August 2021 Cover

Interviews with Aerial Manufacturers Part 2: A More Connected World

Sept. 21, 2021
In Part 2 of RER’s interviews with aerial manufacturers, participants talk about new safety features, upcoming trends on aerial equipment, new telematics enhancements, what customers are asking for, and more.

Participants:

Matthew Elvin, CEO, Xtreme Manufacturing & Snorkel

Chad Hislop, senior director, product management, Genie

Justin Kissinger, marketing manager, Hy-Brid Lifts

Ken McDougall, president, Skyjack

Simon Meester, president, Genie

Frank Nerenhausen, president, JLG

Jolene Parisio, director of marketing & business development, Sinoboom

RER: Leak protection systems have been a positive development in recent years? Do you expect other similar safety features?

Nerenhausen: Leak protection systems are increasingly important, particularly when equipment is being used in environmentally sensitive work areas like clean rooms and data centers. JLG recently introduced its CleanGuard Leak Protection System offered as an option on select model scissor lifts. This environmentally friendly leak containment system features custom fit trays to capture leaks and drips from the power unit and the steer cylinder of a scissor lift, replacing the need to cover the underside of the machine with a diaper. CleanGuard does not interfere with operation or general servicing, is re-usable and blends in with the aesthetics of the machine.

But, we aren’t focused solely on leak containment. We’re focused on eliminating leaks altogether. Advancements in technology are allowing us to design and engineer products differently, allowing us to bring to market hydraulic-free products like the DaVinci all-electric scissor lift. With its zero-hydraulics design, we eliminate potential leak points altogether. Leaks are one of the most frequent reasons behind scissor lift service calls. This type of technology has therefore been welcomed by customers. Anytime service requirements can be reduced without a loss to productivity in an environmentally responsible manner it’s a step forward for the industry.

One of the biggest responsibilities we have today as the access industry leader is to continually evolve and introduce solutions that allow customers to be more successful, safer and increasingly efficient on the job. Leak containment and elimination is certainly one part of this.

McDougall: Yes, our customers agree that Skyjack’s ECOTRAY leak containment system has been a positive safety feature for them. It ensures all internal potential hydraulic leaks go into a single pan that’s fitted with easily changeable absorbent pads. It also reduces pollution and waste.

Skyjack has other safety features on its machines like pothole protection on its scissors, an emergency lowering function, and a yoke-mounted lifting hook on its telehandlers that allows the safe under-slinging of loads to name a few. We continue to incorporate customer feedback and telematics data to enhance machine functionality with more safe and sustainable features.

Parisio: Yes, we expect to see new safety features -- especially anything around improved productivity in MEWPs. Sinoboom is focused on listening and understanding the needs of the end user to help find solutions to their jobsite needs. We take feedback very seriously and use it to influence our future product development plans and when adding similar productivity-enhancement features.

Elvin: Leak protection systems can be beneficial in terms of helping to protect the work environment from possible hydraulic leaks and are a preferable option to the use of traditional diapers. However, when looking at the aerial industry as a whole, we see a long-term trend towards the integration of more electronic components, such as utilizing electric drive rather than hydraulic drive. As electric drive, and other electronic systems, become more popular, and therefore more cost competitive, we expect to see less hydraulics used in aerial equipment, which ultimately reduces the risk of hydraulic leaks and need for leak containment systems.

At Snorkel, we already offer some models with electric drive as standard, such as the Snorkel A38E, TM12E and TM16E, and plan to offer our customers with a choice of electric or hydraulic drive on our electric slab scissor lift line, as we do already on the new Snorkel S4740E.

Kissinger: Leak protection systems have been a positive development for environmental safety and preventing costly leaks on jobsites. We incorporated our LeakGuard system to provide users with a simpler alternative to inconvenient methods, such as diapers or multi-tray systems. Our innovative design features a single tray system, making LeakGuard easier and more efficient for operators to handle any cleanup on the jobsite. LeakGuard is currently available on all Hy-Brid Lifts Pro Series units.

Our focus on electrification has always provided an environmentally friendly lift option and we plan on developing additional green solutions for our products in the future.

