The goal of scaffolding companies is to safely get people in the air. When it’s time to expand your offerings and diversify your business, the natural choice is to add other safe options for getting people in the air.
At the 2021 SAIA Committee Week meeting of the AWP/MEWP Council, Forrest Hester, Senior Director of Product Development at Tutus, LLC and SAIA Board of Directors member, shared with the council some insights on getting more people in the air safely through adding access equipment like scissor lifts and boom lifts to their rental options.
The two biggest benefits of lifts and access equipment are safety and productivity.
For scaffolding companies not willing to make a major investment in new equipment, Hester suggests starting with low level access equipment, or Access Work Platforms (AWPs), in order to offer a safer solution than ladders.
In spite of the fact that access equipment poses a high price of entry for scaffolding companies, Hester sees real potential for scaffolding companies to expand their profitability by adding rental lifts, as long as it is done carefully. He offered these tips:
Start Small with Stable Relationships
Start with a single customer, ask about their needs, start with a single piece of equipment that would meet their needs, see if it makes sense for your business financially, and build from there.
Scaffolding businesses get more face-time with customers than traditional rental companies so this tactic can be very effective.
Set-Up Service as a Differentiator
While there is some up-front investment in retraining your service shop on new equipment, once trained, scaffolding companies can provide better maintenance and service than rental organizations because their focused on a much smaller variety of equipment so they can become specialists instead of generalists.
Retain Relationships with Rental Companies
While it may seem counterintuitive as you enter the more traditional rental market, scaffolding companies can benefit from maintaining relationships with local rental shops as they add lifts and access equipment.
As a lift specialist, a scaffolding company can offer maintenance and service in their shop to rental companies that run out of capacity in their own.
Scaffolding companies can also build their entire access rental business around providing their access equipment as re-rents to larger or existing rental companies in the area.
Training Turns Users into Advocates
Scaffolding companies offering new access equipment to customers need to take the “training curve” into consideration and be able to prove to customers that the benefits of safety and profitability outweigh the time it takes to train users on the equipment.
Once trained, equipment users are going to know the most about the piece of equipment, so then will become advocates within their organizations to keep using that equipment or another piece of equipment rented by the same organization.
Equipment rental can be a reactive market, which means that the end users of the equipment will help drive demand for it. If you train them, they will rent.
Currently, materials for building access equipment are expensive and unavailable. As a result, used equipment prices are up and will continue to be up 18 months from now.
There are currently approximately 640k scissor lifts in the US. However, the consolidation of major rental companies that is taking place will help improve the availability of used equipment for purchase.
The most important thing to keep in mind when buying used equipment is that you have to make sure your shop is ready for service and to keep it rent ready.
Making the Financials Make Sense
The key to making the financials work is looking at the whole picture. Companies that put so much emphasis on rental rate and price tend to lose focus on real purpose of the equipment. Scaffolding companies need to sell the solution of safety + productivity.
Access equipment is often not looked at as a commodity in the industry. Changing that perception is key.
When looking to purchase equipment, scaffolding companies need to thoroughly understand their financing option. With the right financing, profitability becomes about more than cost and rental rates.
Filling Current Gaps While Focusing on the Future
It’s no secret that there is a current labor shortage in scaffolding. This can definitely be a factor in pushing both scaffolding companies and construction companies toward lifts. Access equipment allows you to do more with less labor.
Lifts also appeal to younger workers who place a higher value on safety than previous generations and trust technology to help ensure their safety.
Younger generations are also more willing to work with equipment than manual labor. In the future, we will see less people walking around a job site. Instead, there will be job sites where every worker is driving their own low level access vehicle with all of their materials wherever they need to be throughout the job site.
There is demand for more available access equipment in the market and an opportunity for scaffolding companies to sustainably grow their businesses through selling the safety and productivity of rental lifts.
This article was originally posted on May 4, 2021. It was updated on August 31, 2022 for relevance and accuracy.