Access Equipment: New frontiers
04 July 2017
It has been an eventful year so far in the powered access sector, with an abundant supply of mergers, acquisitions and new players.
It kicked off in January with the announcement by JCB that it was entering the access market with no less than 27 planned product launches this year.
The new range of scissor lifts and self-propelled booms is essentially designed to cover 80% of a typical access rental company’s needs. The other 20% includes lower volume, niche products that JCB said it was not set up to produce, at least in the foreseeable future.
JCB Access managing director Richard Butler said, “It was a logical extension. We had been busy growing our product range over the years in the construction and agriculture sectors, but the noise escalated – the number of customers who said, ‘you should be in this sector because it has so many synergies with products you already supply’. It was a no-brainier in reality, and we set about it.”
The first batch of platforms consisted of nine electric scissors from 4.6m to 13.8m platform height, launched in February. Five articulating booms – four diesel and one electric – from 14.9m to 24.6m platform height are the next in line, with a further 10 diesel telescopic booms from 20.6m to 41.6m on the schedule for this year.
The first of the booms launched was the AJ50D is a 15.24m articulating boom with a 226.8kg platform capacity. The unit weighs around 7 tonnes and has standard oscillating axles.
The machine is powered by a Tier 4 Final JCB Diesel by Kohler engine, as are the remaining articulated and all telescopic platforms that will be launched later this year.
Slab scissors are the core product in any mainline access rental company’s fleet, and to compete on a global scale, a company needs to have the means to produce in large volumes and follow that up with round-the-clock aftersales support.
With this challenge in mind, GMG, another new access manufacturer, with a unique manufacturing philosophy, launched into the access industry in May.
GMG is headed up by CEO Jim Tolle, who was formerly international development manager at US-based MEC Aerial Platforms. GMG is based in the US too, but plans to strike up partnerships with different manufacturers around the world for each product type, depending on their experience and suitability.
So far the manufacturer has an arrangement with an undisclosed partner in China, which has produced seven slab scissors closely monitored and designed by GMG. They include the 3m 1030-PA, 4m 1330-ED, 6m 1930-ED, 8m 2632-ED, 10m 3346-ED, 12m 4046-ED and the 14m 4646-ED. All self-propelled models come equipped with direct electric drive for quiet operation and extended duty cycles.
All products are equipped with the latest innovations and designs, said Tolle. “The slabs are direct electric-driven. We will not go with hydraulic driven machines – it is just outdated, it’s inefficient and you don’t get the duty cycle out of a hydraulic machine that you do with direct electric.”
Product support and low pricing are also a priority.
Tolle said, “To achieve those targets, the manufacturing just cannot be done in North America. It’s impossible, mainly due to the pricing.”
Both GMG and JCB, with its huge international distributor base, hope to help shake up the access industry.
Tolle said, “There are now manufacturers all over the world, whereas in the past you were just relying on the top five. And rental rates have just been going down and down and they are not going up like we would have hoped, yet the machine costs are remaining the same.”
His former employer, MEC, has also become part of the slab scissor mix. To mark 40 years in the business it was showing its new line of slab scissors at this year’s ConExpo show in Las Vegas, US.
The DC drive slab scissor line provides six machines from the company’s 3.96m micro slab 1330SE to the 13.72m compact slab scissor – the 4555SE. It also features MEC’s compact 4046SE, and the series of 5.79m, 7.92m and 10.06m scissors with standard integrated material sheet trays.
The slabs are a departure from its longstanding heavy duty niche products, which are still very much part of its portfolio. However, like GMG and JCB, MEC has big ambitions for Europe with its traditional products and new line of high volume scissors.
Another company with a keen eye on Europe is Dingli. The manufacturer is based in China and produces its products there, but has an important partnership with Italian-based Magni, which designs its latest self-propelled boom products.
While Magni specialises in telehandlers, it is also distributor for Dingli scissors across most of Europe and will follow suit with the new boom range once they emerge in the continent early next year.
The arrangement started when Dingli bought 20% of Magni last year, with one of the main aims being an R&D (research and development) centre in Europe, using European expertise. The partnership is proving fruitful. It has taken a while for a Chinese manufacturer truly to break into Europe with scissors and booms, but Dingli is now making serious headway.
Magni announced at APEX, the international access platform exhibition, during May that it had a three-year deal to supply 4,500 scissors produced by Dingli to rental major Colle Rental & Sales. Under the arrangement, 1,500 Dingli scissors with Magni branding will be supplied each year until 2019 to Colle, which is also the distributor for Magni’s range of telehandlers in the Netherlands, Benelux and Germany. The first 600 scissor units will be delivered in June this year.
Company director Eugenio Magni said, “Once a company like Colle pushes forward with a brand in a country, the other companies in that country tend to follow.”
Apart from an inadequate service delivery, Chinese manufacturers have struggled in Europe previously as a result of a perceived lack of product quality. The recent success in Europe of Dingli has proved that strategic partnerships can make a big difference.
