Fleet managers in local authorities in the UK are having to become more efficient so that they can do more jobs with less equipment. Multi-functional vehicles are consequently more popular than ever. However, with more work being squeezed out of the kit, this puts a greater onus on quality. German manufacturer Max Holder is entering the uk market and aims to deliver a new benchmark in multi-use vehicles, writes Ann-Marie Knegt.

Baden-Württemberg, the beautiful region in southern Germany with Stuttgart as its capital, is known for quality engineering, especially in the automotive sector, and it is also the headquarters for Max Holder.

This manufacturer of multi-use implement carriers has been around for more than 125 years and was among the first companies in the world to launch an articulated tractor. The company shares the town of Metzingen with Hugo Boss. However, in Germany, Austria, Scandinavia and Switzerland, the Holder brand is equally iconic and has a reputation for innovations which include the introduction of the world's first single axle tractor in 1930 and the launch of the Holder diesel engine in 1950.

Celia Norton is the UK Business representative and is by no means unrecognised in the industry. She has a lengthy pedigree in selling municipal equipment, having worked for Multicar and Tennant Green Machines.

Now Celia is in charge of introducing the UK to the Holder multi-attachment implement carriers. She said: 'I will only work for a company that makes quality products and the Holder range excels in all it has been designed for. Introducing a new brand to the UK will be a challenge and it will take a while for people to become familiar with the equipment but I have absolutely no doubt that these machines will be a great success. Anyone who drives a Holder is immediately convinced by its performance. A large number of attachments, ranging from street-cleansing and grounds-care equipment to arduous highway and winter maintenance tools, such as the snow-blowing and ploughing kit, can be connected to the Holder units.'

The company works with a number of international attachment manufacturers, including Schmidt, Fiedler, Reinex, Kugelmann, Trilety, KIF, GMR, Westa and many more. And operators can choose attachments that will keep their vehicle at work the whole year around, from winter maintenance equipment to mulching and mowing and specialised equipment for patch planning and more.

The X3 hopper can be used for suction-sweeping as well as mowing and water transport. The vehicle has a flatbed, a set down device, a two-brush system with individual brush control, a front sweeping brush, a front rotary mower, a mulching kit, a side-clearing shield, a vario snowplough, a salt and grit spreader, a roller spreader and a disc spreader.

However, one of the defining characteristics of the Holder range comes from the wine industry. Metzingen is surrounded by vineyards producing high-quality wine and viticulture is the sector where the Holder range found its origin. Vineyards are a challenge to traverse, even with a tractor. There are steep gradients that can be muddy at times and usually there is only a very narrow turn at the end of each row of vines. For this reason, Holder launched the first articulated tractor in 1954 and this made it possible to have a very small turning circle for a machine of this type.

Most models in the modern Holder range are now articulated and the company still prides itself on its tiny turning circle. The Holder C250 and C270, which are also recommended for sweeping operations, have a turning circle of only 1.39m. The larger versions in the range, the M480, S990 and the S1090, have been designed with a turning circle of 2.13m.

In normal tractors the wheels come in different sizes on the front and back. The tyres on the Holder range, however, are also all the same size which, Celia explained, brings benefits such as better climbing ability, ground protection and minimum tyre abrasion. And it also allows more space for growing crops.

Even in local authorities when the operator has to sweep or clear snow in small alleyways and cul-de-sacs, it requires a flexible and smaller machine. None of the Holder range is wider than 1.3m, making them very suitable for pavements too. Many other sweepers only have four-wheel drive available when they are in drive mode but the Holder also has this in work mode.

The articulated steering is extremely tight, so when you are doing a circle, it will stay in its complete true track and the rear wheels will follow in the exact same line as the front ones,' said Celia.

'Many articulated vehicles do not have this feature and the problem is that they start getting a bit wobbly because the back doesn't follow the front. With the Holder range you do not have to worry about this. Even if you are reversing, it will go the same way.'

The articulated steering ensures that the machines in the Holder range can manoeuvre with precision while having the optimum power transmission. Celia explained that this requires less shunting and manual reworking, making the implement carrier more precise, reducing damage to the soil and tyre wear.

