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Budget Concerns Affect Decision to Rent or Purchase
These and other factors have led manufacturers of lift equipment to rethink existing products and developing new ones to meet the evolving needs of customers and their facilities.
"A lot of companies in the maintenance area are looking to get their guys — especially for heights over 4 feet — onto something different, either tied off or in an environment that provides a little more productivity," says Jeff Ford with JLG, which recently introduced a smaller, one-person lift. "The whole idea with that thing was to come up with a solution that would create a lower price point for people to get into aerial work platforms — to provide kind of a portable, affordable solution, more of a ladder replacement, so to speak, something a little more affordable, a little more portable."
The architecture of facilities also is affecting manufacturers' offerings and, in turn, customers' product decisions.
"In Europe with the limited availability of land, in many cases, the density of the areas in which they're building, (buildings) tend to be going up rather than spread out," Reynolds says. "For example, here, we'll build a new school, and it will be over 30 acres of land, and everything will be on one level. If they were building a new school in Europe, they'd go up rather than out.
"So the demand for compact access equipment has been more progressive in the European and Asian markets. So as we've introduced the product in the United States, at the same time, our architectural design and our area to build also are condensing, we seem to have a growing opportunity to introduce a compact access solution to both existing buildings and new facilities."
In many cases, manufacturers must develop products that meet a host of competing demands by customers, including size, cost, and safety, while still ensuring technicians using the equipment can reach the most remote areas of facilities.
"There's always a desire (among manufacturers) to reach higher, go out and over further, increase the lifting capacity," Disser says. "There's always that desire to push that next threshold on the performance side. On the opposite end of that is a smaller footprint, more maneuverability, speed, and those kinds of things. Safety has become much more top-of-mind with lift companies. It always was important, but maybe it's becoming a bit more mandatory now."
Ford points to one technology advance that is addressing customers' desire for efficiency: direct electric drive.
"There are really two advantages to direct electric drive," Ford says. "One is efficiency. You get much longer duty cycles, much longer life, out of a single charge because you're much more efficient from an engineering standpoint. You're using the energy much more efficiently with an electric-drive machine, as opposed to a hydraulic-driven machine because you're converting battery power directly to a motor that turns a wheel. With a hydraulic machine, you have electricity going to a motor that's turning a pump that pushes hydraulic fluid to a gear motor at the wheel. There are inherent inefficiencies there that cause substantial loss of charge time.
"The other benefit is that it eliminates a lot of leak points on the lift, with all those hoses and things running through the machine. You can get down to two or four hoses from maybe 20 hoses on a machine previously. That eliminates service points, leak points, and it really improves performance."