Photo by Skyjack
Skyjack 3219

Interview with Skyjack’s Ken McDougall: Mitigating the Risk

Oct. 5, 2020
RER interviews Ken McDougall, president, Skyjack, about the company’s safety features, its spate of new products, the array of data from its telematics system, why rental companies need to consider the ANSI standards in their fleet purchases, and more.

RER interviews Ken McDougall, president, Skyjack, about the company’s safety features, its spate of new products, the array of data from its telematics system, why rental companies need to consider the ANSI standards in their fleet purchases, the importance of wind ratings, and why the industry is heading to electrics.        

RER: What are the latest safety developments from your company?

McDougall:  Skyjack was one of the first manufacturers to offer operator and supervisor training and continues to provide this foundation for best practice and the adoption of good habits. Skyjack’s scissor lifts and vertical mast lifts are designed with a range of safety features in accordance with a variety of global regulatory requirements.

Industry groups have recently suggested possible circumstances, conditions, and operations that might result in inadvertent contact with obstructions and consequently an entrapment hazard. As a result, a form of secondary guarding is now being requested on scissor lifts and vertical mast lifts by some equipment users. As a result, Skyjack recently launched its Secondary Guarding and Lift Enable (SGLE) system for use on scissors lifts.

With Skyjack’s SGLE, both joystick and tamper-proof secondary enables must be activated to allow the platform to lift – the release of either will stop the functions immediately. The ergonomics are such that the operator’s body is kept in an upright position and away from the railings, mitigating the risk of entrapment. The secondary enable button is not used for lowering the platform or for driving; those functions remain joystick-enable only. SGLE is suitable for all Skyjack scissor lift and vertical mast lift models and is available as an optional direct factory install or aftermarket accessory.

What impact has COVID-19 had on your business and what do you expect going forward?

There remains so much unknown. COVID has shown it is capable of throwing a few curve balls. What shape will the recovery be? Will there be a second wave? Looking to the next two years and assuming no substantive second wave, Skyjack sees the start of recovery in 2021. That overall recovery might manifest more than in the latter quarters of the year. Beyond that, we would expect levels to return to normal. Although, there would be lasting aspects of COVID measures that become part of a new “normal.” 

What have been the latest developments in your company’s product line in the past year?

Skyjack started the year with four major new product launches. Against the background of the impending ANSI A92.20 standard, the next generation of Skyjack equipment included:

·               A full range of new DC scissor lifts: complete with a new control box, single location emergency lowering switch, adjusted pothole protection, new SKYCODED diagnostic display, and a more rigid scissor stack. When the standards were initially announced a few years ago it was inevitable that the cost of business was going to increase for the access industry. Skyjack focused on ways to rebalance the ROI equation for rental companies and are providing them with an ANSI 92.20 compliant product that is designed to decrease their overall cost of ownership.

·                New full-size rough terrain scissor lifts: boasting increased working heights, increased capacities, and the market’s largest work platform across the range. Skyjack’s new full-size rough terrain range originally consisted of 33-, 43-, and 53-foot models, but Skyjack also expanded that range to include an all new SJ9263 RT. The new product, with a 63-foot platform height and 1,200-pounds platform capacity shares commonalities with the rest of the range including Skyjack’s axle-based four-wheel drive.

·                New increased capacity booms: Skyjack increased capacities in all 40-foot and 60-foot models along with dual capacities in most models. The nomenclature for these machines will feature a “+” to identify the increased machine capacity, differentiating the new machines from their previous models. Along with the increased capacities and personnel ratings, the new + models also feature control system changes which better align with ELEVATE, Skyjack’s telematics solution. 

·                ELEVATE Live provides operators access to critical machine information, including the machine’s current state of health, pre-use inspection guides, and familiarization materials through a simple QR code. Providing operators live data on machine health has always been a difficult task due to the complexity of providing login credentials to all the personnel on an often-changing job site. ELEVATE Live provides immediate access to that data for the operator right at the machine and without the burden of APP downloads or user accounts.

