Safety and Productivity at Heights
With the projects are going taller, demand for safe and productive vertical reach equipment is on the rise.

Working at height has always been associated with a risk factor. Safety should be the most important factor that has to be considered foremost while working at height. Using traditional methods like bamboo scaffolding and wire rope lifting heightens the risk factor which adversely impacts productivity. Using aerial work platforms (AWPs) instead of bamboo scaffolding and rack and pinion hoists instead of wire rope hoists will improve productivity and ensure safe work at sites.

Types of equipment
Vertical reach equipment are mainly used to lift man and materials to heights. Hoists are the major category in these types of equipment. These are used for lifting or lowering a load by means of a drum or lift-wheel around which rope or chain wraps. It may be manually operated, electrically or pneumatically driven and may use chain, fibre or wire rope as its lifting medium. Other equipment used to work at heights are raise climbers, suspended rope platforms, and aerial work platforms (AWPs). In the recent past, there is a major shift from conventional and unsafe builder hoists to a more safe and reliable hoists. Spartan Engineering Industries, a major Indian player in construction hoists, has been at the forefront to ban the unsafe builder hoist from the beginning. ?Spartan have various models of passenger and material hoists. The recently launched hoists series are branded by ?Aviator? series of passenger and material hoists. The weight carrying capacity varies form 500 kg to 2 tonne. These machines are used at both medium and high rise structures. Rather Spartan?s multi-functional hoist replaces tower crane for rebar lifting application. Spartan?s multi-functional hoist has an attachment of rebar carrying attachment, which carries rebar measuring 12 m through horizontal rebar attachment. We also plan to manufacture twin-cage hoists in the coming year and is at design stage. We also manufacture Rope Suspended Platforms (SRP), popularly known as ?Gondola?. Spartan is a market leader in SRP and it is used for various finishing applications like plastering, putti application, painting etc at the end of the project,? explains Vikram Mehta, Managing Director, Spartan Engineering Industries.

New developments
Due to shortage of urban land and costs, the only option is to build the projects vertical if one wants to meet the growing demand for residential, commercial and mixed-use space. Many cities have seen the launch of high-rise residential projects in the recent past. With growing income and large numbers of people moving to urban areas the demand for housing is on the upswing.

B Shankar Rao, Managing Director, Alimak Hek, elaborates on the new developments, ?New trends create new challenges, however. Building tall demands harnessing the best available technologies and engineering skills to ensure the mega-structures are built rapidly, cost efficiently and safely to house thriving commercial and residential communities. Significant changes have occurred over the past decade in the way skyscraper structures are designed and constructed, placing new demands on architects, builders and other industry professionals to meet the challenges of meeting the cost demands of a highly competitive marketplace.?

With the structures are going high, demand for vertical reach equipment are on the rise with new improved versions that focus on safety and productivity. Major players in the industry are giving utmost importance in new designs and structures according to application engineering and adaptability to the new structures and projects.

?Spartan has always believed and delivered the best designs when it comes to construction equipment, not only in the aesthetics but also design as in durability, ruggedness and performance,? says Mehta. Spartan boasts of around 30 in-house design professionals and are well equipped with all the necessary design software and tools like SolidWorks etc. ?Each machine is manufactured after rigorous design stage, where best machines of the world in the similar capacity is researched, studied and then designed to match the international standards. FEA analysis is carried out well in advance while designing, where machines are tested at various heights, at adverse climatic conditions through software. This gives a near to actual performance of the machine even before manufacturing. Each machine is designed considering its application, site conditions, safety, convenience, ease in operation etc,? he elaborates.

Alimak Hek has been at the forefront in understanding the needs of tall building contractors, as Rao says, ?Our product development is a never-ending process of small and large steps to keep our products at the forefront. Meeting new needs, solving new problems, and accepting new challenges have constantly taken us higher and made our products faster, stronger, and safer.?

According to Rambabu Cheruvu, Managing Director, ConMechAuto Consultants India Pvt Ltd, new methodologies of construction are asking for value additions on the lift and reach equipment. He says, ?Tunnel form work?s adaptability into real estate has changed the process we approach the construction activity. Here in these cases we started using the tower booms for concrete placing and higher capacity tower cranes for lifting the table forms or tunnel forms. With the advent of precast structures gaining importance, the industry necessarily have look into a lot of mechanisation which further demands greater loads and greater reach.?