Holder has a core system at the basis of its manufacturing philosophy, which is represented in all of its logos.

Celia explained: 'The Holder system is robust and reliable, four seasons, one Holder, extremely manoeuvrable and then there's the driving configuration. This enables the any user to use the vehicle for a huge number of tasks. This versatility is really important for local authorities' activities, such as the sweeping and cleaning and grounds care. It really is a multi-functional implement carrier and that is how we want to see this machine.

'The Holder range has also been designed with a mechanical differential lock, which provides an even power transmission to both axles under extreme conditions. Traction is, therefore, excellent with a reduced risk of accidents, making this range of machines great for winter maintenance operations. You can get wherever you want to go. The four-wheel drive is very important to us.'

The patented wheel load stabiliser ensures that all four wheels are in permanent contact with the ground. The system compensates when one wheel would be up in the air by adjusting the pressure in the meridians creating stability and then by pressing the other wheels down. It also dampens rolling movement when the vehicle is on the road.

'It is nearly impossible to roll the vehicle over. We often demonstrate this when we are in the centre of town by driving one side of the vehicle over a big log of wood or high kerb. It is really stable.'

Both the X30 and the B250 are less than 2.0m high. This means that they can also be used in underground car parks. The tight turning circle offers extra flexibility for going through doors and tight spaces. And the mechanical difflock ensures that enough power is supplied for arduous operations, such as snowploughing or tearing up asphalt.

Celia explained that the company came under new shareholdership in 2008. Three entrepreneurs from the local area took Max Holder under their helm and steered the company in a new direction. Dr Carl Heiner Schmid, Dr Christoph WeiB and Martin Haas turned around the production process and introduced lean manufacturing concepts. These included only using high quality components and much more involvement of the staff in the company. This philosophy has been so successful that the company's production facility has become a nationwide example of best practice for German manufacturing as well as a testbed for new ideas and concepts. And it has created a level of staff engagement that was previously unheard of. Andreas Vorig, the managing director of Holder, was instrumental in driving positive change in the company and he has many plans for Holder and its introduction into the UK.

He said: 'Our main goal is to provide a full range of multi-use implement carriers measuring 1.50m in width and ranging from 30hp to 150hp. We also want to offer a full range of all the main attachments and implements to become the one-stop-shop for our customers.

'The Holder is unique because of the articulated steering system, the genuine four-wheel drive system and the balancing system. This is all part of the tractor and, following on from this, we can provide a 100% tailor-made machine. They tell us what they need, we get it. With PTO, hydraulics etc, we can manufacture a machine suited to their exact specifications.

'The company has attachment partners and every attachment is tested and proved to work with the Holder machine. They get a vehicle that matches exactly with the attachments, which will work throughout the year.

'This is not a normal tractor where it has a 70% fit for snow removal and a 30% fit for mowing. The Holder fits every application nearly 100%. This tractor might cost more than conventional units but you get much more for your money. The Holder is an investment but if you see what you can do with it and if you know how to use a Holder it is an extremely efficient acquisition.

'We figure out the exact requirements of our customers and then develop a solution that is suited to them exclusively. We don't sell a tractor, we sell a solution. Secondhand Holders still keep their value, because we use the highest quality components and we keep spares in stock for our older models. You can buy a Holder that has had 3,000 hours of use ' equivalent to five years ' and you get a tractor for another five years. If you look up the price of a used Holder tractor you can get an idea about the quality of the vehicle. I always ask people how many used tractors they can find on the internet. If they can find more than 15 secondhand tractors apart from the ones on the Holder pages, they are very lucky.

'When I started six years ago, Holder did nothing in the UK. We figured out that the UK is difficult because of the heavy cuts in the public sector. We are really convinced that, with the help of Celia ' the new face of Holder UK ' we have a chance to convince the UK fleet managers of the benefits of the Holder concept. Why shouldn't it work in this market when it works in 50 other countries in the world?

'For us, this is a great opportunity. We know it will take time but we are convinced that, with the right people and the right partner, we can offer fleet managers a holistic solution.'

Holder is in the process of setting up qualified dealerships in the UK. Ireland is covered by RD Mechanical.