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Regardless of how complex you find distribution systems and equipment, chances are you’ll be buying a lot more of them this year. The Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association presents an upbeat scenario for 2004, based on a recent random poll of distributors across the United States and Canada.

Nearly 90% of the respondents expect a leap in sales, with some forecasting a growth surge of 30%. Distributors in the South and Southwest will be particularly busy. For manufacturers and suppliers, the dark days seem to be over: Most see sales going up, although cost control still remains vital and training has taken on greater importance than in years past.

The individual sectors of the material handling business should show robust growth as well. The Conveyor Equipment Manufacturers Association projects shipment increases of 6% to 7% this year, with similar growth rates in 2005 — a particularly heartening estimate after a three-year slump caused by a weak economy and anemic corporate spending on capital equipment. In the truck sector, growth will be less dramatic but still noteworthy, with shipments of electric rider trucks, motorized hand trucks, and combustion-powered trucks increasing an average of 3%.

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