts storage. From there we can deliver almost any spare part to anywhere in Europe within 24 hours. However, there is perhaps another example that will better demonstrate our high quality requirements. While, in the best case scenario, other Chinese suppliers provide the operating instructions for their products in English, we go to great lengths to translate each manual into the respective national language. You will find these very high quality standards, shaped by the KION philosophy, in all areas of BAOLI, from development to production to customer service.

But the BAOLI machines are only ever manufactured in China, aren’t they?

Bischof: That’s right. We have our traditional production facility in the Shanghai region. At the end of December, KION opened an additional plant for the production of counterbalanced trucks in Jinan (Shandong Province), which is also where BAOLI industrial trucks are produced. Around 100 million euros are expected to be invested in this pioneering project. By 2025, the KION Group will have created more than 800 new jobs at the new site in East China. We now have an ultra-modern production facility there, which meets the very highest production standards and thus also fulfills the aforementioned quality standards.

I am certain that we will achieve a great deal with this team of experts at BAOLI in the coming months and years.

Christian Bischof, Managing Director of BAOLI EMEA

Let’s just go back to the EMEA market for a moment. What’s the structure of BAOLI there? Who are the main minds behind the brand?

Bischof: All of our employees are important and help to make our company what it is. It is difficult to single out individuals. However, if I were to name just a couple of them: Francesco Pampuri is our Director of Brand Management and also a proven industrial truck specialist. He has already shared his knowledge with the world by authoring several specialist books. Florian Meyke, our Director of Product Management, moved from STILL to BAOLI as Head of Product Management Warehouse Technology and is now bringing his many years of experience to our expansion plans.

And how is Sales organized?

Bischof: Here we have representatives in more than 40 of the EMEA countries in which we are currently represented. In addition, there are numerous small and medium-sized dealers that we—in contrast to our Chinese market competitors—establish a binding contractual agreement with. This demonstrates that we are very interested in a long-term and mutually beneficial partnership.

How dense is your current dealer network?

Bischof: The degree of density varies from one region to the next. In France and Italy, for example, we now have a very tightly knit dealer network, but in Germany there is still room for expansion. However, this is something we’re working really hard on, and I am very sure that we will gradually and very successfully expand our presence in the EMEA region.

What are the objectives?

Bischof: In the very near future, our aim is to be successfully represented in all of the almost 90 most important countries in the EMEA economic region and—as already mentioned—to occupy the “top of mind” position in our value segment.

Your expansion plans amount to another very ambitious goal. So let me ask you something: Is the current product range from BAOLI sufficient to be able to implement these highly ambitious plans?

Bischof: Well actually, BAOLI already offers the entry-level market a complete range of very robust material handling equipment, including 3- and 4-wheel electric forklift truck with capacities from 1.5 to 3.5 tons, diesel forklift truck with capacities from 1.5 to 10.0 tons, as well as numerous warehouse handling equipment such as low and high lift trucks. We are currently working on refreshing our product portfolio. The new production cities in Jinan will also provide us with active support in the future. With this support behind us, we will soon be launching our new model series. So stay tuned—you and your readers will definitely be hearing a lot more from BAOLI in the near future!