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How to Select the Right MEWP
Every facility has its own unique requirements, which means selecting the right MEWP for maintenance applications can often be challenging.
“Choosing the right machine can lead to a productive day’s work, whereas having the wrong machine on site can lead to unexpected delays or inefficiencies,” Stiansen says.
When determining what MEWPs will be needed to perform ongoing maintenance work, managers should outline the staff’s needs, including the type of indoor and outdoor work to be done, the lowest and tallest heights that the equipment must reach, and the number of people and the amount of material the MEWPs need to support in work-at-height applications.
Depending on those parameters, managers might need to use a variety of machine types and size classes. A MEWP OEM, equipment dealer or rental store’s sales rep can guide a manager to the right machine for the facility’s maintenance applications.
Managers need to undertake regular reviews of the maintenance tasks to be completed and the capabilities of the equipment to reach those areas under normal, safe operation, says Elvin.
“The purpose of an aerial lift is to safely take the operator, plus additional personnel and tools, to the working area so that they can comfortably and securely complete the task,” Elvin says. “If the operator or personnel are required to over-reach or work in an uncomfortable or unergonomic manner, then it would suggest that the chosen lift may not be the correct model for the job.”
When specifying or reviewing a piece of lift equipment for a particular task, Elvin says it is always advisable for managers to seek the assistance of an aerial lift specialist. Most aerial lift dealers and rental companies offer site surveys and can provide guidance in selecting the right piece of equipment.
In terms of assessing future needs, access for maintenance should be a consideration when planning plant upgrades and expansions so managers can select the appropriate lift equipment..
“To assist with planning, most aerial lift manufacturers offer BIM models for download which can be used by engineers and planners to identify which products can provide the necessary access,” Elvin says, referring to building information modeling.
When selecting a lift for a maintenance department’s needs, it’s important for maintenance managers to consider everything from their budget to the specific tasks that need to be completed. For example, having too much — or too little machine — can present challenges. Determining the most appropriate lift or lifts for a departments’ needs is as simple as learning the questions to ask to select the right lift.
Having too much machine for the job might not seem like a big deal, but rather than allowing the operator to do what is needed and then some, using an oversized lift might restrict access unnecessarily, Stiansen says. For example, if an operator needs to work indoors — particularly in narrow hallways or other tight spaces — a small low-level access lift or lightweight electric scissor lift is more effective than a larger machine.
“This makes them a better option for indoor jobs,” Stiansen says. On the other hand, if the operator needs to work outdoors or on uneven terrain, a larger, more powerful machine like a boom or rough terrain scissor lift might be a better fit.
On the flip side, not having enough machine might extend the work time because it takes longer to accomplish the required tasks. Managers need to consider how many workers and what kinds of tools and materials the MEWP needs to carry to height before selecting a machine, says Stiansen.
On many sites, operators need to use lifts outdoors for specific tasks, so depending on the terrain, managers might want to select electric models that offer four-wheel drive capabilities or MEWPs with a bi-energy power solution, which enables it to be either operated indoors on its batteries or outdoors using its diesel engine.
“Other common considerations for lift equipment in maintenance scenarios include the overall dimensions, particularly the width of the unit, as well as ‘up and over’ capabilities,” Elvin says. “In indoor, low-level maintenance applications up to a maximum working height of 32 feet, electric mast lifts are a popular choice, as they are generally narrow in width and are available either with a roll-out deck extension or a jib boom to reach above obstacles.”
In outdoor applications, or indoors at high heights, electric articulated boom lifts are popular and are available with and without jib booms. These lifts are available with maximum working heights of up to 52 feet, with diesel-powered options available for greater heights.
And while there are many MEWP options available, manufacturers are seeing the greatest increase in demand and utilization of low-level access lifts for ongoing maintenance tasks, particularly in indoor applications up to 20 feet.
Low-level access lifts can be used to replace ladders or scaffolding in a range of facility maintenance work, from heights of 5 feet up to 20 feet, says Stiansen. In fact, these lifts can replace multiple ladders, including single-sided stepladders, twin stepladders, podium stepladders and platform stepladders. And, they offer improved ergonomics to minimize injury caused by repetitive motions, such as climbing up and down a ladder.
“Low-level access lifts provide the ability to carry additional tools and materials to the work area, which means fewer trips up and down a ladder,” Stiansen says. “This significantly reduces fatigue and the likelihood of fatigue-related trips or falls. Standing on the platform of a low-level access lift versus the step of a ladder provides a spacious work area and enables the operator to maintain an ergonomic work position to reduce strain on the body and lower musculoskeletal injury risk.”
Often managers work hard to research the best lift for the job, but forget to plan the delivery and entrance and egress into the area or space, says Caskey. Does it need to go in an elevator? Through a single door? On a finished surface? What is the floor load rated for? Does the machine have outriggers and enough space to unfold and stabilize?
“This is where consulting with your rental partner to spec the job can save facility managers time and money,” Caskey says. “There are a lot of different lift solutions that will work for any given space, but to get the best and most cost-effective lift for the job, you have to think beyond just how high you need to go.”
Maura Keller is a Twin Cities-based writer and editor.
How to Select the Right MEWP