Product feature: Vertical masts

By Euan Youdale17 February 2014

Two Genie GR-20 vertical masts perform ceiling maintenance

Two Genie GR-20 vertical masts perform ceiling maintenance

Like many sectors, vertical masts are waiting in the wings to move into emerging markets. In mature markets there is a debate over the need for taller, higher capacity machines. Euan Youdale reports.

To start things off, let’s talk about the latest products on the vertical mast scene; including those that have been launched in the last 12 months and others that will be introduced soon.

Early last year JLG launched the Toucan 12E and 12E plus specifically for the European market. They top the series and have a 11.83 m and 12.65 m working height, respectively. Platform size is 1.07 m x 0.70 m for both, while outreach is 5.10 m and 6.05 m, respectively. Features across the Toucan series includes tight turning radius and easy movement in narrow aisles and confined spaces, along with easier servicing, with quick access to major system components.

One of the biggest innovations has been JLG’s move to offer direct brushless AC electric drive. “Two major advantages of this are nearly 80% reduction in the number of hoses on the machines, and about a third of the hydraulic fluid, from about 45 litres to 15 litres,” says Jeff Ford, JLG global product director, “This is significant from an environmental standpoint and a leak standpoint.”

Mr Ford added that JLG will launch more vertical mast products, with information coming available in the very near future.

French manufacturer ATN’s latest model is the PIAF 1100R, also launched last year. It offers a combination of 11 m working height and a 3.74 m horizontal outreach, says the company. ATN’s Elisabet Torras Xalma adds, “This machine is innovative thanks to its 100% hydraulic system, reducing maintenance to minimum requirements.”

The company is now developing more mast booms, this time smaller than the PIAF range. One of them will be launched at APEX 2014 in June, with the company’s now customary 100% hydraulic system and ease of maintenance. ATN is also working on a compact boom with 7.5 m working height, 80 cm width, weighing less than one tonne. It will be available at the end of this year, but no further details about either of these machines are available yet.

Manitou is also keeping its latest project under wraps, except to say that it will be for the airline sector. Manitou’s François Desbrière says, “We are realising a special model which can be used for the maintenance of aircraft engines under the bonnet of the engine.” More details will be available later in the first quarter of this year.

One of the main features of both its existing two masts, the 80VJR and 100VJR, is the use of lifting cylinders without chains. Desbrière adds, “This limits the maintenance and the moving parts.”

Terex AWP has also been busy. It recently launched the Genie GR-26J in North America, which had previously been released in the CE market. The narrow chassis and jib allow the machine to be positioned down tight aisle ways and while accessing up and over shelving and equipment. Marie Engstrom, associate product manager at Terex AWP, explains.

“Having a compact base is key for vertical mast products which are frequently used indoors and in finished spaces. The comparatively low machine weight is important when using the GR-J products in areas that have floor loading limitations.” She added there is no immediate news of new products, but, “We are currently working on exciting vertical mast innovations that will increase the productivity for users and provide exceptional value.”

Compact reach

Compactness and reach was also on the Snorkel’s mind when it enhanced its M1230E mast with a 500 mm roll-out deck extension. This optional extra extends the platform size to 1.46 m, providing additional reach without the need to move the machine.

Enrique Garcia Delgado, regional sales manager for Europe, says, “An all-steel chassis, coupled with the ability to work outdoors on the slab means it delivers an excellent rental return on investment.”

The M1230E remains one of Snorkel’s most popular products, says the company. The robust reverse concentric mast design gives the M1230E its lift capacity of 227kg. As Mr Delgado adds, “It is important to build machines for the right applications. So, for example, the M1230E has an all-steel chassis and mast because it is designed for construction applications, so it has to be robust.”

On the other hand, the 6 m lightweight, compact electric SPM20, is designed to be light weight and compact for internal facilities maintenance duties such as HVAC or light fittings, adds Mr Delgado. Snorkel has no plans at present to add to its mast lift product range.

On the subject of compact requirements, Mr Ford expands on JLG’s Toucan 12E. “We maintained the 1.2 m width which is obviously important for accessing tight areas in warehouses, retail stores, industrial maintenance, car assembly plants and very tight racking. The ability to get into these tight space and swing more than 300 degrees to reach up and over – that’s what these lifts do

According to Ms Engstrom, one of Genie’s biggest challenges is increasing functionality while remaining compact and cost effectiveness. “These products are frequently used inside so the overall foot print and weight must always be kept in mind. To increase the range of access from the platform, this often means a larger footprint, a heavier machine, or both.”

At Snorkel, Mr Delgado agrees. “As most of these products are designed primarily for interior use, low weight and compact dimensions are crucial KPIs. So you have to balance the working envelope against the increasingly stringent weight restrictions on floors in commercial buildings.”

Baring this in mind, have vertical masts reached their limits in terms of height and outreach? The answer from most of the manufacturers is no; however there are some obstacles blocking the way. As Mr Desbrière at Manitou explains the 10 m segment is the biggest market, “and we have the machine to fit this segment.”

But that could conceivably change in the future, as, for example, racking heights increase. Ms Engstrom, explains, “Customers continue to request increased access at both higher and lower heights. In the higher range, this can be challenging because the machine may need to be heavier or wider for stability. These machines are often used inside, sometimes with floor loading and size limitations. As such, there are trade-offs to be considered when evaluating vertical mast units reaching greater heights.”

