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Raising the roof: On the versatile telehandler

Telehandlers continue to kick up a storm in the Middle East, capitalising on the vehicle’s inherent versatility

The GTH-4018 — currently Genie’s most popolar model in the Middle East region.
The GTH-4018 — currently Genie’s most popolar model in the Middle East region.

Whenever there is construction, the chances are you will see telescopic handlers, or telehandlers, on the scene of just about every job site — whether it is a high-reach fork, boom lift, grapple or rough-terrain model, telehandlers are a workhorse in the early stages of most construction projects.

Ahmad Halwani, regional GM for construction and agricultural equipment at Al-Futtaim Auto & Machinery Co. (FAMCO), notes: “The telehandler business in UAE is growing at a faster pace than the average construction equipment business. This has been observed over the several few years and is mainly driven by the growth in knowledge of contractors and operators about the versatility of the telehandler and the possibility of using it for multiple applications within the construction industry.

“In the UAE market, we represent Merlo from Italy, which enjoys high market share in Europe and offers a wide range of standard and custom attachments to fit applications across sectors.”

Rajbir Sandhu, district sales manager for JCB Middle East, an early innovator of the telehandler (or Loadall in the JCB lexicon), concurs: “Business is good at the moment — through to September the telescopic handler market showed a 36% growth over the previous year.

In the segment, the last couple of years have also seen a volley of new product launches, with JCB being no exception. Sandhu notes: “This year we introduced the 540-200 model, which is the biggest in JCB’s Loadall range with a 20m lift capability — perfect for working on larger building projects and more and more customers are appreciating the benefits of this model.

“Telehandlers are mainly sold into construction projects, with a few opportunities in the oil and gas sector. We are a market leader for telehandlers, but the low oil price is creating challenging conditions for all construction equipment sales, and not just in telehandlers.”

Etienne Bourcier, director for the telehandlers of Oshkosh-subsidiary JLG across Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), confirms that growth remains strong in the telehandler specifically, noting: “2015 has been a very good year for our telehandler range in Middle East.

“Even if the rental industry today is being squeezed on many financial fronts and therefore needs to maximise the earnings from every piece of equipment in its fleet, including telehandlers, the mantra of the industry is — and always has been — about reliability in the field.”

From JLG’s side, in 2014 the manufacturer launched the 3614RS and 4017RS telehandlers, specifically designed for regional rental markets. Bourcier says: “These machines were developed to meet the rental industry’s demands for simple ownership, clean design, simple upkeep and user appeal and received a great welcome from our customers in Middle East.”

Terex Equipment Middle East, which represents Terex’s Genie brand in the region, has noticed experiencing an upswing for several years.

Genie has a range of six telehandler machines, from the GTH-2506, which is the smallest, up to the GTH-5021 rotator. However, the workhorse is the GTH-4018, which is fixed, but comes with a rotator option — and this is currently the most popular in the region.

Johan Gericke, territory sales manager for Terex’s aerial work platform in the UAE, Qatar and Oman, explains: “Our machines are based on the market leaders, but we’ve improved on them: Where the market leaders can only lift to around 11.5m without deploying the outriggers, we’ve gone ahead and designed a machine that can lift up to 17m without having to put down the outriggers — improving uptime.”

CATERPILLAR TRACKS

The telehandler business has grown for the past three years and can be expected to grow even more, according to Mamoun Mtair, product manager at Mohamed Abdulrahman Al-Bahar, who notes that Caterpillar will soon be launching a new range of models targeting construction and logistics market applications.

“There is a steady growth in the building construction sector and heavy equipment in this category clearly is the most in-demand in the Gulf region,” he comments. “Every customer is important to our business, and to walk the talk we have fully-fledged branches in each of the five countries in which we operate: the UAE, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain and Kuwait.

Mtair also highlights the scope of support services provided by Al-Bahar in conjunction with their product offering, including customer support agreements (CSA), extended warranties, finance solutions, Cat EMS fleet management solutions and equipment protection plans (EPP). He sums: “The bottom line is increased productivity, efficiency and profitability.”

