The RER Innovative Product Award was established in 2003 to honor excellence in new product development in the equipment rental industry. This year the awards showcase the most innovative products introduced between Aug. 1, 2007 and July 31, 2008.
A panel of nine industry experts was selected to narrow the pool of entries to one winner in each of the 13 categories. The panelists were asked to refrain from voting in categories in which they had any partial interest. Then the panelists selected the product they felt was the most innovative in respect to the rental business from the 13 category winners. One product was named the Grand Award Winner with an overwhelming majority of the votes.
Thanks to all of the companies that entered products in this year's Innovative Product Award competition. Following are the grand winner and the products that won their respective categories. All non-winning entries will be featured in the January and February 2009 issues of RER. For additional information on the Innovative Product Award winners and the panel of judges, visit www.rermag.com.
Lifts Category Winner
JLG Industries, McConnellsburg, Pa.
Key Innovation: The first personal and portable aerial work platform on the market to replace the ladder.
For any company that rents out aerial equipment as large as an articulating boom or as small as a 6-foot ladder, safety is always a top priority. Customers want to know they are getting a productive and time-saving unit, while rental companies want to make sure the lifting equipment is being used properly and in a safe manner to avoid injuries to the operator. The Grand Winner of this year's RER Innovative Product Award, the LiftPod from JLG Industries, meets both rental company and customer expectations by providing safety and time-saving productivity in one unit.
The LiftPod is the first personal and portable aerial work platform on the market to combine the portability of a ladder with the stability of a work platform. It is powered with any common 18-volt drill or with an optional power pack. Its enclosed basket gives workers a 360-degree range of motion at a 14-foot working height. An attachable work tray stores users' tools and materials, allowing them to work with both hands.
At 145 pounds (not including the power pack), the LiftPod's lightweight design and compact size allow for ease of movement around the jobsite on its non-marking polyurethane wheels. One person can assemble or disassemble it in less than 30 seconds. When disassembled, the LiftPod can be transported site-to-site in the back of a pick-up truck, van or SUV. It consists of three main sections: the base, the mast and carriage, and the platform. The heavy-duty, powder-coated, steel base weighs 63 pounds. Its castor mechanism locks when the LiftPod is in use and provides mobility when it is set up. The mast weighs 49 pounds and consists of aircraft-quality aluminum, while the platform weighs 33 pounds and has a capacity of 330 pounds at maximum elevation.
“The LiftPod's creation involved a collaboration of efforts — which included the product's physical development, market research and testing — in Australia, followed by additional testing and final development by JLG in the United States,” says Jeff Ford, senior manager of marketing communications for JLG Industries. “The LiftPod was initially introduced to the Australian market in 2007, where it won a WorkCover New South Wales Safe Work Award for ‘Best Solution to an Identified Workplace Health and Safety Issue.’ The unit was introduced to the U.S. market in 2008.”
According to JLG, the LiftPod has seen early success in a number of applications, including lighting maintenance, facility maintenance, equipment repair and maintenance, and glass-replacement jobs for business and large vehicles. The LiftPod is also designed for several other applications, such as HVAC installation and maintenance, storage access, signage installation, siding repairs and installation, painting, cleaning, product stocking and removal, security system maintenance, decorating, window washing, and plant and floral care.
Because of its lightweight design, the LiftPod can be used in commercial office buildings, retail stores, warehouses, manufacturing facilities, shopping malls, schools and universities. It also can be utilized in hospitals, government buildings, apartment buildings and condominiums, hotels and resorts, convention centers, stadiums and parking ramps.
“The LiftPod is 25-percent the weight of traditional lifts, making it less cumbersome, particularly when used in small work areas,” says Ford. “More importantly, the LiftPod offers the stability and comfort not always found in ladders, allowing users to securely work with both hands while having easy access to their tools and materials.”
Trials down under
Initially, the LiftPod was introduced to the Australian market where it was used and tested in various industries before it was brought to the United States. These Australian companies were on the hunt for an alternative to ladders and other lifting equipment to meet their safety and productivity needs.
One such company, O'Brien Glass Industries Limited in Newcastle, Australia, employs glaziers, or glass replacement specialists, that often need to work on homes, businesses or large vehicles at heights of up to 14 feet. However, because of Australian regulations requiring bulky harnesses when working at heights above two meters (or just over 6 feet, 6 inches), the safety committee at O'Brien needed to find an alternative to ladders that would safely allow glaziers freedom of motion and the ability to use both hands to more efficiently — and safely — complete their work.
Initially, the glaziers from O'Brien intended to use the LiftPod for replacement work at business and residential jobsites. A recent project at a commercial office work site required that all of the rubber gaskets used to seal the windows be replaced on the first floor. Had they chose to use a ladder, the glaziers would have been required to keep three limbs on the ladder at all times and wear a harness, significantly increasing the time it took to complete the task and limiting the glaziers' range of motion. Instead, the workers from O'Brien opted to use the LiftPod, which gave them 360-degree access to the job and the freedom to use both hands.