Meester: Leak protection and hydraulic containment has been an increasing focus on jobsites globally, especially on “clean” jobsites like data farms or slab buildings where the concrete floor is the finished floor. This is one of the benefits to the E-Drive scissor lifts that I mentioned above. These scissor lifts contain 70-percent fewer hydraulic hoses and fittings. This not only reduces the number of replaceable parts, which saves money, it also drastically reduces the potential for hydraulic leaks. Anytime we can find a solution like this that improves safety while also improving reliability and lowering the total cost of ownership, it’s a win for the equipment operators and the equipment owners. This also is the type of quality solution that the Genie team is working to deliver as we develop new products and make improvements to our existing, tried-and-true equipment.

New ANSI standards have allowed larger loads on boom lifts. What other trends do you expect to see in the near future?

Elvin: As part of the new ANSI standards, overload systems are now required on most aerial lifts. While this does not necessarily mean that the lifting capacity has increased, it does mean that operators are restricted from overloading the platform, which in real terms may mean that they find they can lift less materials to height than perhaps they did on units without an overload system.

This will likely lead to contractors requesting increased lift capacities on aerial lifts as a standard. We have already seen a number of OEMs, including ourselves, start to offer increased lift capacity on 40 foot and 60 foot telescopic booms, and we believe this will be a continuing trend. It is worth noting that due to the pandemic, it has taken significantly longer for the new ANSI-compliant units to enter the market and as such, many jobsites and operators may not have yet experienced the new overload systems and other ANSI-compliant changes.

Nerenhausen: Some trends we are watching are urbanization, the rise of warehouse construction, data center growth and increasing demand for low-level access products.

On urbanization

Population growth and a larger percentage of families gravitating towards city centers is resulting in buildings that are taller with narrower space between them. With that, the demand for compact equipment, higher capacity machines and higher reaching models is on the rise. Our product development efforts are continuously evolving to ensure we have the solutions customers need to work in these areas.

On the compact side, we have entered the micro scissor category with our ES 1330 and ES 1530 scissors and have introduced the new 1030P low-level access lift for indoor use in place of ladders and scaffolding. In the telehandler category, we now offer an ultra-compact model, the SkyTrak 3013.

Looking at taller and higher capacity equipment, we recently introduced the JLG 1075 and 2733 telehandlers. The 1075, eight-story lift height, 60-foot reach telehandler eliminates the need for costly cranes, while the 2733, the largest and newest model in our high-capacity range, allow operators to pick and carry loads up to 26,600 pounds, minimizing the number of trips required to and from a loading area.

On warehousing

One only needs to drive down any major Interstate to observe the increase in warehouse construction. Going back even a few years, online shopping was not what it is today, and the pandemic further accelerated online demand. Warehouse construction often requires continuous placement of utilities at a fixed height along the length of a building. To match this application, JLG has designed its new RT and ERT line of scissor lifts with this capability.

On data centers

The world continues to become more and more connected. That means data center construction is also on the rise. Indoor work at data centers requires lightweight, environmentally friendly machines that can be operated in confined areas or on suspended floors with weight restrictions and in between sensitive storage systems, servers and application delivery controllers. This is one type of application where our new DaVinci scissor lift shines.

On low-level access

Last, but certainly not at all least, is the increasing demand for low-level access products. These lifts are gaining in popularity as companies seek to mitigate worksite injuries associated with redundant movements and slips, trips or falls from ladders. While many manufactures seem focused on taller, higher reaching equipment, JLG is keeping an eye on both ends of the spectrum to provide people with safer ways to work at every height.

McDougall: It is true that one of the consequences of the ANSI introduction was a move by OEMs to offer larger capacities, broadly because the new regulations meant that, if overloaded, a machine would stop working. Prior to the new ANSI regulations, that was not the case and OEMs looked at some ways to mitigate this change. As I look at the regulations, I think there is another change that may be underestimated. That is the requirement on rental companies to provide access to appropriate equipment training and familiarization. From a Skyjack point of view, we have made considerable effort to provide as many resources as possible, from whitepapers to wall posters. We have also included new familiarization tools in our ELEVATE Live tool.

