Here today, gone tomorrow
06 May 2008
Powered access equipment can be seen working in industrial, commercial and domestic situations on a huge range of applications and yet, many existing and potential users still regard its use as an overnight phenomenon. This is strange when one recalls that powered access became an industry - albeit a small one - over half a century ago.
The industry's more recent growth is the result of both international safety legislation and productivity benefits. Powered access is not only safer than ladders and scaffolding, but it enables tasks to be completed speedily, safely and comfortably, usually at decreased cost and inconvenience to the public.
No longer do we depend upon clumsy hydraulic controls and leaking pipes, which could easily snag on structures, spraying oil over passers-by or valuable artefacts. Designs have moved on and advances in the use of specialised lightweight steels and aluminium have allowed greater height and reach to be achieved on a lighter chassis: making a positive contribution to the reduction of carbon emissions.
Advancement has been achieved through the ability of engineers to master the complexities of digital electronics, materials science and the design and production expertise that goes towards creating aerial platforms in the competitive 21st century.
Like so many things in life, the rewards of one's endeavours can be measured in relationship to the amount of effort one puts in to achieve them and one has to ask whether, we are taking more out than we invest? In this instance, I refer not to financial input alone but, more importantly, to our investment in people and in particular, in the skilled, qualified engineers our industry needs now and will need in increasing numbers.
The world is desperately short of these skills and as international competition grows fiercer, so the need to ensure the availability of qualified engineers in the future, will grow dramatically.
While our industry has achieved great success in selling its products and services, it has done little or nothing to promote itself as an exciting industry to young people who are considering studying engineering at University. This is strange in a sector producing so much innovative equipment, which often relies on state of the art technology. Access equipment has an assured future, with a lot to offer to young people looking for a challenge in their chosen profession.
This problem needs tackling now on an international basis and needs the co-operation of manufacturers and major rental companies, whose interests will surely best be served by encouraging a growing supply of young, qualified engineers, with all the benefits that youth can bring to our industry in the future.
No organisation is better placed to take necessary urgent action than the International Powered Access Federation. IPAF has already established itself worldwide, through its many successful services to the industry, as a body capable of pulling together the necessary interest and support. There are always obstacles to making things happen and reasons why things should not be done but, as sure as night follows day, if we, as an industry, don't take this matter seriously now, we will pay dearly for our inaction in the future.
While IPAF is recognised as a "not for profit" organisation, like any successful business, it must and does make profits, the difference is that these are not distributed to the members, its shareholders. IPAF has the funds to sponsor University entrants on the understanding that, upon completion of their degree, they enter employment with manufacturing companies in the access industry. It should be possible to make the appropriate arrangements with a group of manufacturers and perhaps some of the larger rental companies to create employment for an agreed number of graduates over a set period. Some of our most successful manufacturers have already taken this initiative independently and have reaped dividends from it.
I call upon IPAF to take these positive steps now for the benefit of the whole industry. It's time to ensure that the powered access industry is here today and here tomorrow.