By Phil Duane
In this article, we’ll explore five strategies the Mobile Elevating Work Platform (MEWP) industry can use to boost the inclusion of new MEWPs in rental fleets.
Historical Perspective on MEWPs
As I reflect on the 80s and 90s when MEWPs first emerged and compare them to the machines of 2023, I can see the undeniable trajectory of their growth.
In the early days of MEWPs, dealers and rental companies faced unique challenges when they made sales calls. These pioneers had to employ a wide array of selling points to convince workers in construction and other sectors of the value of MEWPs.
The industry was in its infancy, and the benefits of these machines were not as widely recognized as they are today.
Fast forward to recent years, and we’ve witnessed the introduction of innovative products that have reshaped our industry.
One such example is the JLG 670SJ boom, which received the prestigious LLEAP award in 2022. This machine stands out with its self-leveling chassis, making it ideal for applications on uneven terrain.
Whether you own one or rent it for a job, incorporating this new model alongside a standard 60' boom requires a certain level of salesmanship.
However, it’s crucial to acknowledge that advancements such as these in the MEWP market come at an increased cost for OEMs which can translate to a higher price for the end user.
This sometimes slows down the adoption of new products, even when their benefits are evident.
How do we help fix this?
By learning how to more effectively market and sell these machines with their updated features and in some cases, newer, or less thought of applications.
1. Explore Cutting-Edge MEWPs
To help find the answer to our question, I set out to discover MEWPs that are breaking new ground in the U.S. market, moving beyond the common rental fleet.
My search led us to Tracked Lifts, a company based in York, Pennsylvania, that offers a range of machines with unique features.
Tracked Lifts’ MEWPs are capable of transitioning from turf to rail, making them highly versatile for various job site requirements.
One interesting use for MEWPs that many don’t consider is rail infrastructure work.
The United States currently has over 160,000 miles of rail.
With increased federal spending and safety concerns at top of mind, the ongoing need to maintain and improve our nation’s rail system is a never-ending challenge.
The vast rail industry encompasses seven major railroads in the United States (Class I) and over 500 short-line and regional railroads (Class II & Class III). These lines are critical for our country’s shipping needs.
Job site applications for rail work include the inspection and repair of: tunnels, bridge crossings, catenary system lines, and signals.
Tracked Lifts’ RR9/200 rail road access platform is a good fit for this type of work.
It’s large-section copper cables minimize the electrical resistance between the aerial basket and the railway wheels. The lift also complies with railway regulations in all countries.
As you most likely know, bucket trucks are commonly used for utility maintenance due to their ability to give workers access to power lines away from roads.
But, insulated bucket trucks are rarely found in rental fleets.
Some power lines often run down tight alleyways and across properties with limited access.
Tracked Lifts’ fully insulated booms address the need for more flexible MEWPs.
Their 22.10 46kV is a tracked platform model specifically designed for aerial work near live power lines.
Close collaboration between Platform Basket and Tracked Lifts led to the development of this tracked self-propelled aerial platform.
The fully insulated lift features ANSI certified fiberglass boom sections and has 72’ of working height.
The ability to safely maneuver around substations and powerlines after storms, or other events make this lift a crucial addition to fleets that help keep our power grid functioning correctly.
2. Consider Marketing and Sales Insights
To gain insight into how to effectively market these MEWPs, I turned to industry veteran Elliot Vigil. With years of experience in selling and renting equipment, Elliot emphasized the importance of bridging the gap between engineers and machine operators.
Focus on three fundamental principles when approaching marketing to the needs of a job site: speed, safety, and efficiency.
“Whenever you introduce a new product to the market, create a compelling vision of how it will be used and the problems it will solve,” Vigil said.
From a sales perspective, Elliot Vigil introduced the concept of the “Mick Jagger” effect.
He emphasized that sales reps representing equipment must prioritize customer needs over pushing what they want the customer to need.
“You can’t always get what you want, but you get what you need. Sales reps that represent the equipment must keep the operators in mind and need to stick with focusing on customer needs,” Vigil said.
Building strong relationships with customers is important, and understanding their unique requirements is essential for long-term success.
Vigil continued, “The sales pitch of what you want him to need better match what he is looking for. This will only build and grow the relationship you have with your customers.”
3. Understand After Sales Support
When it comes to the adoption of new MEWPs into rental fleets, another factor plays a pivotal role in the decision-making process: after sales support from OEMs and distributors.
I reached out to Bud Pecoy at Mid Country Machinery in Fort Dodge, Iowa to understand the importance of this.
According to Pecoy, support encompasses various aspects, including sales training, product knowledge, parts availability, and service/tech training.
“We have great relationships with the OEMs in access equipment and are loyal to them. If we add something outside of our existing line it can be costly if we don’t get the basics in support,” Pecoy said.
Pecoy continued, “We want to provide our customers with the equipment they need, they expect us to deliver additional help.”
To address the critical issue of support, I talked with Emily Shoemake, the Director of Marketing at Tracked Lifts.
She assured me that their experienced staff understands the importance of support in the industry.
“We have a seasoned team that understands how critical support is in the industry. We have a large parts inventory at our location in Pennsylvania. Our field service team has plans of doubling in size for 2024,” Shoemake said.
She added, “We know that this will be critical for our success and continued growth.”
4. Balance Safety and Efficiency
Safety should always be a priority in the MEWP industry, as it directly impacts the well-being of operators.
While there might be a fine line between safety and efficiency/productivity, safety should invariably win that battle.
Ensuring the safety of operators is not just a regulatory requirement; it’s a moral obligation.
5. Understand the Impact of MEWP Industry Wo
The success of a new MEWP product launch and adoption into rental fleets hinges on several key factors, from initial design to sales to post-sale support.
Each step of the process involves dedicated individuals who make it all work. As the MEWP market continues to evolve, it’s clear that people will continue to be the driving force behind its success.
Overall, I believe MEWPs are destined to play an even more significant role in improving workplace safety and efficiency across various industries.