Going one step further the truth is that the new ANSI regulations are welcome from a safety point of view. However, they do introduce costs and one needs to recognize that a rental company’s customer does not get a direct benefit for that cost and so will not want to pay higher rental rates. That leads our customers to demand a lower cost of ownership through less replacement parts, less service, and less downtime. Skyjack has already responded to a number of these growing trends. For example, using a data-driven approach, Skyjack recognized it could provide direct cost benefits to rental companies by switching to a <25hp engine on its new 40-foot and 60-foot booms.

Parisio: The most obvious is the trend toward more energy efficient machines that still meet the demands of the jobsites and perform as well as their hydraulic-driven counterparts. Other large trends are around data and the digital transformation, including machine telematics. As customers are able to gather more data from machines thanks to telematics technology, it is important we partner with them to analyze this data. This valuable information will lead to product improvements that translate into lower cost of ownership and higher ROI for MEWP products, while at the same time also benefiting operators to maximize equipment uptime.

Kissinger: With our industry-leading, high-capacity lifts, the new ANSI load sensing restrictions still allow us to provide rental centers with lift options that meet their customers’ heavy load requirements. Where other manufacturers kept the same load restrictions they had in place, we were able to provide increased capacity to reduce the number of rental customers making service calls related to overloading the platform. Our lifts keep operators safe and productive with the ability to carry more materials at one time and reduce delays on the job from platform overload.

Other trends we continue to see include more manufacturers entering the race to electrification, increased connectivity with telematics, and additional specialized equipment or attachments that improve safety.

Hislop: Interestingly enough, while we have seen a push in the industry toward high-capacity booms, at the other side of the spectrum, we are seeing a major shift in scissors toward smaller, more compact footprints. With their short wheelbases, low weight, tight turning radius and E-Drive motors, Genie micro scissors will continue to become a more popular option in the lower-height classes of scissor lifts over the next few years. 

Widespread usage of telematics has been a positive development. What are some of enhancements your company has made in telematics and similar technology?

Meester: In March, we announced Access Manager, a new, add-on feature for our Genie Lift Connect telematics. Access Manager expands the benefits of our Lift Connect system by giving rental companies the ability to remotely manage access to their fleets. When equipped with Access Manager, an operator must enter a code before they can start a unit. This provides greater security for equipment and can help ensure that only trained operators can operate a machine.

At the same time, we launched Access Manager, we also announced that any machine with a current Lift Connect system and a CAN control system had the ability to use the new Remote Disable functionality. This functionality is separate from Access Manager and gives the equipment owner the ability to remotely disabling or enabling operation of their equipment through the Lift Connect portal. Again, this gives greater opportunity for equipment owners to remotely manage and secure their fleets.

McDougall: Yes, I think telematics is here to stay. In fact, we saw an increase in interest at the start of the pandemic as companies looked to track their fleets more effectively without having to bring everything back in the yard. Skyjack launched ELEVATE Live which links equipment operators to the machines they’re working on.

Through a simple QR code, ELEVATE Live provides operators with critical information about the machine’s current state of health, pre-use inspection guides, and familiarization videos. This type of information has allowed operators to reduce the workload for rental companies and it has ultimately saved rental companies money. If a Skyjack machine has ELEVATE telematics installed, operators can see the machine’s state of health including battery life, last charge date, and recommended charging actions through ELEVATE’s new Battery Management System (BMS). This technology promotes improved battery behavior and provides operators with the power to make informed decisions. Machines that don’t have ELEVATE installed still offer information like operator manuals, familiarization videos, serialized machine information and more through ELEVATE Live’s QR code.

Skyjack believes that the demand for operator connectivity and data-driven machine design will only grow stronger in the future. Treating technology as an integral piece of how construction companies and machinery work in the future is critical as the benefits have a clear and positive impact on the bottom line and create better experiences for everyone within the rental chain.

Nerenhausen: Telematics have been around for quite some time and in recent years adoption rates have accelerated. We’ve learned that the amount of data these systems produce can easily overwhelm a customer and be rendered unusable if it’s not easily digestible or the person on the receiving end doesn’t have the time to analyze and action it.

Therefore, we are being asked to not only provide a means to collect and disseminate the data, but also a way to analyze and suggest actions based on the data to help users run a more efficient business. Raw data in and of itself is no longer enough. Customers want a full fleet of connected assets to optimize utilization, enhance worker safety and make machine operation more intuitive.

