Harsco to widen powered access offering as part of new strategy

By Murray Pollok21 April 2010

Paul O'Kelly, managing director of Harsco Infrastructure in Europe.

Paul O'Kelly, managing director of Harsco Infrastructure in Europe.

Harsco Infrastructure is to expand the range of powered access and mast climbing work platforms it offers worldwide as part of a strategy to widen its range of services to major industrial and construction customers.

Paul O'Kelly, the recently appointed managing director of Harsco Infrastructure in Europe, said the company aimed to offer customers everywhere the full product range of scaffolding, shoring/formwork, cradles, powered access and mast climbing work platforms currently offered in a few markets such as the UK.

Mr O'Kelly said he did not know yet the scale of equipment required, and that investments would only be made "when the market starts growing". He said the European market was currently at the bottom of the cycle.

"We will have a common product offering throughout Europe", said Mr O'Kelly. The recent rebranding of Harsco's construction and access brands - Patent, Hunnebeck and SGB - as Harsco Infrastructure was made in part to present a single face to customers anywhere in the world.

The strategy will also see the company target more business with large construction and industrial customers - it is chasing international contracts with these large customers - and also increase the amount of industrial business from the current 30% of the total (in Europe) to nearer 50%.

Mr O'Kelly, who was managing director of Algeco subsidiary Elliott Group before joining Harsco in January, told IRN that he had set himself a personal goal of increasing Harsco Infrastructure's US$740 million European business by a factor of four within four years.

The strategy will call for staged investments in both powered access and mast climbers in Europe and elsewhere. Mast climbers, for example, are currently mainly offered in the UK while powered access is rented in countries including France, the Netherlands and Denmark. Cameron Reid, who in the past has been primarily involved in running the UK SGB Mastclimbers business, has been tasked with developing powered access and mast climbing products in Harsco's facilities throughout Europe.

The same strategy will be followed by Harsco Infrastructure businesses in North America and the rest of the world, although Europe will take the lead.

The strategy will also see an increase in Harsco's scaffold erection and dismantling services in major European markets such as Germany, where Harsco is strongest in formwork and shoring products (through Hunnebeck).

Mr O'Kelly said the target in its construction business was to increase the proportion of business undertaken with major accounts from the current 30-50% to closer to 60-70%.

The increased focus on powered access comes little over a year after Harsco sold its UK powered access fleet. Mr O'Kelly said this sale was made because SGB (as it was then called) had over-invested in a narrow product range.

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