From floor to ceiling

01 May 2008

The store support vehicle (SSV10 series) has been trargetted firmly at the retail industry by JLG

The store support vehicle (SSV10 series) has been trargetted firmly at the retail industry by JLG

What do you think of when you think of powered access being used inside buildings? We have all seen electric scissors, vertical masts, electric booms and even on occasion standard diesel booms being used to provide an access solution indoors. And then there are the ‘specials’, crawler mounted booms and spider types-some with prodigious working heights on what is a relatively small carrier-that can reach those parts of a building other platforms cannot.

Traditionally, powered access has mainly been used in the construction/building maintenance role.

Today, indoor access is required across a broad spectrum of industrial and commercial sectors-and manufacturers are increasingly recognizing this and adding to their product ranges accordingly, either by acquisition or by product development.

Nevertheless, even today, it is the crawlers and spiders that first come to mind where indoor access is concerned.

Palazanni, for instance, has been producing its Ragno line of tracked platforms, and according to Severino Zatti, they were designed specifically for indoor use. He says: “These platforms are required everywhere. We have machines working in airports, railway stations, theatres, sports centers, exhibition halls and commercial buildings, indeed any closed space you can image. Initially, cleaning, maintenance and specialist rental companies were our clients, but in recent years we have seen growing interest on the part of large general rental fleets.”

Palazzani offers a wide range of Ragnos with working heights from 19 m (62 ft) to 48 m (158 ft). Mr Zatti added: “Furthermore, we have launched two new models this year with working heights of 35 m (115 ft) and 39 m (128 ft) that feature a light structure on a three axle chassis that provide minimal ground pressures. This is ideal for use on fragile surfaces such as marble.”

Mr Zatti highlighted a growing trend among the crawler/spider fraternity, and that is early involvement with architects and builders during new construction projects. “We are often now contacted by them to examine particular problems of space and height, and to propose solutions for when the building is completed. It is easy for us to adapt our platforms to suit a particular project because of their small dimensions and flexibility.

This is echoed by Brian Falck-Schmidt Worldlift Industries (formerly E Falck-Schmidt, who was behind the development of the Spider concept) told AI: “We recently delivered 10 of our machines to Bangkok International Airport, where we have been working closely with the architect and building contractors involved. The machines will be used for cleaning operations through the terminal building and the customer wanted to ensure that this could be done efficiently and cost-effectively.” Another example of this type of cooperation was a project in Germany, according the Mr Falck-Schmidt. In this case, originally the owner of the new building intended to purchase a Falck-Schmidt machine, which would be permanently housed on the second floor of the new building. The customer then decided that he would prefer to rent a machine when needed. The problem was that to gain entry into the building, the machine would have to negotiate a flight of stairs rising at 35° to the horizontal. E. Falck-Schmidt brought in a Falcon Spider machine and demonstrated to everybody's satisfaction that it could negotiate this obstacle.

German manufacturer Teupen is another who offers a range of tracked machines. The company told AI recently that its Leo range of 12-50 m working height tracked special access machines was now complete. (See the AI news section at for the full story). However, the company's managing director, Alfons Thihatmer, tells AI that a priority for the company continues to be the development of special ‘bespoke’ Leo machines for particular applications.

The company currently has four or five special project underway, including potential projects in Italy and China. In Beijing, for example, Teupen is currently designing a 50 m Leo machine for use inside a new concert hall that will have as much as 58000 m2 of glass to clean. The Leo 50 GT Indoor will be 90% similar to the standard Leo 50, but will use a Kubota gas engine rather than the conventional diesel. This will allow it to operate indoors.

In addition, a non-standard feature will be an extra telescoping jib at the end of the upper boom (see line diagram on page 30). This machine, which has been developed in cooperation with the architect and access consultant Thomas A Weisse + Partner in Hamburg, is scheduled for delivery in 2006.

Another machine on the drawing board, for a project in Italy, is a hybrid Leo-Euro B machine, using the crawler chassis and lower boom from the Leo combined with an upper boom taken from the Euro B truck mounted units. The machine will also have boom rotation at the chassis level, as normal, but another rotational capability in the upper boom section. This project is still at the tender stage.

An innovative approach to promoting crawler type machines has been adopted by Ranger Equipment in the UK. It has teamed up with Italian crawler manufacturer Italmec to provide ‘Ranger’ badged machines to rental company partners and end-users. The idea is to show the benefits of these types of platforms to potential end-user buyers via the rental channel. Currently seven rental companies around the country are involved with Ranger in the project, offering the R14, R16, R19, R21 and now the new generation RJ20. The RJ20 has a maximum working height of 20 m (66 ft) and an outreach of up to 11.5 m (38 ft) with one person in the basket, reducing to 9.5 m (31 ft) with two on board. Also, with a weight of 2900 kg, the unit can be safely transported on a plant trailer coupled to a suitable 4x4 towing vehicle.

And then of course there are the other crawler mounts from the other European manufacturers including Oil ' Steel, Omme, Denka, Niftylift and Hinowa that offer potential solutions for indoor access.

Crawlers and spiders do not appear to have gained quite the same acceptance in the North American market as they have in Europe and, increasingly, the Far East, with more standard powered access solutions being more generally used. Reachmaster Inc, the US subsidiary of the former E. Flack-Schmidt, is one of the very few providers of this type of machine in the country. According to Brian Falck-Schmidt: “Only Denka had made a serious attempt, like us, to gain entry into this market, although a few others tried have made some efforts.” Mr Falck-Schmidt reports that 2004 was a good year for Reachmaster, who doubled its sales to a total of 20 machines. Despite this, there is no question that North America is currently a largely untapped potential market for these machine types.

Using standard machines

Naturally, the major full range powered access manufacturers; Genie, JLG and Haulotte, as well as scissor specialists SkyJack and other smaller manufacturers, all have standard models that are suitable for use inside. And they see this sector as having considerable growth potential for the sale of existing products as well as an opportunity for new designs.

Typical of the ‘big three’ is Howard Kaplan, JLG vice president and product parent. He told AI: “The biggest new opportunity in this sector is the Big Box segment both in retail stores and warehousing/distribution centers. JLG recently launched the store support vehicle (SSV10 series) and the stock picker series (SP and DVSP series) to provide more productive access solutions to retail outlets such as Home Depot, Circuit City, Lowes, Wal-Mart, and Target, just to name a few.”

He went to say that these new products are replacing mobile ladders with a more productive tool that, in addition to stocking inventory without climbing a ladder, provides the ability to pick and transport inventory. Accessories allow store personnel to pick, stock and transport materials without the use of a higher cost forklift. These compact machines are available in push-around and self-propelled models and platforms are designed specifically for these applications with foldaway railings and additional deck space for loading stock items.

Mr Kaplan continued: “All JLG products intended for indoor use have been designed with the standard dimensional and weight specifications in mind. One example of this is our new Pro-Fit scissors, which include three 30 in narrow models and a lower gross vehicle weights to lessen floor loads. In addition to narrow widths, all of our scissor and vertical mast products are designed to be less than 6 ft 7 in (2 m) in stowed height to allow for passage through standard doorways. Some models include fold-down railings to allow larger platform heights to be driven through standard doorways. In addition, our push-around AM series models have extremely low floor loading for use on sensitive finished surfaces and include options like a straddle kit extension to access overhead objects while ‘straddling’ rows of seating or other permanent obstacles in churches and auditoriums.”

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