On the up?

01 May 2008

With total annual sales just short of US$ 4 billion, up US$ 0.5 billion on 2003, the indications are good. And almost without exception, turnover of the Access 20 companies showed double digit growth on 2003. The signs are surely there that the corner has been turned and the industry is on track for recovery. The orders are out there for the manufacturers, but there is one fly in the ointment-long lead times on delivery, in some cases up to a year for the more popular manufacturers' machines.

Whether this is a result of raw material shortages or scaled back production capacities, or a mix of the two, matters not to those waiting for new machines to roll into their depots or yards. One thing is sure. Having experienced the ‘bad times’, it is unlikely that we will see manufacturers considerably ramping up their production capacity in the short to medium term, so supply is likely to continue to be a problem.

Before moving on to analyse in more detail the results of the Access 20 listing, I would like to add four caveats. First, wherever possible, we have endeavoured to exclude revenues that accrue from non-AWP sales, such as telehandlers, cranes, digger derricks, etc. Although this was more difficult for some companies than for others. Second, there is the ever-present problem of obtaining financial results from privately owned companies, some of which guard financial information closely. Thirdly, the problem of varying end of financial years complicates the process of collating the data. Wherever possible, the results listed are for the 2004 calendar year.

Finally, changes in dollar exchange rates can cause false impressions to be generated. To minimise this, the percentage changes in turnover reported for the companies listed have been calculated against results for 2003 based on their reporting currency. Also, all dollar conversions have been carried out based on the official dollar exchange rates as of Wednesday 30th March 2005, with the list itself ranked according to US$ revenues to provide a standard benchmark.

Winners and losers

The biggest winners in 2004 were by far and away the big four, with Genie in particular reporting spectacular figures, but the star is a resurgent Skyjack, which posted an 89%increase in sales. JLG and Haulotte also both showed strong sales growth over the year, 32% and 30%, respectively.

What is truly impressive about these results is that the bulk of this increased revenue was generated in the final two quarters of the year. It was a regular feature to receive financial information from these companies that told of record quarters, and in many cases not just year on year.

Snorkel has continued its quiet resurgence since its rebirth in 2002, with an increase in revenues of 16%, and is gradually adding to its product offerings

There have been some losers. We lost Manitowoc from the listing as a result of its divestment of the Manlift business elements to JLG. The latter showed JLG-branded Toucan vertical mast machines in the middle of last year and recently announced that the first Liftlux-designed scissors will appear some time this year.

Altec's fall from the top position is the result solely of a reassessment of the estimate AI produced for the 2004 Access 20. This company is one of those privately owned companies that keeps its financial results very closely to its chest, so AI had to arrive at an estimate of its total sales. Based on information available to us at the time, the US$ 800 figure we arrived at seemed a reasonable one, but in retrospect was too high. This may have resulted from other types of utility vehicles, such as drilling derricks, that the company produces being included.

We still consider Altec to be the leading utility platform producer globally, and one of the larger powered access manufacturers, hence its revised position in the listing.

UpRight, or UI as it is now known, has seen major changes over the course of 2004, as is well known, with the closure of its US manufacturing facility in Madera, California, and the subsequent opening of a new factory in Baja California, Mexico. This commenced production in the last few months, but the transfer has obviously had a knock-on effect on its sales for the year. With the resignation of its president, John Coughlan, after only 18 months at the helm, it has proved difficult to obtain an accurate figure of its sales, and the estimate AI has arrived at, down 37% on last year, is, we believe, a fair one.

Truck mount manufacturers generally reported less dramatic increases in sales, but nevertheless, the trend still looks promising and offers optimism for the future. Wumag is the star of this group of manufacturers, posting a figure up 30% on 2003, with OP Pagliero not far behind on 20%.

Overall, the 2005 Access 20 listing gives solid evidence of a general recovery for the powered access industry. It also, however, confirms the general shape the industry is likely to take on into the future.

Three or four major general manufacturers, depending on the geographic market, with a number of smaller, more specialist or even niche players, looks to be the future. Access International will continue to watch with great interest.

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