|Brad Boehler, interim president, Skyjack|
RM: What do you see as the future for aerial equipment in general?
Brad Boehler: Definitely global growth, with adoption of aerial equipment in emerging markets. We’re already seeing this in South America/Brazil and China, with India and others to follow.
In terms of the equipment itself, model classes will continue to evolve to incorporate new technology and to accommodate the changing needs of customers and job sites. For example, there is a shift towards DC-powered rough-terrain booms and scissors, and towards taller/narrower models. We also expect to see continued progress in safety standards, with broader acceptance of aerial work platforms as a safe means to provide access and increase productivity in the workplace.
RM: What is your impression of what is happening in the aerial equipment industry right now and what is your outlook for the business, near-term and long-term?
Boehler: In the short-term, it seems clear that the aerial equipment industry is in the midst of a recovery. There is pent-up demand coming from customers as a result of nearly three years of greatly reduced purchases and replacements. Compounding this surge in demand is the construction industry showing signs of its own recovery, which undoubtedly helps pull utilization and rates up for equipment rental companies. In the longer term, we should be seeing some stabilization of purchasing patterns by rental companies, with healthy utilization and rental rates. We also will likely see a reduction in average fleet ages back towards normal, pre-recession levels.
RM: Historically, rental penetration for aerial equipment as a category has been about 80 percent, which in North America is more than just about every other equipment category. In today’s economic environment, do you see this changing?
Boehler: The vast majority of our equipment is sold into the rental channel. There are minimal quantities going to government, large end-users and retail sales. We also believe the rental industry in North America still has room to grow. Markets like the U.K. and Japan have more mature rental markets and penetration levels. Our strategy at Skyjack is no secret. We are focusing on growth and diversification, which will come through completing our AWP product offering and expanding our presence globally. Specifically, diversification plans include a full line of boom lift models to complement and expand on our 40-ft. and 60-ft. booms, and continued expansion into new markets as is currently underway in Australia, Brazil and China.
RM: Are you seeing more independents and smaller rental operations now showing an interest in adding aerial equipment to their inventory?
Boehler: From our perspective, the mix of various sized independents versus larger national accounts hasn’t changed significantly. The smaller companies didn’t completely shut off capital spending during the recession, which kept them in view. For rental companies in general, aerial equipment can be profitable to carry, but there are very few smaller rental companies interested or able to take on this larger and more demanding equipment. There are significant maintenance and safety/liability commitments required.
RM: One potential key trend on the aerial side of the business is low-level access equipment. Do you see this as an opportunity and how are you taking advantage of this opportunity?
Boehler: One of our newest products specifically addresses this trend. The SJ12 is both compact and lightweight in design, and satisfies many of the requirements of low-level access.
RM: What are some of the recent technological advances for aerial equipment? Does this help make the equipment easier and safer to operate?
Boehler: There are continual advances in technology in the industry and Skyjack’s engineering teams evaluate each for suitability and practicality. However, most equipment today is safe and fairly easy to operate. The greatest opportunities for safety advances are those that improve training and familiarization for the operator. Skyjack offers world-class operator training on AWPs to its customers and end users.
RM: Skyjack is considered to be one of the key manufacturers of AWP’s in North America. What’s your sales pitch? Why should someone carry your equipment instead of a competitor’s?
Boehler: Skyjack manufactures reliable, rental-grade designs. Rental companies choose Skyjack equipment because of this. They know this leads to lower lifecycle costs and ultimately a higher return on investment. Skyjack also is known for our high customer responsiveness. Rental companies can expect to see an increased emphasis on that responsiveness, as well as continued reliability in the years to come.