It is of paramount importance that equipment working at heights to follow strict safety rules. Spartan has taken adequate steps in meeting all the required safety norms pertaining to these equipment. Mehta explains, ?All our hoists come with centrifugal safety device, which activate by centrifugal force and stops the hoist in case the hoist?s speed exceeds a specific speed limit. Control panel in the hoist is one of the most advanced feature of our hoists. It is provided with flash light for easy visibility, joystick for easy operation and emergency switches. The PLC functions cover a lot of indicators like VFD trip, limit switch failure, phase failure exit door, open entry door, rack search fault etc. The higher/premium models also has a display screen, where the actual fault would be displayed for easy identification and repair. It is placed at a strategic position which would be easily viewed by the operator. These machines also come with mechanical lock and electrical sensors in critical areas like entry/exit door, trap door, erection platform etc. This ensures hoist does not start if any door is left open. To add to these, overload alarm indicator is also provided as an option. All these safety features makes Spartan?s hoists more reliable and competitive. Our SRPs also come with various safety features like anti-swing device. This is one of the most advanced feature of Spartan?s SRP, where it holds on the SRP and avoids swinging of SRP at higher heights and ensures operator?s safety. Our SRP also comes with roof attachment, where the SRP and the operator is safe from the falling debris or material from top while working. All these safety features in our machines display our commitment towards customer?s safety at site.?

?We give paramount importance to quality issues and are proactively considering to correlate with the top standards at par with CE or Australian safety and ergonomic standards,? says Cheruvu.

Just selling the machines does not end the role of an equipment manufacturer. It is important to have the operators updated on the new technologies and features being added to a machine. It will help in improving in the effective use of the machine and ultimately achieving the maximum productivity and total cost of ownership on the machine. Says Mehta, ?We regularly conduct training programmes at regular intervals after the machine is sold. We follow the principle of ?Train the Trainer?. Our training staff is specialised and well trained in advance before he trains our customers? team. Our specialised team trains the operator on the usage, application, maintenance and repair. Though we assure our immediate attendance on breakdown of the machine, we train them about how to use it efficiently so as to reduce the maintenance at the minimum. The training is conducted at both site and at office. Important training modules are shared with them wherever required.? Souma Ray, Director, Haulotte India, explains, ?We do periodical training of the existing machines as well as new machines for our distributors, re-sellers and customers too. We hold training sessions at least twice a year and additional training keeps on happening whenever new models come in. Training is very important in terms of operation and maintenance. If you operate a machine well, you will maintain the machine properly, and if you maintain the machine properly, the machine will have a longer service life.?

Market trend
Equipment manufacturers are updating on the structure and design of their equipment, be it hoists, SRPs, AWPs, etc, depending on the current project requirements. Customers are turning towards technologically superior equipment from the traditional ones.

?We will be able to revolutionise and achieve growth slowly. We have a lot of expectations from the prospects ahead in terms of business for our machinery. Moreover, we are also expecting positive growth from high rise constructions which are gaining prominence not just in metros but also in tier-II cities. This also opens new growth avenues. We will be focusing on expanding our reach to these areas as well by expanding our dealership networks. We already have 8 branch offices. We are also focusing on our export business. We already have a dealer in Dubai and Sri Lanka and are getting good responses,? explains Mehta.

About the current trend in AWP market, Ray states, ?There are more tenders coming out in volumes for AWPs, especially from PSUs like PowerGrid. Awareness is also growing and we expect that the momentum will pick up in the coming years. Though slow, the demand will pick up gradually and there will be localisation of business to cater to the demand faster. India needs to follow the world practices for growth and for this it is imperative to have a specific legislation on safety while working at heights.?

On the current market scenario, Cheruvu elaborates, ?In the past five years, these equipment were pushed through educating the clients on the pros and cons. In the current scenario these have become the essential and necessary tools to progress their projects. The markets are growing at a rate of 20 per cent year-on-year despite the setback to all segments of infra! The current trend of the sentiment to positive take off should witness a growth of an additional 12 per cent, i.e. overall growth of 32 per cent!?

Future outlook
With the structures are going high and the customers are looking for better equipment focusing on efficiency and productivity, vertical reach equipment have a bright future. With more projects Smart Cities, power projects, airports etc are taking off, there will be an increased requirement for these equipment. Customers in future will be looking for cost-effective and productive solutions. Considering these positive outlook, major players are gearing up towards cashing in from the opportunity. Says Rao, ?Our combination of lower maintenance costs, lower installation costs, lower risk costs, longer lifetime, higher residual value, and better utilisation of equipment speaks to customer needs. Productivity is promoted by benefits such as high capacity, reliable operation, easy maintenance, and solutions that can be flexibly adapted to fit the individual application and project. Productivity also depends on the fact that people do a better job and work more efficiently when they feel safe and have been well-trained in the use of their equipment.?

Ray is also optimistic about the future outlook on AWP market when he says, ?By 2019-20 we are sure that there will be exponential growth considering the current government?s forward looking measures would bear fruits in the following years. Use of access equipment in projects and across all sectors are steadily becoming a trend and this shall certainly become a necessity in future.?

Cheruvu puts it with an optimism, ?As the process and methodology changes, there is going to be a lot of demand for innovation on fixtures for the lift and reach equipment. The basic equipment may change a little bit due to the future orientation with respect to space and loads.?