More recently, Skyjack announced its SJ3219 ANSI model is now supplied with RAPIDFOLD as standard. The new system allows the top of the platform rails to quickly fold down and enable access through standard doors and other areas with restricted space. This means the Skyjack SJ3219 model is the lightest scissor lift on the market that’s wind rated to full height for one person, still maintains a two person no wind rating, and is capable of going through a standard door.

In addition, Skyjack announced ECOTRAY, a new leak containment system specifically designed for Skyjack’s range of new DC electric scissor lifts. Unlike other systems, Skyjack’s ECOTRAY has been designed with essential machine functionality in mind. Functions such as pothole protection, static strap use, access to the emergency stop, emergency lowering and the base controls. The system is protected from jobsite debris, damage from forklift handling and other influences that can hinder leak containment. Available as a factory install or field kit option, the system is available on Skyjack’s range of ECOTRAY ready DC scissors. The system uses a series of purposefully placed catchment trays that contain absorbent pads, which can be quickly and easily replaced.

What have been the most important recent trends in aerial product development and what trends look most important in the near future?

In truth, the run up to the new ANSI and the associated product changes have taken a large proportion of development times for many, if not all, manufacturers. That has been even more frustrating with the associated delays.

Outside of ANSI, one major trend has been the adoption of telematics. As we note in question 7, the COVID-19 crisis witnessed more questions to Skyjack about telematics and system capabilities. Happily, the answers enabled people to see the benefits beyond a point on a map. Productivity and profitability drive the need for data and good rental-focused telematics systems, such as Elevate, allowing actionable insights that lead to process changes.  

Skyjack saw that in rapidly rising adoption rates. New products such as Elevate LIVE have shown how that utility can expand beyond telematics per se. Without wanting to be too dramatic, there is a sense that rather like mobile phone apps there is almost no limit to system spin-offs. The major difference being that it will be rental companies and manufacturers, like Skyjack, working together that will that define form and functionality. That was the case with ELEVATE Live and ELEVATE BMS (Battery Management System) and it will be the case for more Skyjack offerings in the future. 

Now that new ANSI standards have become a reality, how would you assess the impact they are having so far?  How are customers adapting to newer machines with load-sensing technology, terrain-sensing, indoor/outdoor restrictions and so on?

The rationale for a revised ANSI standard was safety and few can reasonably argue that a pre-ANSI machine is safer than a post-ANSI machine. Who would not want safer machines and a safer rental industry? In fact, it follows that a safer industry is a growing industry as further barriers to adoption of MEWPs leads to increased usage, rental sales and rental company health.

However, as fleet managers look at purchase decisions for 2021 there are two areas worth exploring. First, construction contractors represent a major customer group for rental companies and as such, they have a major influence on machine acceptance onsite. In turn, a major influence on contractors and their health and safety executives is jobsite health and safety. At every level, from government down, the reduction of construction accidents is a prime concern. Contractors take the subject seriously. Their health and safety personnel rightly have a great say in the matter. They have and they will continue to ban machines they see as not safe for use. The New ANSI 92.20 has its roots in a drive to improve health and safety on the jobsite.

When these two imperatives combine, it follows that those with responsibility for health and safety will at least in part reinforce the need for a significant portion of the fleet to be ANSI92.20 compliant. This in turn means that rental companies will need to consider this in their 2021 fleet planning needs. In a recent RER/Baird survey one respondent was quoted: “Smaller contractors/homeowners are doing many smaller projects that are keeping us busy, but we miss the ‘send it out for six months’ base of business.” The contractors we have just discussed are that base!

Second, one of the significant differences between A92.5/A92.6 and A92.20 standards is the manner in which the effects of wind ratings are applied. Wind loads were not explicitly considered in the A92.5 and A92.6 standards, and wind ratings were applied based on other machines being dual-certified to Canadian Standard Association (CSA) standards (CSA B354.4 and B354.2 standards), which took wind loading into account for the machine design. Wind load considerations in the A92.20 standard are generally more stringent than the previous requirements from CSA B354.4 or B354.2.