Take machine location for example. Today’s telematics can tell you where a machine is. Tomorrow’s telematics might give you more than the physical location. They may tell you the floor and exact location of the machine. And, when you get close, you might be able to easily identify the machine through an alert system, much like today’s “find my car” feature in on-road vehicles. So, in this instance, if a service call is required, telematics would no longer simply provide a machine location, it would lead the service tech directly to the machine.

Flexibility will be the cost of entry moving forward when it comes to telematics. The more seamless the data and information and the easier the action, the more valuable it will be to the customer. Taking the onus off the rental channel and its customers to analyze the data through predictive recommendations is the wave of the future. 

We don’t want to give away too much, but we are definitely keeping an eye on the future of telematics and connected assets. We believe today’s telematics are a baseline for what’s to come, with holistic solutions on the horizon that will deliver the advanced options customers will require in the digital future.

Parisio: At this time, Sinoboom has not launched a formal telematics program in the U.S., although we are working towards having a full solution in the future. However, our machines have the connection point and capability to “plug & play” many different types of telematics solutions. We understand that operator information and machine feedback as a whole is very important for us as a manufacturer, for our rental customers and also end-users.

An intelligent interface, as featured on Sinoboom MEWP models, are effectively the eyes and ears of the machine, and can help makes safe operation intuitive for ordinary users. User-friendly communication provides timely machine status updates and quick failure diagnosis. This helps avoid long waits for diagnostic appraisals and allows technicians to repair issues accurately and in much less time. This new technology is valuable and important for overall machine ROI and rental fleet uptime.

Elvin: As announced last year, the Ahern Family of Companies, including Snorkel, have partnered with Trackunit for its telematics integration and solutions. All telematics-capable Snorkel models are now available globally with a harness that enables the quick install of the Trackunit telematics module, and Snorkel offers a range of subscription programs to its customers worldwide. We will be officially launching our telematics program, Snorkel OnSite, at The ARA Show 2021. 

Kissinger: We have several telematic options available, based on customer preference. We are able to incorporate simple telematics like equipment position tracking on the jobsite, to more advanced telematics like using keypad access to turn on the machine. We continue to develop more deeply integrated telematics solutions and will be showcasing these options at the ARA show this fall, along with our other lift enhancements.

Are there particular features that customers are asking for in the evolution of aerial equipment?

Nederhausen: Our rental channel partners and end user customers always tend to have a wish list, and that can vary by region, by fleet makeup and by the type of work they complete. Despite regional differences, we do hear some common themes, most of which are related to integrated product technologies that will simplify machine operation and result in safer job sites.

The construction industry is typically a fast follower of the automotive industry. With that, we are seeing an increase in requests for sensor technology, cameras and alert systems and we are innovating to meet these needs.

SkySense™ is an enhanced detection system that uses strategically placed object detection sensors to provide operators an added level of awareness of their immediate surroundings. When a machine is in use, the sensors establish warning zones and stop distances in the machine’s direction of motion. As the machine approaches the zone limits, audible alerts notify the operator, increasing protection of people and property.

A Seatbelt Engagement and Operator Presence (SEOP) feature was just unveiled last week for select model telehandlers. The system includes a high visibility orange seatbelt and functions by producing a visible and audible alarm whenever an operator is seated and unbuckled. For example, when the operator is seated with the vehicle ignition key on, alarms will be activated immediately and continuously if the seatbelt is not connected. The alarms will cease when the operator leaves the seat, turns the vehicle ignition off or connects the seatbelt. The alarms are intended to alert and remind the operator to buckle up for safety.

Camera systems are also on the rise. Our latest multi-reverse camera system for telehandlers uses cameras on the left, right and rear of the machine and a tri-view monitor in the cab to provide operators with greater visibility of their surrounds while backing up.

You start to see a common thread here throughout the answers. More and more, the evolution of equipment includes features made possible through the integration of new and emerging technologies that, when paired with a high level of after the sale support and service deliver a comprehensive solution to customers.

At JLG, we continue to focus on elevating the access industry in three areas: Productivity, safety and technology. None of these three things exist in a silo. We keep each one at the forefront of each product development effort.

