Full capacity

24 April 2008

“Enjoy it while you can” was the common refrain from access manufacturers at the Rental Show earlier this year. The 2005 Access 20 listing shows exactly what they are enjoying: the top twenty suppliers reported sales increases on average of 20% last year, with the biggest players in the self–propelled market – Haulotte, JLG, Skyjack and Genie – all reporting even stronger gains.

High demand from rental companies in North America is clearly behind the growth, with the top four fastest–growers (see left) being North American manufacturers of self–propelled booms and scissors. Genie, for example, will probably produce around four times more machines this year than it did in 2003.

The continued demand for platforms also means serious backlogs for the manufacturers and their customers. As Craig Paylor told Access International in February; “We're building 30% more product, but the same increase in demand gobbles up the supply, so nothing changes.”

Total sales of the top twenty companies is estimated to be US$4.7 billion, up around 20% compared to 2004.

The table – which this year is extended to include the five companies just outside the top 20 – reveals also the differing dynamics of individual sectors of the market. Demand for mast climbers and hoists, for example, is strong, but not at the same level as for self–propelled machines. Three mast climber and hoist manufacturers make the top twenty – Alimak Hek, Fraco and Hydro Mobile – and three, Geda, Goian and Champion Hoists (now part of Alimak Hek), are just outside.

One sector more difficult to assess is the utility truck mount market. Here, figures for the top three players – Altec Industries, Terex Utilities and Time Manufacturing – are not available, making it difficult to quantify changes in demand. However, there is strong buying from US utility companies – recovering from a severe drop in the telecommunications market – and sales levels are thought to be up by around the 10–20% mark.

Notable features of the list include the rapid growth of Snorkel, which has sprung up on the back of the US rental recovery, and also MEC Aerial Platforms. MEC would not reveal its sales last year, so Access International made its US$20 –30 million estimate based on quoted sales of around 2000 scissors last year. MEC's president, Jim Tolle, told AI that the company was anticipating a production volume of 5000 units in 2006, which, if attained, would see it leap into the top twenty.

Japanese manufacturers Aichi and Tadano both retain their prominent positions in the listing, although Aichi – which is stronger in the self–propelled boom sector – is clearly capitalising more on an improvement in the Japanese rental market.

Manufacturers in Europe are once again led by Haulotte Group of France, the only European supplier that can truly claim a place at the top table of access manufacturers. Haulotte's performance – sales up 35% – is all the more impressive for having been achieved without a reliance on the custom of the massive US rental companies.

Other European manufacturers are more modest in size, with only Alimak Hek, Bronto Skylift and Manitou breaking the US$50 million barrier. It will be a source of frustration for the highly–developed UK access market to see just one British company in the top 20 – Niftylift. The Tanfield Group has big plans for its Aerial Access business, but whether this can be translated into a serious challenge for a position in the list remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, the outlook for 2006 looks extremely positive. Early results from companies like JLG (its fiscal 2005–6) and Genie have been extremely positive, with enormous backlogs remaining even though both have been investing heavily in increased production capacity.

The European market is also seeing good levels of demand, and some manufacturers are forecasting big increases in sales this year. Renzo Pagliero, managing director of Italian truck mounted manufacturer OP Pagliero, told Access International that the company's sales volume increased “enormously” during the last quarter of 2005 and the first two months of 2006; “So we are very confident for 2006 and we expect to produce this year at least 20% more units than last year.” While manufacturers continue to enjoy a booming market, for buyers, it can be extremely frustrating having to wait six months or longer for new machines. Still, better a healthy manufacturing base than a sick one.

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