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Buckets and boom lifts: GCC market trends in AWP

In a segment formerly driven by the need for height, speed and productivity, strides are being made in safety and sustainability

ANALYSIS, SUSTAINABILITY, PMV, AWP, AWP market, Safety

Just as the days of bamboo scaffolding are gone in all but the poorest parts of Asia, so increasingly too are the gung-ho aerial access machines that indeed offer access to height, and at speed, but little by way of safety.

A few years ago it was perfectly common and normal for aerial work platforms in the Gulf to be deployed without any safety systems, and telehandlers to equip buckets without any separate operator controls. Now such practices are increasingly frowned upon.

Indeed, major European manufacturers of both aerial work platforms (AWP) and telehandlers, including Terex Genie, JLG and Haulotte do not sell them. As Sharbel Kordahi, MD of Terex Middle East, notes: “We sell the high-end, proper man baskets, which means they are EN 280-certified, where the operator in the basket has the main controls.”

The image above shows a GTH-5021R doing just that, in an application that is seen as complementary to dedicated AWPs, as Kordahi continues: “They have different applications. The main idea behind having a man basket is to make the telehandler more flexible on site, so instead of having a customer waiting for an AWP machine to come on site for a two-hour job, he can just equip his man basket and do the job.”

The strict new approach towards man baskets is interesting as an indication of the broader trends towards safety in aerial access.

Attitudes towards safety in the Gulf now bridge the divide between manufacturer and rental operators, and, as an example, Manlift now has a certified training centres in the UAE, Qatar and India, accredited by IPAF (International Powered Access Federation), whose Middle East convention Manlift has also sponsored for the last two years in a row.

An emerging technology in the context of aerial access safety in the region is RFID systems to prevent the unauthorised access of machines. Manlift rolled out an RFID card system six months ago across 80 machines within a week on a government project, and the customer was apparently “extremely satisfied and surprised” with the results.

Productivity still remains key, however, as demonstrated by Haulotte in its recent support of one of the largest railway projects in the Middle East.

Around 150 units of Haulotte AWPs have been supplied by Roots Group Arabia (RGA) for use on the Riyadh Metro project, most of them ‘20m, 26m and 41m’ articulated booms or HT23RTJ telescopic booms. The 41m articulated boom has a maximum outreach of 19.80m and the best lifting speed in the market at under 40 seconds, while the new range of telescopic booms are known for their rough-terrain capabilities.

Haulotte’s experience in railways projects also extends to Turkey’s long-awaited high-speed railway line between the Ankara and Istanbul, where various Haulotte Scissor lifts and diesel articulated booms were used, as well as finishing works on the Dubai Metro.

Haulotte has been the gold sponsor of the IPAF Middle East Convention for the last two years, and ever since December 2010, when IPAF first started its operation in Middle East, Haulotte Group has been a strong supporter of the safety and regulatory campaigner.

There were about 100 delegates at this year’s event, where Tim Whiteman, CEO of IPAF, was the keynote speaker.

He highlighted that working at height remains one of the biggest causes of fatalities and major injuries, noting: “AWPs are the safest way of positioning workers at height for temporary jobs as they provide efficient access to high areas and protect the workers from the risk of falling, but AWPs should only be driven by certified operators, who are able to recognise and avoid potential hazards”.

At the event Haulotte Middle East welcomed its customers and other visitors to its stand to learn about the newly launched Activ’ Shield Bar, an anti-entrapment device that alerts operators to potential entrapment situations. When triggered, the spring-mounted bar only allows reverse/lowering movements, allowing the possibly panicked operator to get out of trouble without making the situation worse.

After being triggered, the system is easy to reset and reactivate from the basket which means there is no machine downtime.

Activ’ Shield Bar is optional on all Haulotte diesel and electric lifts, and it can also be retrofitted on machines dating back to 2008.

Pressing productivity

Returning to the subject of the machines themselves, Skyjack has also been busily strengthening its position in the Middle East.

David Hall, Skyjack’s business development manager for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, notes: “The amount of construction in the Middle East has dramatically increased in recent years and we’ve seen our market share grow significantly. With further major building projects announced in the UAE and the continued infrastructure development ahead of the 2022 FIF World Cup in Qatar, we expect demand to remain strong.”

Over recent years Skyjack has continued to expand its product line. Last year, saw the launch of the ‘dual capacity’ 28.2m working height SJ86T telescopic boom, which is a popular class in the region. This unit has a horizontal reach of 23.4m, axle-based 4x4 drive with a selectable differential lock which provides superior traction in loose ground conditions, like on construction sites.

In addition, its high platform capacity, at 341kg, and three-person capability, allows the unit to be used in a wide range of applications — reducing time and increasing productivity.

Malcolm Early, Skyjack’s vice president of marketing, explains: “The launch of a new articulating boom in the 80-foot class in 2017 will further strengthen our position in the Middle East and we look forward to helping the region build for the future.”

Supporting sustainability

Another key development in the region is the advent of hybrid machines on the scene — thanks to improvements in the performance of AC electric motors on the DC predecessors.

Kordahi notes: “Earlier, everybody was using DC motors, and even if you were to get a machine equipped to be a rough-terrain electric machine, it would not have the same efficiency as a rough-terrain diesel machine. Now, with the technology of the AC motors, becoming more affordable, what you have is an electric machine with an efficiency that is 95% that of a diesel machine — so a full-electric rough-terrain machine.”

The success of this technological transition is evident in Genie’s Z60-37 FE Z-boom lift.

Kordahi adds: “As an end user, you can now have an electric machine that can go on a 30° slope. Earlier, the DC motors couldn’t go on a 10° slope — so that is a huge difference.”

Critically, however, the Genie Z-60/37 FE also allows end user to get the job done during the night when no one is around, thanks to its silent ‘full electric’ mode, and proceed to perform a full day’s work on a single charge.

In hybrid mode, the machine can meanwhile last up to a week, making it equally suitable of job sites that are remote, and where the logistics of fuel delivery and storage might otherwise be a problem.

Overall, there’s plenty changing in the segment, not least safety, but also attitudes towards hybrid and electric machines. Five years ago, hybrid machines were unheard of; now it’s a very serious conversation.

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