The first batch of eight were delivered in 2002 when the Witney operation was in its infancy, a spokesperson said. Two of these machines have been retained to create a new fleet of 10.

“I cannot see us coping with fewer than this,” said materials management supervisor Jason Guy. “We recently turned around a record number of 72 articulated loads in one week.”

The company said the investment was necessary to keep pace with increased demand of its timber systems for housebuilding and the commercial sector.

Mr Guy said seven of the trucks had been assigned to offloading and storing incoming deliveries of three-tonne packs and 12m lengths, and also reloading finished products, such as 10.5x5m floor cassetttes and external and internal walls. Three are used in production.

“We could only handle packs of raw materials with sideloaders, which would be far less flexible and would need a larger fleet of various types of forklifts. Some of the finished products would be impossible to manoeuvre and load with anything other than a Combilift‘s four-way capability,” Mr Guy said.

The four-tonne forklifts are diesel powered and provide best use of storage space inside and outside what is becoming a very crowded yard, the company said. Stewart Milne already operates a fleet of 12 Combilifts at its factory near Aberdeen.