While technology creates a lot of buzz in the media, the physical product itself, as well as parts and service support remain as important as ever. At JLG, we believe an appropriate combination of physical machine enhancements and digital connectivity are key to providing JLG owners and operators with the greatest long-term value. 

Meester: Our customers are looking for quality, reliable, versatile equipment that meets the needs of today’s jobsites, and helps them achieve their business goals. This understanding of what our customers are looking for is reflected in the products we’ve launched over the last year. What all of these products have in common, from our J booms to the E-Drive scissor lifts to our new telehandler, we’ve focused on optimizing the design so that we are offering quality and durability, jobsite productivity, along with a total cost of ownership that makes business sense.

Kissinger: As standards progress and aerial equipment evolves to meet those requirements, our customers continue to seek more efficiency from their machines, along with safety improvements. Rental companies are looking for ways to provide unique solutions that differentiate their fleet and increase ROI. Hy-Brid Lifts has always let customer feedback guide our designs and we will continue to put their needs first. From our high lift capacities and non-folding rails to our LeakGuard system and more, this mindset has allowed us to stand out from the crowd with lifts that maximize safety and productivity for end users.

Elvin: Relating to the new ANSI A92.20 standards, electric slab scissor lifts are one of the most affected product categories, predominantly due to the new guardrail height and changes to wind loading requirements. While the supply of the new ANSI-compliant units to the market has been delayed due to the pandemic, we are anticipating that customers will look for solutions to some of the challenges presented on the new units, such as the need for folding guardrails on smaller electric scissors lifts, and systems to enable outdoor operation for machines which do not meet the new wind loading requirements.

Our approach to achieving compliance was to develop solutions which also overcame these issues. We launched the Snorkel S3019E in 2019, the first electric slab scissor lift with a sunken scissor stack to eliminate the need for folding guardrails, and developed a new ‘variable tilt’ solution to address the wind loading requirements. This means that all Snorkel electric slab scissor lifts, from the S3215E to the S4732E will allow you to elevate indoors or outdoors, rated at wind speeds up to 28mph, until you reach a certain height limit, which is based on the current incline on which the unit is situated. This improves the working envelope of these lifts at elevated heights up to 70 percent of the maximum platform height.

From a global perspective, the continued adoption of increased safety standards and the widespread acceptance of technology in all aspects of life is driving increased utilization of electronics in the aerial lift sector. This allows for more advanced operator communication through digital interfaces, which can deliver an improved operator experience.

Parisio: We get continual requests for advancements that can help reduce the cost of ownership and increase ROI for end users. These requests come in many different forms -- whether it is someone asking for better on-board diagnostics, telematics, or improved battery technology. Based on customer feedback, we expect that more maintenance-free features, designed to improve equipment uptime and minimize servicing will become more popular in the near future. As I’ve noted, our maintenance-free batteries – which comes standard on Sinoboom scissor lifts – are very popular because these give rental customers one less maintenance feature to worry about and allow them to get to work faster.

McDougall: Skyjack is always analyzing data and listening to feedback to offer customers a more compelling return on investment. As already mentioned, customers are asking for lower cost of ownership and higher ROI through avenues like less replacement parts, less service and maintenance, less downtime, and increased overall functionality.

Our new products complement these latest evolutions. For instance, in discovering that in North America there is a demand for wind-rated machines, we designed our new SJ3013 micro scissor with a reduced platform and working height to meet wind-rated ANSI standards. The SJ3013 micro scissor requires limited maintenance on wheel motors which reduces cost of ownership. Similarly, with a growing demand for higher vertical reach, Skyjack introduced the SJ9664 RT that makes work at seven stories possible and it also eliminates the need for customers to jump to a specialized MEWP class. Our SJ20 is free from chains, sheaves, and bushings, which reduces maintenance.

Skyjack’s new 40-foot and 60-foot booms use a smaller engine to deliver the same on-site job performance as higher-powered units with the benefit of significantly less sensor and emission regulation components, reduced fuel usage, no downtime related to after treatment components, and no expensive DOC or DPF maintenance or replacement. Finally, our redesigned TH Series telehandlers also improve reliability and serviceability through features like greaseless bearings and a high-pressure filter that reduce the amount of maintenance required by end users.