Cliff Meecham, manager of the Newcastle area for O'Brien, and his team of glaziers soon identified other opportunities to use the LiftPod as well. For example, they discovered that the LiftPod was well-suited for windscreen replacements on large trucks and buses. The small base fit perfectly underneath the front of the vehicle, allowing workers closer access to their work than with a ladder. The LiftPod also helped keep downtime on a vehicle to a minimum. The workers could bring the LiftPod with them to body shops where vehicles were already being serviced and perform the windscreen replacement simultaneously, cutting down on service time on the vehicle.
“There was some resistance at first,” says Meecham. “Some of my employees have been using ladders for more than 25 years. But as soon as they saw how easy the LiftPod was to move around worksites and how much more quickly they were able to complete a job, they were sold.”
Brookfield Multiplex, a Brisbane, Australia-based property and funds management business that provides facility management and maintenance services at its Qantas heavy-maintenance hangar at Australia's Brisbane Airport, needed a way to cut down on the time spent on day-to-day lighting maintenance and improve employee safety. Using ladders and scissorlifts in the hangar meant that employees were often making repeated up-and-down trips on ladders, costing them valuable time and increasing the risk of injury.
Alan Berrie, the facilities supervisor at the hangar who is responsible for on-site occupational health and safety, decided to have his employees try the LiftPod on a relamping project in the facility's dining hall as a safer alternative to ladders.
“Had they used ladders, my workers would have spent time constantly maneuvering them around the site and making repeated climbs up and down them to complete the project,” says Berrie. “Instead, the LiftPod provided a lightweight and compact design that allowed them to quickly and easily move it around the work site on its wheels.”
The workers also made use of the LiftPod's work tray to hold tools and materials, which allowed them to focus on the task at hand and not have to worry about their stability. The LiftPod has also seen use on a daily basis in the hangar's workshops and other high-ceiling access areas. In addition to the lighting maintenance, Berrie said Brookfield Multiplex manages another nearby commercial facility that he feels could use a LiftPod for several applications, including signage installation and small building repairs.
Aaron Malouf, asset manager at the Pacific Square Maroubra complex in Sydney, Australia, was looking to address risk management in his multi-use building. While budget was an issue, he specifically wanted a hydraulic or mechanized device to replace ladders because of safety concerns. Workers have a number of maintenance duties throughout the building that involve working at a higher level, and they needed something to provide stability at varying heights.
Malouf and his team looked at several possible devices but found most of them to be too large or heavy. When they tried the LiftPod, they found it to be lightweight, portable and affordable, while giving them the access they needed. With the 14-foot working height, workers had the reach they needed in most areas of the facility. The company was also impressed with the LiftPod's ease of movement and with how quickly it could be assembled. “It is one of the best decisions we have made,” says Malouf.
Innovative Product Award Judging Panel Bios
Gary Stansberry is a partner in the consulting firm of Hageman, Stansberry & Associates. HS&A specializes strictly in the rental industry, offering mergers, acquisitions and valuation services. Stansberry formerly served in executive positions within the mergers and acquisitions department of two of the largest rental industry consolidators. Prior to his acquisition experience, Stansberry founded and sold two successful businesses including a rental operation.
Kevin Rodgers is CEO and founder of Delta Rigging & Tools, a Gulf Coast hoist and rigging company started in 2004, and 24/7 Studio Equipment, a specialty rental company serving the entertainment industry started in 2006. In 1996, Rodgers founded National Equipment Services, a national rental company headquartered in Chicago. Rodgers was CEO of Brambles Equipment Services from 1990 to 1996.
Jack Lockwood is currently the director of sales with Allmand Bros., a manufacturer of mobile floodlighting systems, compact tractor loader backhoes, traffic control arrowboards and breathable air space heaters. He is a 39-year veteran of the construction equipment industry involved in sales and marketing with several manufacturers covering a wide range of products.
John Michael Paz is president of Godwin Pumps and has worked with Godwin since 1978. In 1985, Paz assumed the role of president. He opened the first Godwin Pumps rental office in 1990 in Upper Marlboro, Md.
Jim Layton is starting his 25th year running Wacker's marketing communication department. Layton served on the exhibitor committees of World of Concrete, AED's Condex and ARA's The Rental Show as well as serving a term as a board member of the American Rental Association.
With more than 30 years of experience in the construction industry, Torsten Erbel currently is the director of product management at Multiquip Inc. in Carson, Calif.
Erin Whitehead is managing editor of Lift and Access magazine. She previously served for three years as the associate editor of RER.
Greg Rostberg is Bobcat's Co.'s marketing manager for the rental markets in both Canada and the United States. He manages all marketing activities to the rental industry for the organization.
Marty Silverman, vice president of marketing for General Pipe Cleaners, has more than 25 years of experience in the drain-cleaning industry.