Other Chinese manufacturers are making a bid for European growth too. There were eight Chinese producers at APEX, more than at any other edition of the show. As well as Dingli, they included now well-established companies like Mantall, Sinoboom, Svge and Runshare, which had all exhibited at APEX before.
Lin Gong Machinery Group (LGMG) is a new company on the scene, and it exhibited at APEX for the first time, showing a range of its new scissor lifts, first launched at Bauma China. In total, it offers 16 scissor lift models and booms.
The company already produces a range of construction equipment and believes access equipment offers great potential in the country and worldwide, so much so that it expects to be producing 10,000 units annually, mainly scissors, within the next five years.
While many manufacturers see the advantage of creating partnerships with local companies in the countries they are targeting, there is a swing towards a more global outlook when it comes to product design. This is certainly true when it comes to the big four producers – JLG, Genie, Skyjack and Haulotte.
And as for JCB, which has aspirations to join the top four, this was the starting point for all their new models.
“We have designed a global product,” said Butler. “What has probably helped us, is the [European] EN 280 standard and [US] ANSI standard are coming together. They won’t be quite the same, but the standards will be very close.”
Butler was referring to the proposed US ANSI A92 and Canadian CSA B354, which demand greater integrated control of the machine, particularly when it comes to overload prevention.
“Our view is we build to the latest EN 280 standard, make sure we meet the new ANSI standard, so then if you look at the market – 50% being North America, 30% Europe – for 80% of the market we have a global product definition that we can sell.”
The trend was also demonstrated by Genie at APEX. It displayed its new Xtra Capacity (XC) booms, adding to the range first introduced in the US during September last year.
The Xtra Capacity family complies with guidelines in the proposed ANSI and CSA standards, as well as the current European and Australian AS 1418.10 standards.
The XC models have been designed to provide greater capacity so that platforms will have a greater working envelope, and therefore outreach, before exceeding the ANSI requirements. They can work with an unrestricted 300kg capacity throughout the work envelope, or a restricted 454kg capacity, while still leaving room for tools and jobsite materials.
Skyjack displayed its newest articulating boom, the 27.9m working height SJ85 AJ, for the first time in Europe during APEX. It is the largest of Skyjack’s articulating booms and features all of the same design elements that made the SJ63 AJ a hit.
It is designed to provide the level up-and-over clearance now demanded by operators. The machine has a horizontal outreach of 17.07m, up-and-over clearance of 10.36m and dual capacity rating of 340/227kg with two to three people in the basket. It has an open centre knuckle riser design, which assists in the up-and-over capabilities.
Haulotte used APEX to show its HA28 RTG Pro for the first time in Europe. The boom was originally launched in November last year.
It was notable that Haulotte decided to concentrate on this model alone at APEX, with no other products on its stand. Caroline Doman, international product manager for Haulotte, said that the 28m working height machine summed up the manufacturer’s most recent global innovations, and reflected how its products would look in years to come.
It is also working on electric booms and may well have one on the market next year.
“We have constraints when it comes to emissions. For example, in Northern Europe, there are lots of restricted areas. In Copenhagen or London, you cannot use a straight diesel boom, so you need a green machine to work in these areas,” said Doman.
Certainly, by the time Stage 5 emission regulations come in 2019/2020, this issue will be even more significant.”
JLG Industries also showed its global products on its stand at APEX, although no brand new products.
Recent launches, though, have included its latest hybrid model, the H800AJ, which uses the design of its standard 800AJ articulating boom but with parallel hybrid technology, with a powerful electric motor/generator and a Tier 4 Final fuel efficient engine.
Together, the motor/generator and engine combination provide diesel-like performance. The machine can also run exclusively in electric mode through its battery pack located in the counterweight.
Vice president of global marketing Alan Loux said, “With the ongoing development of aerial work platforms, we will see more innovative technologies becoming integrated in the aerial work platform industry. Aerial work platforms will definitely become smarter and stronger in the future.”
An example came from rental company Riwal, based in the Netherlands, which converted a 38m working height JLG 1200SJP telescopic boom from diesel to electric to coincide with APEX. It follows the conversion of a 26m boom to electric three years ago, and a 28m unit soon after, for which the diesel engine and the fuel tank were swapped for an electric engine, battery pack, charger and controls of the electric engine.
Named the JLG 1200SJP Electric by Riwal, with a 23m horizontal outreach, it was designed to enable customers to work at a much greater height inside, with zero emissions, or in areas where restricted noise levels apply, such as residential areas.
The move to electric-drive booms is an inevitable one, as lower emissions are required. Until then the hybrid will provide a happy medium, with all the mainline manufacturers getting involved.
At last year’s Bauma show, Genie launched the articulating Z-60/37 FE boom that combines diesel power, four-wheel drive performance and the cleaner, quieter compact electric power.
The Genie Z-60/37 FE boom lift provides the choice of two modes of operation – full-electric or hybrid mode which, it says, provides more than a week of run time with a single tank of diesel. The 20.16m working height machine, has an 11.4m horizontal outreach and 7.4m of up-and-over clearance.
The industry can expect to see more booms, offering combined power options and application possibilities, over the next couple of years.