High destination

JLG has a similar philosophy when it comes to taller machines. “There are lighter materials that allow us to do more. It may allow us to go higher and maintain that gross vehicle weight. But at 1.2 m width, we are talking about between 4300 and 4900 kg on these models, so they get pretty heavy from a transport standpoint,” comments Mr Ford. “They have to be small enough to get them in to a 30/32 inch door or an elevator door. Technology now probably gets us to about 20 feet, a little over 6 m.”

Spending time and money in research and development for bigger machines has to be met with enough customers to pay for it. “You can see racking heights in warehouses maybe going to four or five metres instead of three or four metre shelves.” Mr Ford adds, load capacity is a big issue in markets with load sensing in particular - having sufficient capacity is important to get the right amount of operators and tools up to the worksite with you. So, Platform size and capacity are gaining importance in all mature markets.”

At the more compact end there are also challenges. Ms Engstrom, comments, “As more and more ladders are being removed due to regulations or jobsite requirements, customers are looking for safe access at lower heights. Customers are looking for compact machines that can be easily transported and setup by one person. These lifts are used for maintenance and light duty construction and need to be simple to use in a variety of applications.

Expanding applications

As mentioned, masts are finding more applications. Ms Torras Xalma says most of ATN’s products are currently used in maintenance in buildings, warehouses, shopping centres and other stores. “But we receive new applications and demands, for example, using PIAF machines in cold stores thanks to their fully hydraulic concept and translation system, or in the case of PIAF, on tracks, used for pruning trees.”

Ms Engstrom expands on that point. “Customers and end users are becoming more educated and are expanding the limits of where machines can be used, in all kinds of applications. For example, customers are asking more detailed and specific questions about floor loading as they have a better understanding of the jobsite requirements.”

Snorkel is selling more into facilities maintenance and retail applications in developing markets. “For example,” says Mr Delgado, “A new shopping centre in Cyprus recently purchased a Snorkel SPM20 self-propelled mast lift. We are finding much more awareness of safer working at height in non-construction sectors within these emerging markets.”

Education is one of the key challenges in all emerging markets. “Making users aware of the advantages, including the safety advantages,” says Mr Ford. “The safety advantages of using a work platform will see expansion in emerging markets, especially at the lower end.”

For example, “With the push around there is a lower cost and there is less work from a resource perspective.”

ATN is working to introduce its machines in Asian countries, including China and Singapore. “In China, for example, labour costs are increasing quickly. So, Chinese enterprises prefer to invest in machines which are becoming more reliable and cheaper than labour. On other hand, Singapore, is very well developed, giving many opportunities. The lack of machines in these countries, gives ATN a possibility to introduce itself in this market.”

Overall Manitou says the market for masts in Europe over the year as been relatively flat, “But it is increasing outside of Europe.”

Breaking down the product types, a spokesman for Haulotte explains, “For masts with jibs, Europe is the growth market, in North American market has already seen a good increase. For fixed masts without jibs, North America is the most important market and Asia is registering a good growth.”

Ms Engstrom adds, “The self-propelled market seems to be seeing more growth than manually propelled. The Asia Pacific regions, including China, have growing markets at this time specifically in self propelled.”

Replacing ladders

Even in Europe, it depends on the country. Ms Torras Xalma says, “In France mast booms are not considered as a niche product, they are used for industrial maintenance, shopping centres and for light construction duties.

Other countries such as, UK, Scandinavian countries or Germany, mast booms find their place thanks to working at height legislation, which has pushed to rental companies to invest, seriously, in the sector.”

Ultimately, the main driver for growth in the vertical mast sector continues to be the removal of ladders from jobsites. Ms Engstrom explains, “This is causing users who previously were unfamiliar with aerial products to evaluate how they are getting to height safely. This is true in both developing countries as well as those that already have complete offerings of aerial work platforms.

She adds, “Markets will continue to develop at both higher and lower heights on products with a small footprint. Simple, cost effective vertical mast products will continue to develop at low heights to replace ladders.”

Sprint replaces Caddy

Bravi Platforms has rebranded its Caddy vertical mast, renaming it Sprint, following a major update.

The Sprint was shown for the first time at the Executive Hire Show in the UK during February, together with current products Leonardo HD and the Spin-Go. It will also be shown at Modex, in Atlanta, USA, in March.

The Caddy was launched about five years ago and has seen significant sales in the retail sector, said the manufacturer. “The intensive use our customers made of this product over the last four years, particularly in DIY and hardware stores, highlighted some areas where it was possible to make improvements”, said Marina Torres, Bravi sales manager.

With this in mind, Bravi has been working on the Sprint and other company updates over the last 12 months, including a software upgrade introduced in June 2013.

Other improvements to the Sprint include new carbon canopies resistant to shock, scratches and other damage. The canopy has also been redesigned so that its contents are completely enclosed, protecting it from the smallest of debris.

There have also been improvements to ergonomics: drivability has improved with a shorter chassis (10 cm shorter than the current version), adding increased visibility for the operator in driving position. The machine also offers bigger casters (250 mm diameter, instead of the current 200 mm), and the LED fleshing light is fully integrated in the carbon canopy.

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