Considerations when purchasing articulating booms
By Lindsey Anderson05 October 2021
Being brand-loyal has its advantages; familiarity with a company’s products and services can bring peace of mind when having to buy new equipment. But with so many choices on the market these days, there very well could be a better option that not only meets your requirements, but possibly exceeds them.
“When looking to purchase an articulated boom lift, it’s important for fleet managers to consider everything from their budget to the specific tasks that need to be completed,” explains Nate Hoover, director of product management for JLG boom lifts. “For example, having too much — or too little machine — can present challenges. To determine the most appropriate lift or lifts for a departments’ needs requires knowing what questions to ask.” (See box story for examples of questions.)
Having too much machine for the job may not seem like a big deal, but rather than allowing operators to do what is needed to do and then some, using an oversized lift may restrict their access unnecessarily, Hoover says.
“For example, if an operator needs to work indoors — a smaller, lighter weight model is more effective than a larger machine,” Hoover notes. “Smaller articulated boom lifts are designed for quieter operation and have minimal impact on the surrounding environment. On the other hand, if operators need to work outdoors or on uneven terrain, a larger, more powerful rough terrain machine is a better fit.”
Choosing a larger machine than is needed may also increase operational costs unnecessarily, due to the price of buying or renting a larger unit and the fuel and other maintenance costs that go along with it.
On the flip side, not having enough machine may extend timelines because it takes longer to accomplish the tasks needed to get done.
“Fleet owners need to make sure to consider how many workers and what kinds of tools and materials you need to carry to height before selecting a machine,” says Hoover. “An appropriately sized machine will allow operators to carry everything they need in fewer trips compared to a machine that’s too small.”
Maximum working height, platform capacity, width and weight are some of the main machine specs that should be considered, but other criteria, such as horizontal reach, clearance height at maximum outreach and tail swing are also important when selecting boom lifts.
Many mid-size articulated booms are offered with a choice of power sources and drive options, so the fleet owner should consider the types of applications that the boom lift will most commonly be used in. For example, if the boom will predominantly be used on concrete slab in industrial or commercial environments, a two-wheel drive, lead-acid, electric model may be the preferable choice. Whereas if the boom is generally used outdoors in construction applications, a four-wheel drive model would be more appropriate.
A key feature of an articulated boom is the capability to reach up and over obstacles. This is referred to as “maximum horizontal reach,” which shows how far forward the boom can reach, and “clearance height at maximum outreach,” which is the height of obstacles that the boom can reach over at the maximum horizontal reach.
A difference between articulated booms is whether they have a single or double riser. The riser is the lower boom structure, which may be a single section, or two sections, divided by a knuckle. A single riser boom will have a greater stowed length and a greater horizontal reach than the double riser design.
Single riser articulated booms are preferred in applications such as aircraft maintenance, as the boom can be rotated at height without the risk of a riser knuckle coming into contact with low level obstacles, such as an airplane wing. Booms with a double riser are common in the rental sector as they are more compact when stowed, enabling multiple units to be carried on a truck, and have a reduced boom overhang for maneuvering in tight spaces.
Ownership costs also are an important consideration, as a low total cost of ownership can increase the return on investment. Mechanically controlled 24 hp engines with no after-treatment or low-sulfur fuel requirements bring costs down.
Maintenance and total cost of ownership are further reduced with fully sealed, maintenance-free AC drive motors, which are designed to significantly prolong battery charge.
How to choose just-the-right-amount of machine
Asking these questions will make sure fleet owners will be using the most appropriately sized, cost-effective machine for the work at hand.
- What is your budget? If you’re buying, be sure to consider both purchase price and overall total cost of ownership.
- At what height do you need to perform most of the work?
- How much weight do you need to carry to the work area?
- Are there space limitations to consider? Narrow doorways or hallways the machine needs to fit through?
- What type and size of material or tools are you working with?
- Will you be working inside, outside or both?
- What types of surfaces and ground conditions will you need to navigate?
- Will you have access to a consistent power source to charge a machine?
- Are there diesel or propane requirements for indoor use at your facility?
- How long do you need the machine to run based on shift schedules?
- Are there specific accessories that would be useful, like plumber’s or electrician’s racks?
- Are there any environmental or surrounding area regulations — like noise, emissions, etc. — that you need to comply with?
Once fleet managers have determined the answers to these questions, an OEM, equipment dealer or rental store’s sales rep will be able to guide them to the right machine for their specific fleet needs.