SULTANATE SUCCESS

Genie has experienced country-specific success. Gericke notes: “Oman is a medium-sized market that’s big at the moment. There are a lot of material handling enquiries at the moment, and the majority of the telehandlers that we sell in the region go into the country. A lot of our machines are being used on smaller construction sites where they have to lift the bricks and pipes into place. We’re also providing a lot of smaller, more specialised machines to be used around buildings where it is confined and tight.”

Oman is similarly a key market for Doosan Infracore’s Bobcat range, which has achieved since the 2014 launch of its latest generation T40140 14m and T40180 18m telescopic handler.

This is borne out in the testimony of three new Bobcat customers in the Omani capital of Muscat — all of whom recently purchased T40180 models, their first ever Bobcat telehandlers, from the local dealer, International Heavy Equipment, for the construction of properties.

Blue Crystal International has had its T40180 the longest, recording more than 3,000 working hours using bucket attachments 80% of the time, and pallet forks for the remaining 20%.

Abu Thalal Al Subhi Trading uses the same machine in a similar manner to Blue Crystal, and believes the Bobcat offers excellent driving and manoeuvrability and has been able to complete jobs in less time — “boosting business and providing an increase in return on investment.”

For Malik Leeshanri & Partners, the T40180 is the first ever telehandler in the company’s fleet of mainly backhoe loaders and excavators.

Malik Leeshanri & Partners also uses the machine with bucket attachments, uses a hook for lifting work on site and pallet forks for loading and unloading trucks, and has found the machine to be “intuitive and simple to operate”.

CUSTOMER CARE

However, regardless of the country and trends, the customer is still king and the primary differentiator between brands often remains as simple as the end user’s perception of the service.

FAMCO’s Halwani says: “With the support of the principal, we do our best to improve the Merlo’s representation in UAE market. We have directed additional resources and well-trained team members towards customers who we believe are current or potential telehandler users.”

“Besides this, we leverage on the strong aftersales in the FAMCO organisation structure, and the excellent reputation that has been well earned over the years in the market. The main drivers of this being the capability of our aftersales team, parts availability and our tendency to perform to the satisfaction of our customers.”

JLG’s Bourcier continues: “While reliability is the foundation of profitable equipment ownership, many components factor into the total cost of ownership and overall profitability.

“These include everything from initial purchase price to warranty to maintenance costs and the appeal of the machine to the renter. Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are listening to rental house owners, and this is encouraging a trend toward machines that deliver both simplicity in design and maintenance and the productivity that end users demand.”

Bourcier notes that to truly improve the service, “bringing simplicity to equipment design must also extend beyond the obvious” to include the smart design of equipment lines to use common parts where possible to help owners reduce inventories and costs, and by building machines that can be easily transported.

He adds: “Being present in Middle East through our office in Dubai makes it easier to react and to adjust our offer according to the market — providing our customers with outstanding support throughout their machine life cycle is our mission.”

Al-Bahar’s Mtair chips in: “We always deal with our customers like a partner and do our best to provide them with solutions that meet their requirements and needs — starting with a job site assessment and productivity study to determine the right machine for the application and ending with a comprehensive package that lowers their total owning and operating costs.”

BRANCHING OUT

Aside from the already wide-ranging applications of telehandlers in the market, some producers, distributers and dealers are trying to push the boat out even further.

Halwani highlights that FAMCO is also focus on niche applications where non-standard machines and attachments are required, including in road maintenance, recycling and even tunnelling projects.

For Doosan Infracore’s Bobcat, enhancing safety through improvements to the rollover protection system (ROPS) and falling object protection system (FOPS) is a priority in its latest cabs, alongside curved front windows to provide better views of the loads at height and cabin-wide optimisation for visibility.

Overall, on all fronts and from all the manufacturers, distributors and dealers we see an astonishing degree of optimism within the region with regards to the telehandler market. Strong concerns remain over the dip in oil prices, but even as many sectors fret over 2016, the growth and development in telehandlers continues to present a picture of good health.

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