At the sharp end
07 May 2008
The percentage of access equipment that ends up in industrial applications is on the increase. “More and more companies invest in their own machines to ensure operational availability,” says Manfred Rothlehner, managing director of Rothlehner Arbeitsbuhnen GmbH, the German distributor of German manufacturer PB Lifttechnik and Danish Worldlift Industries aerial platforms. “This is most important for effciency of production.”
Following on from the first tentative steps with mobile scaffold towers, now almost every type of access equipment is being adopted in industrial environments. Whichever configuration you choose the criteria for choice are likely to be very similar.
“Working-height and dimensions are the most important issues for industry applications, combined with outreach and up-and over adaptation,” says Mr Rothlehner. “Inside production areas space is rare, so demand for special narrow machines is increasing. In many cases disposable positioning area is not more than 1.2 m wide or even less. We often find this request in high bay warehouses.”
Pipework, wiring and ducting all create obstacles in an industrial environment, so size and manouevrability are particularly important, as is noise, pollution and battery duty cycles.
The simplest solution is a scaffold tower and there are some innovative designs on the market. Birchwood Products, which makes the UGo Access Razor Deck, is launching a taller version, the Razor Deck 360, off cially available in May 2008. According to Adam Luckhurst, national access manager, the new platform will provide a 6 m working height but can easily be put up by one man with minimal training. The platform folds to a height of 1.2 m and is easily transported in a van or on a trailer. The one-piece design is said to ensure they can never be wrongly erected.
Pop Up Products' 3.36 m working height, push-around scissor lift also requires minimal training and no IPAF card to operate, says the company. In the two years since its launch Pop Up Products has sold 3000 units and has dealers in France, Germany, Sweden, Denmark and the Baltics and is negotiating in the Netherlands and Spain.
The success of the Pop Up in Europe has inspired the company to take the scissors to the US, “We want to see if we can recreate there what we have done here.” says Paul Gallacher, sales director. Pop Up introduced itself to the US at the American Rental Association's Rental Show in mid-February and Mr Gallacher is clearly excited at the prospect. “We want to find out if there's a market for the little scissors in the US,” he says, “and hopefully we'll get some rental companies interested.”
The Pop Up+ scissor, which offers a higher working height of 4.63 m, was launched in the Spring of 2007, full delivery began in January 2008. Mr Gallacher thinks that the Pop Up+ will interest the maintenance industry and those working in the construction finishing trades. There have been 275 orders placed for the Pop Up+ and currently 75 are in the market.
Powered access entry
Another UK product, the Power Tower, produced by CTE UK – the UK arm of Italian company CTE – is an 'entry' product for powered access currently only available in the UK (see box story). The lifting mechanism is described as a sigma boom – because of its shape – and the machine is designed for working on internal, flat surfaces. The Power Tower does not require outriggers or stabilizers, and at its lowest position the machine has dimensions of 1.5 m by 0.78 m by 1.92 m, so it can pass through a standard sized doorway and fit into most passenger lifts. The battery is designed to give 120 cycles from a single charge.
Planet Platforms, a UK dealer for the Power Tower, traditionally sells to end-users. At the recent UK Executive Hire Show the company showed the TP9000, a trailer mounted scissor from PLE in the US, to which Planet has added auto leveling outriggers. Planet has found that in the UK, the Working at Height regulations have changed everything, and the size and scale of warehouses and distribution centres makes powered access an ideal solution.
The flexibility and easy manouvrability of the mast lift has made it popular in industrial applications. Ms Kim Williams, product manager at Genie industries, says of its push around AWP and IWP ranges of working platforms, “These personnel lifts are primarily used for maintenance and some light duty construction in schools, churches, hospitals, theatres and businesses.” The GR-12,15 and 20 Runabout self propelled personnel lifts have a wider application in warehousing, stockpicking, transporting, inventory management, as well as general maintenance and construction.
Bill Dovey, JLG's product champion scissors, says, “The end user industrial market has been increasing for quite a while. For some time self propelled masts and scissors have been an accepted tool in maintenance and it's a growing market.” That JLG began manufacturing its 1230ES mast lifts in Bedford, Pennsylvania at the beginning of the year to complement the manufacturing already in Tonneins, France, is evidence of the growing demand for this type of product. “They [the US manufactured machines] are primarily for the North American market,” he says, “they have been well received and we've had a lot of positive feedback.”
Haulotte, meanwhile, has launched its Quick-Up push around vertical mast lifts into the US market to join the self propelled Star mast lifts. In 2008 the company expects the Quick-Up range to provide the highest volume of sales, believing its lightweight, compact and versatile design will appeal most to the North American market.
Articulated booms, too
Scissors and mast lifts may be the powered access products that one associates with industrial, end user applications - mast lifts providing optimum manouevrability and scissors a more stable working platform, but in some environments the most appropriate machine might be a compact articulated boom.
At Chicago's O'Hare International Airport battery-powered scissors were a common sight, but when it was necessary to carry out electrical repairs and maintenance over ticket counters stairwells and escalators, airport maintenance contractors found that JLG's E300AJL articulated booms proved to be the perfect solution. A 9.1 m platform height, an up-andover height of 4 m and a horizontal outreach of 6.2 m together with a boom design that provides 180° of motion provided the versatility that the airport required.
Manfred Rothlehner of Rothlehner Arbeitsbuhnen says that when selling to industrial end users, “There is more effort in finding the right machine, the right special equipment and the right job profile. In many cases you have to test the machine on site to find the right solution... The introduction of new platform models over the last years, especially for industrial applications, offers new possibilities for our sales strategy. The complete range of very narrow but high rising scissor platforms up to 22 m and small and agile self propelled units is available. Special narrow machines like the Denka-Lift DL Narrow or Falcon-Spider are also sold increasingly.”
Some companies specialise in products for specific industrial applications: US company Lift-a-Loft has a range of self propelled, air powered lifts designed for use in areas where electrical or internal combustion equipment is not permitted. Another specialist US company is MLE (see box story) which has machines going into applications from powder metal coating facilities to clean rooms.
As an end user the requirements you have for your access equipment will probably be job specific, in contrast to the rental companies who prefer flexible equipment. In common with the rental companies, you will want good service and support.