Despite the ever-increasing demand for work at height across the GCC, rental companies continue to account for the majority of access platform manufacturers’ sales. James Morgan reports.
Aerial work platforms (AWPs) are different from other types of equipment for a number of reasons. Firstly, they do not fall cleanly into any particular sector.
Yes, the units are popular amongst the construction community, but they are equally sought after within fields such as oil and gas and facilities management. Due to the diverse range of applications for which these units can be used, there is no such thing as a ‘typical’ AWP end user.
It is not only the breadth of jobs for which access platforms can be used, however, that sets them apart from other sorts of kit; frequency of use is also a consideration.
Take for example construction contractors. For these firms, units such as bulldozers and backhoe loaders are a daily necessity, whereas they might only require the use of a rough-terrain scissor lift for a couple of weeks per year.
For reasons such as these, the customer demographics of AWP manufacturers tend to differ from those of other equipment producers. Historically, rental firms have accounted for a larger proportion of access platform sales than in other PMV markets.
“It’s true that AWP manufacturers sell predominantly to rental companies,” commented Malcolm Early, vice president of marketing at Skyjack.
“These units sit firmly amongst the construction equipment arsenal alongside traditional ‘dirt equipment’, but in relative terms, – with origins in the 1970s – access platforms are still the new kids on the block,” he told PMV.
In the Middle East, AWPs are becoming an increasingly common feature on building sites. The regional preference to build tall rather than wide means that the need to propel construction workers upwards is no longer so much of a rarity.
“Modern building design and construction techniques mean that the use of AWPs is becoming more mainstream; they are now an everyday sight in the construction sector,” said Early. “Today’s market dynamics might be a little different, but even so, the rental model still predominates.”
One possible explanation for the continued dominance of the rental sector in the AWP market is that of safe practice. Hire firms are not only able to offer contractors the occasional use of access platforms, but some are also in a position to provide trained personnel to go with the machines.
Operating at the interface between AWP manufacturers such as Skyjack and the region’s contractors is Graeme Horribine, IPAF and PASMA training manager at UAE-headquartered access specialist, Al Laith. As an IPAF and PASMA certified instructor, it is Horribine’s job to train both Al Laith’s in-house operators and those of the firm’s customers.
“Wherever there is massive demand for these machines, there also tends to be a massive lack of training,” he explained. “We try to use regulation from markets such as the UK as a base, and transfer it to this region to promote safer practices. One of my responsibilities is to promote IPAF and PASMA, and the benefits that they have to offer.”