Following the acquisition of the trade and assets of UK vehicle mount specialist, EPL Access, on 6 August, Lavendon Access Group has merged the business with its own Skylift and Rise Hire operations to launch a new vehicle mount company, EPL Skylift, on 1 October.

The new company has a fleet of over 650 vehicle mounted access platforms with working heights from 9 m to 72 m and will operate from a network of 12 UK depots.

Peter Douglas, UK managing director of Lavendon Access Services explained that the acquisition was particularly attractive to Lavendon because it was able to cherry-pick the parts of the EPL businesses which would most complement the Skylift operation. For example, Lavendon did not have to take on machines still on hire purchase agreements, older machines and the company's fleet of self propelled booms; EPL's Sandy based head office has been closed as has the Carlisle depot.

Lavendon has retained 65% of the EPL staff: 57 members of staff being lost across the EPL, Skylift and Rise Hire businesses in the reorganisation - six of these have been re-deployed in the Lavendon business.

The merging of the businesses has been completed in just eight weeks, all the costs of acquisition and reorganisation being made in Lavendon's third financial quarter. "We have taken all the cost out from day one," said Mr Douglas. "We expect a quick payback, based on our investment."

Mr Douglas predicted that over the next few years the EPL Skylift business would contribute one quarter of the total UK Lavendon revenue.

Mr Douglas said that the combination of EPL, Skylift and Lavendon's van-mount businesses Rise Hire provides the capacity to operate nationally with much larger scale depot operations. The size and scale will allow EPL Skylift to reduce the cost base without affecting customer service or quality standards. Mr Douglas admits that the same economies of scale were not possible when trying to run Nationwide Platforms and Skylift as a single concern because the nature of the self propelled and vehicle mount access businesses are different.

Graeme Hill is the only member of the EPL's senior management to join EPL Skylift as a permanent member of the team - John Jennings EPL's MD will be carrying out consultancy work until the end of the year.

Mr Hill, now operations director for EPL Skylift said, "It's been a manic eight weeks and we've worked hard to keep the staff motivated. The two companies [EPL and Lavendon] have very different cultures but I think the two will come together. Already through, the training and IT support we can see the determination to make it work and there will be a good end result."

Gary Brady, EPL Skylift's sales director, worked at EPL before coming to Lavendon, he describes himself as passionate about the vehicle mount access industry and emphasised the importance of long term relationships with customers and listening to their requirements. "EPL survived for 30 years by being good at what they do," he said. "While retaining our solid trading relationships with both EPL Access and Skylift customers, I am looking forward to introducing the benefits the merger will bring and importantly, to continuing supplying the best machines in the business."

As yet, EPL Skylift has no plans to invest in more fleet saying that if customers required larger machines of 80 m or more, Lavendon's German Gardemann business (now merged with Zooom) has machines up to 100 m working height which could be transferred at relatively short notice. Mr Douglas did, however, express a desire to replace the EPL under-bridge units which he described as quite old and good revenue earners.

Read more about EPL Skylift in the November/December issue of Access International.

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