Within the industry, we have often talked in terms of indoor and outdoor ratings. While the A92.20 standards make use of the terms ‘indoor use’ and ‘outdoor use’, the definitions do not refer to a physical location, but whether the MEWP is used in an area or environment that is exposed to wind.

The core issue is that wind can cause problems in partially completed and enclosed buildings, just as it can in the open air. Due to all of the stages of construction maintenance where wind can create issues through apertures in structures, referencing ‘indoor use’ can be misleading. The situation may worsen due to effects caused by wind tunneling, vortices and other similar phenomena.

Options exist for manufacturers to supply lighter, indoor-use-only machines. Fleet managers will be challenged to consider the wind rating of their future purchases to ensure compatibility with the applications of their customer base. What is particularly relevant, is what outdoor personnel rating a machine has, and to what height. Additionally, some indoor machines are now reduced to a one-person rating, which ultimately has an impact on utilization in some applications.

While the most common method of establishing a wind rating for smaller MEWPs has been to remove multiple occupancy, an additional or alternative approach is to reduce the maximum elevation permitted. In some cases, that has approached a 50-percent de-rating.

Rental management may need to consider the flexibility and options of their fleet Do the rental companies run two distinct types of machines? How do they ensure their customer uses the right machine for the job? How do they manage customer expectations, which are based on the older A92.5/A92.6 standards? How do they approach complaints as customers may assume they have been given a machine that is not up to the job?

Skyjack takes the view that fleet managers have enough to deal with without the idea of running two types of machine. That’s why we choose to offer wind rating on our machines. The SJ3219 for example the lightest scissor lift on the market that’s wind rated to full height for one person, still maintains a two-person, no-wind rating, and is capable of going through a standard door. 

What level of demands are you seeing for electric MEWPs, hybrids, alternative fuels?

What is often forgotten in the power source debate is that the vast majority of MEWPs (slab scissors) have been electrically powered for a long time now. if Li-on technology gets its house in order (and it will!) things will not change over-night. This was part of rationale for Skyjack’s Elevate BMS (Battery Management System). The lead acid battery has some life in her yet! While rental companies manage those existing fleets, conventional battery care will continue to be an issue.

Elevate BMS (Battery Management System) targets the largest cost of ownership on electric scissors through use of an algorithm derived from the study of 2 years of aggregated telematics data. That study found that 75 percent of battery charges are less than 2.75 hours, and that batteries only receive one full charge a month.

Elevate BMS provides the operator with key battery health indicators and action advice. Elevate BMS provides rental companies with the ability to manage by measurement and target the cost of battery replacement using accurate and immediate insight into how their batteries are treat in the field.

Coming back to the idea of electric or hybrid-powered booms and rough terrain scissors, their time will come. Europe seems to be taking the lead, although certain states and cities in North America are not too far behind. As technology evolves and pricing improves, adoption will gather pace and because of that it is a subject that is very much on our radar. 

How do you see adoption of telematics systems changing the rental industry?

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues its grip on our lives and on economies, our day-to-day business lives are changing. Remote working, dealing with travel restrictions and the need for social distancing have required that we take advantage of technology. As we continue to deal with the crisis, these technologies will continue to contribute as we emerge into some kind of normality.

Within our industry, one of the most recent trends has been the adoption of telematics. Telematics for construction rental provides the function of remote diagnostic and remote management of machines. That functionality has previously provided the value of added efficiency and profitability, but in the current situation has transformed into a necessity. In a world where in-person access to machines is limited, or impossible, remote access becomes critical. 

Skyjack have seen a marked increase in rental company questions on telematics. The overriding flavor of those calls has been: “How do I…? Is it possible to…?” We are seeing the motivation for using telematics to interact, track and manage assets and their usage. This means that more roles and personnel from rental companies are looking for assistance to understand how to best use and maximize the technology.