Breaking the Virtual Monopoly in Large Capacity Hoists

When horizontal space runs out, the only way to go is up. Office construction spending climbed by 11 percent in the last year, and in 2006, hotel construction soared by 56 percent. With many metropolitan building zones completely full, the focus has become vertical • where there were once 10 stories, there are now 40; where there were once 50, there are now 100. With all the high-rise construction, demand for large-capacity hoists has never been greater • but procuring them has never been more difficult.

Due to widespread hurricane damage in the Southeast over the last two years, high-rise renovation has increased, as well as remodeling and renovation of existing buildings. Several high-rise buildings were damaged to the point that they couldn't be occupied, but the basic construction of the buildings was sound. Revenue for these buildings is halted until renovation occurs • and again, the demand for large capacity hoists is on.

Until recently, a virtual monopoly on construction hoists meant that obtaining one could mean a large headache; a high price tag, a lengthy lead-time averaging 16 months • and options that are either unavailable or out-of-range budget-wise. Construction companies have found themselves between proverbial rocks and hard places: They have to take what they can get, when they can get it.

This virtual monopoly has been controlled by one manufacturer who has dominated the market for many years. Companies that purchase large hoists and rent them to contractors have been put in the precarious position of coming through on time despite the long lead times and high prices.

“If you can't provide a hoist in a timely manner, you don't risk losing business, you just lose it,” says Dennis Mannion, president of hoist distributor Beta Max. “These customers want these hoists now. In general, they're not thinking six months ahead, they're thinking one or two months ahead.” One rental company to which Beta Max was providing hoists said that they would have lost approximately eight jobs if they had waited the three extra months to get hoists from the previously dominant company.

But now, the large hoist market is finally breaking open, with new options, competitive pricing, and faster lead times. The timing couldn't be better. It's not just all the material • drywall, steel, lumber, electrical, plumbing, tools and forklifts • that needs to be taken up to these increasingly dizzying heights, but personnel and building inspectors as well. Many building departments prohibit inspectors from climbing ladders, which can delay forward movement on a site. “The building won't go any higher until we get a material and personnel hoist installed,” Mannion says.

Mannion and his company, Beta Max, are now the exclusive U.S. representatives for Pega rack-and-pinion hoists. According to Beta Max, the Pega hoist is affordable • especially in the high-speed model. This means a job can be kept within budget, and applications that require a twin hoist operation can easily be provided with one. Although most general contractors continue to rent hoists, the savings virtually eliminates the cost difference between renting and purchasing.

The lack of hoists also has limited the availability of those units with higher-speed motors. One contractor recently lost several thousand dollars while workers waited for hours to be taken up by a slower model; such delays on an already tight deadline can be intolerable. Another example of such a problem is a fairly common occurrence • additional crews from subcontractors are brought onto a job, adding a higher capacity need. If the hoist isn't fast enough to handle additional crews, man-hours are spent waiting on the hoist. The difference in pricing on Pega hoists means that most contractors can afford models with high-speed engines, reducing or eliminating such problems. The higher the building, the more important this factor is for both material and personnel.

The new, fully hot zinc galvanized hoists are easier to erect and maintain because they employ more powerful engines utilizing VFC drive systems in place of counterweights. The lack of counterweights means less occupied space, faster time to put up, and when it comes time to expand the height of the hoist (jumping), it is faster and easier as well. The more powerful engine also makes for a smoother ride.

The lead times for delivery of these hoists are shortened by 25 percent. Contracts are very specific as to job completion times, and for large jobs, delays can mean tens of thousands of dollars if they run past the contracted completion date. As mentioned earlier, delivery times also heavily impact hoist rental companies, which can lose hundreds of thousands in revenue when they cannot supply a hoist in a timely manner.

The Pega hoist is certainly no stranger to high-rise construction, and Pega is even being used for constructing the immense Dubai Tower in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, set to be the tallest building in the world at over 2,100 feet. Closer to home, it is being utilized in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay, and the MGM Mirage's $7 billion Project City Center • a project that will ultimately result in seven high-rise towers with 7,800 hotel and condominium units.

With the continuing increase in high-rise construction and renovation, demand will only increase for large hoists. Competitors such as Pega bring much-needed breaks in pricing and lead times so that contractors, with their crucial timeframes, aren't left on the ground.