The Alo Group is headquartered in Chile but also operates in Peru and Argentina. The Group comprises of six divisions: sales, rental, training, transport, parts and service. Alo Group is a member of IPAF - its first member in Latin America - and carries out (International Powered Access Federation) accredied training in its centres.
Alo is extremely commited to its training programmes in 2009 they carried out 183% more courses than in 2008 and increased the number of qualified operators trained by 124%. The company requalified its our instructors in Europe with new categories of training courses Alo has trained the risk prevention managers from the mining companies and Chilean Construction Association to spread and strengthen the IPAF culture and philosophy that every operator using an AWP should put safety first. Some machine sales include IPAF training as part of the package.
I met with Alo Group's managing director Alejandro Zenklussen and marketing manager Sandra Franco at the ARA (American Rental Association) The Rental Show in Florida in February. At that time we addressed the changing culture in South America and the higher value placed by both employers and the employees themselves on developing and adding to their skills.
That was before the earthquake in Chile.
I received an email from Ms Franco informing me that all the employees and families were safe and well after the disaster and then a further email, the contents of which I would like to share with readers of Access International as it illustrates the importance that is placed on training in the region.
Following the terrors of the night time earthquake Alo set about trying to re-establish order at their offices and depots. Ms Franco wrote, "The most important event of the day was that we were able to meet each other and to decide and plan how we will work on the different areas of the reconstruction and, at the same time, assist the customers that, not being able to communicate through the phones were in front of Alo Rental wanting to hire machines to help with repairs."
"And the most amazing, nearly crazy event of the day but really the most satisfactory one was that three people arrived at Alo Training from a company in Santiago that had arranged a training course last week."
No one had expected them to arrive in the chaos of the city, but they did, and as the classrooms and offices of Alo Training and Alo Ventas [sales division] have been the least damaged, Claudio Figueroa, one of Alo's instructors carried out the training for them successfully.
Mr Zenklussen set up Alo six years ago in which time it has thrived through a combination of sales and rental. The company is a Genie and JLG dealer and in December placed a $2.5 million order with Genie and similar sized one with JLG for machines for sale and to be added to its own fleet of 400 access platforms.
Mr Zenklussen said that he started the company because he anticipated there would be need for increasing numbers of aerial work platforms. He said that the laws and general attitude to workers was changing and the perceived value of workers was growing. He believes the biggest driver behind more aerial platform use in the region is safety, ahead of productivity benefits.
"In the past," he says "people might have been obliged to do jobs without the necessary safety equipment and training. Now training is not just available to professional engineers: equipment operators can also get internationally recognised qualifications - that's what the PAL card is.
"Gaining a qualification upgrades someone's status and improves his self esteem and that will make him more productive"
Mr Zenklussen and Ms Franco agreed that this attitude of self improvement and higher expectations was pervading South America the region and its people want more for themselves and have increasing high expectations and goals.
Alo's rental fleet is currently made up mainly from JLG and Genie models but it has others such as Hinowa platforms - Alo imported the first 24 m Hinowa into the region.
The company has three depots in Chile one in Peru and another in Argentina all of which also offer training. Mr Zenklussen has high hopes for his rental fleet, which he expects to grow to 1000 machines by 2012 through a mixture of acquisition, joint ventures and organic growth.
He currently has his eye on a fleet of 200 under-utilised machines located in Mexico and an alliance with a rental company operating in South Brazil.
Mr Zenklussen would like to form alliances with European rental companies which want to operate in Latin America. He believes that to succeed in the region you need to understand local idiosyncrasies and relate to the customer, which, he ponders, might be why some companies coming in from outside struggle to thrive.
This recent natural disaster will have disrupted Mr Zenklussen's immediate plans but he has an aide memoire to keep him on track "I keep two models on my desk," he says, "One is a dinosaur and the other a giraffe."
"The dinosaur is there to remind me that you can be very big but if you don't adapt to change you will die. I must try to be like the giraffe: far sighted but with my feet on the ground."