Kevin O’Shea explains why the international mast climbing sector is on an upward curve

By Euan Youdale19 March 2013

The Klimer project at the Canadian Centre for Human Rights project

The Klimer project at the Canadian Centre for Human Rights project

Kevin O’Shea, director of safety and training at Mastclimbers LLC in Atlanta, US, explains why the mast climbing sector is on an upward curve

There is no good time for a recession, but there are worse times than others, and the mast climber industry was in the beginnings of a significant growth phase when the recession came along.

The effects were telling, among the lay-offs were experienced mast climber people who had been involved in the industry since its beginnings, manufacturers retreated from outlying territories and consolidated to try to survive by working in only their strongest markets, and many big name products are now almost unrepresented in many markets. And the danger for the mast climber industry was that a relatively young product, with such a promising growth potential in existing and untapped sectors might be dealt such a severe blow that it would take years to recover to previous levels.

However, those who may have considered this scenario didn’t give full credit to the resilience of the mast climber industry. And, although the recession is far from over, and there may still be casualties yet to come, the mast climber industry is looking onwards and upwards.

Manufacturers are working on new products, to be released in 2013 and beyond, with World of Concrete in Las Vegas and Bauma in Germany acting as the springboard for the marketing push. Leading the charge are Hydro Mobile and Fraco, two of the most inventive manufacturers in the market, and major players in North America.

Innovative products

Hydro Mobile has introduced its new Transport Platform to much acclaim. Derived from its F Series mast climbing work platform range, the TP is fully modular. With ability to lift 4,000 pounds (1818 kg), and work in a number of configurations it is a highly flexible platform and can adapt to challenging conditions. Able to operate as a single platform, as two platforms sharing one mast, or as a combined transport platform and mast climber solution sharing multiple masts, it offers an array of solutions on any project. Its ‘secure off-loading’ system is designed to ensure safe access and egress to and from the structure. The platform is available in either gas or electric power.

Hydro Mobile is working on a number of prestigious projects, not least of which is the Freedom Tower project in New York City. Working with project partners Raxtar and Atlantic Scaffolding Hydro Mobile had many challenges to overcome to create an access solution that allows transport of 1300 - 1400 men, women, tools, and materials daily to each floor of the projected 1776 feet high (541 m) structure.

Fraco has unveiled a new under-bridge platform the BR-1. Designed as an alternative to truck-mounted under-bridge access, the BR-1 uses a wheeled chassis as opposed to a truck chassis. The platform is 23 feet, 3 inches (7 m) long by 6 feet (1.8 m) wide and has a capacity of 1,500 pounds (680 Kg). The platform has a vertical stroke of 12 feet (4.3m), allowing it to be lowered under the bridge, and can slew 180 degrees to position the platform underneath the bridge superstructure.

Fraco has also recently announced a partnership with ex-Alimak CEO Krister Kempanien to produce a range of hoists. The first fruits of this partnership are the SEH series of single and twin car construction elevators and the SEL 400 Industrial Lift.

Major projects

Canadian manufacturer Klimer is also rising to the challenge with some intricate projects of its own. The Canadian Museum for Human Rights is a project which presented a number of challenges. The shape of the building is an obvious challenge, but working in temperatures which can get down to minus 40 - 50 degrees is another significant hurdle to overcome.

The KPM-8 is the main MCWP used throughout the site, with a free-standing height capability of 100 feet (30 m) and travel speeds of 30 feet/minute (9 m/minute). For work inside the structure and other confined areas the Klimerlite is being used. The daily quantity of stone installed per person is about 50 square feet (4.6 square metres) with two to four people on a platform at one time.

Finnish manufacturer Scanclimber is creating a lot of interest with its Monster SC8000 mast climbing work platform. Capable of lifting 6,160 pounds (2,800 Kg) with a platform length of 55 feet (16.9 m) the single mast unit is aptly named. The twin version can provide a 151 feet (46 m) long platform.

The industry’s approach to solving complex projects, and introducing new ideas and technologies, even the depths of a recession, has been reflected in the recently published shortlist for the International Awards for Powered Access (IAPAs). The awards, which are formally announced in a glittering dinner event in Miami on the 25th of March this year are seen as international recognition for excellence in the powered access industry worldwide. Members of the mast climbing work platform industry appear on the shortlist no less than nine times, much more than in previous years, and US companies are heavily featured.

Shortlisted companies include Mastclimbers LLC, Hydro Mobile, EZ Scaffold, Alimak Hek, Geda and Scanclimber. Klimer, Hydro Mobil and Fraco have also entered the Access Photograph of the Year category, which will also be announced on the night.

On the up

It is testament to the continuing entrepreneurial spirit and sheer hard work and determination of the mast climber manufacturers that we can still marvel at the solutions they come up with for some of the world’s top construction projects. The mast climber product is still discovering its true potential and it’s that spirit of inventiveness within the manufacturers which has kept many of them commercially alive in these trying times.

The industry has also benefited from a focus on increased safety. In addition to the inventiveness and product development, the industry has been working extremely hard to raise standards of safety. Comprehensive training courses, new regulations, co-operative work with government regulators and the raising of safety awareness with contractors and rental companies is facilitating the uptake of the product for all the right reasons, and when that happens it makes selling the product rather less dependent on price.

If you are attending the IPAF Summit and the International Awards for Powered Access (IAPA) in Miami, look for the members of the mast climber industry. They will all be gathered together in a show of strength and unity to cheer each other on when, hopefully, one of their group wins an IAPA. They’ll be easy to spot, they’ll be the optimistic, hard-working, resourceful, and they’ll be having fun.

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