Innovation with traditional twist: Italy's Blue Lift talks past, present and future
By Maria Hadlow20 December 2011
The Italian manufacturer, Blue Lift combines traditional values with innovation, Maria Hadlow talks to Gianpiero and Giani Marti about product development and where they are taking the company.
The BlueLift company sprang from the M&M subcontracting engineering company established by Sr Marti in 1989. Among its work M&M build arms for aerial work platforms. Mr Marti's sons Giani and Gianpiero saw the potential to build their own complete platform and in 2003 built their first prototype
They decided on a tracked machine as they had identified this as a niche which would grow and they believed in the concept.
The first machine was a 12m tracked platform, designed with the features they believed were the right ones - by loaning the machine out free to local rental companies and end users for around a year they collected feed back and used that to refine the design of their first commercial machine.
Even from the beginning BlueLift was innovating - the first proto type included a control which, although attached by a cable, allowed the machine to be driven from the ground as well as from the basket. This feature, now common in tracked platforms, was included to give users additional flexibility and improve safety when positioning the machine and loading and unloading it.
Now BlueLifts developed the C22 and C14 models have the option of a radio remote control. The company uses Autec controls to show diagnostics or alarm in reference to the machine.
For their first range of machines the brothers set about developing models with working heights from 12m to 22m and have fulfilled that ambition. "In the future we would like to make bigger machines as well," said Giani Marti,"25m or higher we also plan to continue to optimise the existing models to fulfil European norms and legislation."
It is BlueLift's policy to looks ahead and ensure that its machines always meets or exceeds future legislation requirements and was disappointed with the recently announced delay in implementing the changes to the EN280 machinery directive. The changes relate to electronic safety devices and Giani Marti said that the company had invested considerable time, money and effort to ensure that their machines were compliant. The delay, he believes, bought about by lobbying pressure from larger manufacturers
Not just about machines also the service GSM and GPS requests from end users to tailor speeds and controls to the user can be done by internet Have a good product and performance but want to help customers and end users get the maximum benefit High level of commitment to the technology smooth can't jerk it about
Safe stabilising system introduced in 2006 at SAIE first model 16m , before that systems like it were only on big truck mounts Electrical system only puts the stabilisers down properly - wanted to make it automatic so that they touch down and the sense the ground for stabilisation again quickly and safely.
Already achieving that with the software and the automatic start stop (for fuel economy, noise and polution) - first company with that. Reduces stress on the engine so the engine lasts longer Battery level a problem so can't close the machine critical to have the autocharger from the engine good software help the rental company and the end user.
C22 also has oscillating and retracing tracks reduces the risk of tipping can retract while stationary It is under 2m to get through a standard doorway while shorter length adds to manoeuvrability.
Growth of spiders in the rental market Spiders used to be difficult to set up and control still have that perception The control system is such that older machines can be updated easily
The use a TT Control manufactured card that controls the machines took time to research and decide upon a system that would expand with the development of the machine and would allow up grades of the orginal models and their own technology developed. The card (brain is completely protected has to be foolproof have not needed to change one in 6 years of using
"Right device to invest in the performance of the machine" So can update older machines have not needed to change a single card in the last 6 years when started using it
Can connect to LAN, Wifi GSM from Italy to anywhere in the world alarm to Bluelift when there's a problem. Connecting for big customer with many machines like a server Bluelift's device fixing and up upgrading from Italy
So testing it in all areas globally if distributor has one can connect to customers helps to build strong relationships with manufacturer, distributor and customers also working on an SMS based cheaper version of the server
Serial number and password graphical interface end user can see all input output - easy to do diagnostics available to every customer
Customers have all levels of knowledge and expertise Adjust things such as speed of rotation. Own software development because they know how as where the machines must work Giani prefer to keep the expertise in house
Bluelift exports around 50% production is up during the crisis the company continued to work well - family company so could be flexible
Have orders booked until January next year (4 months ahead) Hard for customers to make forward investment plans - machine costs more but has a longer working life.
Service as important as product Act immediately if customers have a problem - may not be able to solve it immediately but will address it immediately
BlueLift is working to get good distributor partners such as Bravi UK, Heli in Belgium TCA Lift Scandanavia and Asia and Reachmaster in the US. Now it is targeting S Africa, South America, Brazil, Russia and the Middle East is a slow build.
Giani Marti says that machines are easy to sell but its hard to get the money which is true everywhere now except Germany hard to get finance across Europe. Sr Marti Has seen the market go up and down last two years had a target to grow the business have reached that target and must continue - starting to climb a bit
Half of production is of the C22 first shown at Bauma improved went into production in September that year Have them in LA Airport, Universal Studios Khula Lumper in Kuwaits biggest shopping Mall
At a US demo day BLuelift was able to carry out all tasks demanded unlike the other contenders - resulted in a 22 machine order
The company is planning to put up a new building on land next to current facility, which will enable them to divide welding and assembly and offices and will provide a better working environment. The company is very proud that it was able to keep on all its employees during the difficult times. It is a small team and is talked about by the Marti family as it is part of their extended family.
The team are clearly proud of their work and the Marti's have a traditional sense of responsibility towards them.
Workers specialise at a particular part of the process but also know whole job for flexibility Gianpiero, usually the sales director says he occasionally comes to work on the shop floor, "It is important to be close to the product."
The machines are made from lightweight high tensile steel which is laser cut and fabricated very locally. Welding takes place at Bluelift, there is a specialist machine for long welds and smaller parts are welded manually.
Multi faceted boom for strength, curves for aesthetics also to reduce welding. Make own crawler system - essential part of the stabilisation system have complete design control Assemble boom and test with hydraulic pump before further assembly
All cables inside plastic track protection of all pipes and cables so not stressed during movement All performance tested at the end the PDI before shipping
Several configurations of control for different types of user: single joy stick with touch pad some prefer three joysticks and some siuch as tree surgeons prefer five. Important to satis fy the different needs of each customer
RAM was a producer in the past developing and updating the product with new technology articulated and telescopic booms First shown at GIS in May - feedback is very positive, modified version of the bluelift looms and controls
Only machine 14m without stabilisers if safe - angle of street etc - good for street light for example - no permits needed plus low transport height H stabilisers - stop start Bluelift's electronics completely interfaced with the system in the truck and the jib adds flexibility
Along with the centralised control system being trialled BLueLift has other projects in the pipeline for 2012. The company is working on the next stage of machine from 25m upwards and also expects to have a lithium ion battery driven machine in prototype form.
Looking at Lithium ion batterys for the C22 a completely electric machine - has to work right across the range important for driving but can plug in at site at moment 4hr lift too short Would like a longer life and shorter recharge tome - working with some lithium ion battery specialists