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Hitting it out of the park


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October 1, 2014 by DAVID GODKIN

Los Angeles Dodgers? Baltimore Orioles? Forget it. Here are the real boys of autumn:  three AWP manufacturers with a broad reach and swinging for the fences. Each steps to the plate to take a cut at some hard questions about what makes their machines so special.

It’s not all about the length of your bat

In 2011, JLG Industries introduced the 1500 SJ, the first straight-boom lift that takes workers to 150 feet without an oversized load permit, making it, senior marketing manager Jeff Ford said at the time “the largest telescopic boom ever created.” Scroll forward to 2014, JLG’s latest offering, the 1850 SJ Ultra Boom Lift and the question hangs in the air: how much higher can aerial lift makers go?

“Customers today want to drive an AWP at full height, transport it easily by trailer, with only a weight permit,” says Ford. “Given these restrictions we feel we’ve gone as high as we can go for right now.”

In fact, Ford points out, height is far less important than “maximizing the work envelope.” At roughly 3.2 million cubic feet of work area the 1850 SJ is “a massive work envelope.” But more importantly “it’s about how much reach you have at height.” In other words, if you’re 80 feet away from something that’s 100 feet in the air, can you still get to it?

“So maximizing that top end of the reach envelope is what we feel we’ve done really well on this product.”

Not to be outdone, MEC’s Titan Boom 60-S, in production for nearly a year, is a fully purposed telescopic boom with a platform rotator identical to its predecessor the T40. Similar to the T40, it rotates 90 degrees from the centre in each direction. The height advantage “is a huge part,” says MEC’s product support manager Jeff Smith, “because so many companies said the T40 just doesn’t go higher.” But again it’s not all about height: that additional reach of 20 feet also increases your driving range, he points out. “You can now drive it for 40 feet instead of 30 feet,” Smith adds, because of the way the four-wheel steering axles and platform articulate.

“You can actually come at the building from a 40-degree angle, turn your wheels and drive forward and go parallel along the building. And that’s huge, too.”

Play hard, Play smart

 

While the platform on both the T40 and T60 machines have the same surface area, MEC decided to reduce the load capacity of the T60 from 4,000 to 3,000 pounds to take pressure off the chassis. The T60’s other advantages are its material handling and man-lifting capability.

“They can go to work for long periods of time with quite a bit more platform space to put it on and to work with. So you don’t have a boom or two booms and a telehandler, you just do it all with one boom.”

The icing on the cake, says Smith, are side gates for faster loading onto the platform’s load zone. “They’re beautiful,” says Smith. “You open the side gate and you have a full 7.5 feet to set the load. It’s fantastic.”

JLG has put a lot of thought and elbow grease into capacity as well. The 1850SJ boasts up to 1,000 pounds of capacity, says Ford, “so you can take more people, parts and pieces, tools and equipment,” all this while giving the operator a comfortable environment in which to work, he adds. It is important to remember: most AWP operators are trades people first. That’s why an LED panel, for example, is so important, providing a graphic view of the work envelope, flashing service codes when there’s a problem with the engine, including, Ford chuckles, whether it’s actually running.

“Because you can’t hear your engine running at 185 feet. So that’s unique to JLG: the LED keeps the operator informed and feeling comfortable that things are going like they should down on the ground.”

Don’t forget, says Smith, “You also need good troubleshooting capabilities.” On-board diagnostics and easy access to internal components are just some of the things MEC is looking to improve as each new series or model comes along. A case in point: MEC’s On-Board Diagnostic Centre, located inside the lower control box door. It makes troubleshooting a whole lot easier.

For his part, David Phillips, global sales and marketing manager for Elliott Equipment Co., says sometimes you can overdo the use of smart technologies. The E160/215 truck mounted AWP “has a lot of the same operator parameters that a boom truck would have, but we get away from all that complicated computerized European control system stuff and we keep it simple.” What really distinguishes this Nebraska-based lift manufacturer from all the others? Elliot Equipment, Phillips boasts, is “the only company that produces a truly multifunctional aerial device.”

“All are equipped with material handling equipment, with a rear-mounted 15-ton winch on the E160 and up to 14,000 pounds of lifting capability. This two-in-one approach, with the material handling capability of a crane, gives us a big market edge.”

On the flip side are the man-lifting capabilities of Elliott’s AWPs, notably the 45-ton 45142 BoomTruck unveiled this summer featuring a 142-foot, five-section telescopic main boom and a detachable two-man work platform. Designed for electrical transmission construction and oil/gas service that requires very long main boom lengths, the two-man work platform’s yoke system hydraulically elevates attachments to the boom or jib tip, reducing attachment time and the potential for strain injuries.

Minimize cost, maximize value

If you’re going to use smart technology, says Phillips, it’s got to be right there on the work platform—like Elliott’s LMI display integrated in the remote contol roller to ensure staff enjoy smooth and precise remote control of the machine while up in the air. Elliott’s telescopic booms can also run very large cable carriers up to the tip, allowing operators to handle everything from 110-volt lines to hydraulic hoses and pressure washers, in a multitask environment.

“So once the guy’s up there he can quickly connect his welder leads or his oxyacetylene torch, stop and start it from the basket and operate up there basically as an office in the sky.”

The large basket, meanwhile, gives the operator the ability to move around freely and have all the tools he needs “without having to lug them up there with him. That capability doesn’t exist with many other products on the market,” says Phillips.

Productive, safe, comfortable, that’s what most AWP operators and their bosses want from their AWPs. “That and ease of operation are a big deal,” adds Smith. “Operators just want the machine to work well and to get where they need to go.” Rental companies, in particular, are looking for the best rate of return (ROR) on the investments they make in these machines, says Ford. In fact, ROR is the main thing engineers are thinking about when they sit down to their drawing board or computer each morning.

“How do we make sure this machine has maximum uptime? How do we make sure it’s durable, reliable, that it stays on rent and not back in the shop?”

David Godkin is a B.C.-based freelance writer and editor. Send comments to editor@on-sitemag.com


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