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Rising to the challenge

12 December 2012

Low quality Chinese imports are damaging the reputation of scissor lifts at the ergonomic end of the market says Darren Papani, director, Edmolift The UK faces a challenge in maintaining standards at the lower end of

Low quality Chinese imports are damaging the reputation of scissor lifts at the ergonomic end of the market says Darren Papani, director, Edmolift

The UK faces a challenge in maintaining standards at the lower end of the ergonomic scissor lift market. In the last five years, the market has been increasingly exposed to low price imports with low quality to match.

"The problem is not Chinese imports per se," says Darren Papani, director, Edmolift. "Indeed we have a budget range of products made in China under very controlled conditions.We have an issue when a low quality piece of Chinese equipment is bought by a UK customer. He uses it for a year, the thing falls apart and that tarnishes our industry." The danger is clear.When customers have switched to a scissor trolley from, say a stacker truck that was used every day for 20 years, and it needs to be replaced within 12 months, the whole scissor lift industry loses.

It's simply a question of getting what you pay for, argues Papani. "Some manufacturers in China look at scissor lifts almost as a hobby product, for use in the garage at home, but they fall short in the industrial environment. For example, we might put a 6mm platform on our products, and these lifts may have 16 gauge (1.6mm), they simply aren't man enough." Edmolift has responded in two ways to this challenge. First it has extended the warranty it offers on its products in a bid to reassure customers. Secondly, it has diversified its business away from the ergonomic lift market and from the manufacturing sector.

Edmolift offers a three year parts and labour warranty and a five year structural warranty.

"The typical warranty in the industry is 12 months, with one or two manufacturers offering 2 years," says Papani. "We've been offering our warranty for some time and it sets us apart.

Knowledge of the customer's requirements is key to our warranty. Once you have a handle on this, you can track back to the design process ensuring the kit is up to the task. For instance, it is important to know how many movements the kit is likely to carry out every 24 hours." Edmolift says the strategy has paid off, winning business while the kit has proved robust enough to stand up to pressures within the work environment. According to his own analysis, Papani says there has been only one installation where the 3 year warranty cost the company money.

Edmolift also emphasises after-sales service, and in most cases can get out to customers within 24 hours if they have a problem. The company employs a 24 hour customer contact using an email system.

Papani also puts its warranty promise down to the level of control Edmolift has over the products supplied to the customer. The Edmolift factory in Sweden produces 10,000 scissor lifts per annum, with over 1,000 destined for the UK.

Edmolift UK uses its own CAD designers and a number of specialist contractors to further customise products by working on the hand railing system, the bridge plate, the interlock system and other components. The company puts the products together and tests them. It varies according to complexity but it can take 8 weeks from start to finish to supply a scissor lift.

"Specialist fabricators are good at what they do. Most manufacturers will buy a hydraulic cylinder off the shelf.We produce our own, we make it 100% for that particular scissor lift and that application's requirements.We also produce our own power packs and electrics." Edmolift has diversified considerably in recent years, as the manufacturing industry has declined with a slowdown in demand from that sector.

"Ten years ago, we were heavily involved in ergonomic lifting at the end of the production line. That represented 80% of our business, today its 20%. You're now more likely to see our products at the back of your local supermarket.

"We had to move away from manufacturing, it has declined and so has that kind of business.We've seen competitors who stuck too closely with the manufacturing sector go into liquidation in recent years." Papani also notes loading bay equipment is getting more respect from customers, who now recognise its importance.

"Previously the building was finished or virtually finished when customers would get in touch with us.

"It's different now, we're in at the start working from architectural drawings as opposed to standing at the back of the warehouse with a tape measure."