The search for more efficient, productive and cost-effective operations continues in institutional and commercial facilities. For maintenance and engineering managers, this search includes looking for every opportunity to equip front-line technicians with the tools and products needed to meet these goals.
Ironically, managers might be overlooking one family of commonly used equipment — lifts — that could help. While departments regularly buy and rent scissor lifts, boom lifts, aerial work platforms and related equipment, lift-equipment manufacturers say managers might not be making decisions that maximize the potential benefits of the units.
Specifically, too many managers believe that "one lift is going to handle most or all of their jobs," says Mike Disser of NES Rentals. "A lot of that (myth) came out of the fact that facility managers would have a capital-expenditure budget, and every few years, they got to buy a new piece of equipment. So they'd buy an electric boom lift or something. Well, that's great. That can do a lot of things for you, but it can't do everything.
"There are so many different types of situations that require you to be working at heights, and there's no one lift that's suitable for all situations. There are different heights, reach requirements, loads, obstacles, floor and ground conditions, air standards, mobility restrictions and — probably most importantly — work safety. A lot of people use the wrong piece of equipment or a piece of equipment that doesn't get them to the work height safely or put them in the right position."
The use of lift equipment in facilities has evolved in recent years in response to some large outside forces.
First, building architecture has become less traditional than the square and rectangular boxes so common for decades, creating a new set of access challenges.
"The continued creativity in architectural design exacerbates the challenges of managers," says Scott Reynolds with Teupen. "Basically, you used to have straight walls, block and brick and mortar. Things were fairly straightforward, but as they have developed, with all these new buildings where the architect and the owner are trying to win design awards, they have glass curtain walls and organic roof shapes and all the odd angles. All of those things are creating even more of an access challenge for managers. These more modern buildings tend to create height-access challenges where traditional lifts and traditional methods are no longer as effective.
"Health care and education tend to be the two markets where it's most prevalent because even with the economic times we've had, there has been continued building and new construction in those markets."
Second, managers and their organizations also must contend with the ongoing budgetary effects of the recession.
"Companies have really struggled with tightened capital expenditure budgets — or they were eliminated, in some cases — that they would have used to purchase a lift," Disser says. "It used to be that a lift was a common purchase for a lot of the institutional facilities, and I don't know that that was so much the case over the last five years. Renting has become more of a standard operating procedure for managers."
Lift Equipment Takes Maintenance to New Heights
Budget Concerns Affect Decision to Rent or Purchase
Safety Concerns Take Precedence Over Costs