Francis B. Stenton, Export Regional Sales Manager, Teupen Maschinenbau GmbH, Germany

One of the most frustrating experiences as an export representative for a specialist access machine manufacturer is not selling the product, but explaining the concept of such products to both the likely customer and future users. After gaining experience in selling a mainstream product for a scissors and booms manufacturer, where 60%+ of the production was sold to existing access platforms rental fleets and was basically construction orientated, the difference in working for a manufacturer like Teupen was a culture shock.

The concept of specialized or tailor-made access solutions is understand by very few. Access solutions are often understood to be catering only to a niche market. Possibly the size of the market has been underestimated. For example, a very big market for Teupen in North America and Europe is the "tree industry" i.e. tree cutting in roads, parks, gardens, cemeteries, children playgrounds, above electric cables in woods and coppices and so on, for safety and natural reasons. This applicability may not be seen in India or China. However, in these countries a huge market has opened up in the construction and facility management sectors. The factors triggering this demand are predominantly–modern architecture and market changes.

A New Market Opens

The phenomenon of indoor malls or shopping centers springing up where there were say the old Souks of the Middle East is one such example. The mushrooming growth of malls worldwide has opened up new market opportunities for access solutions, where none previously existed.

Modern commercial spaces are more and more large, spacious glass structures, often with atrium-style lobbies. Such structures are often at locations that are juxtaposed to a main road, river/canal, or other hindrances. The interiors may include features like -
  • Elaborately shaped glass roofs
  • Curved glass facades
  • Atrium-style lobbies often with marble or agglomerate flooring
  • Electrical fittings with variable voltage, pins/sockets
These impressive features are also stuff that nightmares are made of, when it comes to maintenance.

Issues for Facility Management

Facility management companies, by themselves a fairly new phenomenon, regularly face problems for cleaning/maintenance/installation/repair nature of these structures. The root of these issues lies in the lack of foresight at the planning stage. Architects and planners are unaware of machines and other products available for facility maintenance. At the same time facility managers are doubly hampered by budgetary considerations and almost a non-existent rental fleet market that they may approach. Further, the structure of the facility presents its own obstacles.

Say the roof is to be cleaned. The height of the roof is also likely to prove a problem in the first place. The feature, being cupola shaped and made of glass, does not allow the services of a cradle manufacture to mount a platform for the purpose. Similarly, a machine designed for such work may prove useless as there are obstacles in its path of movement.

The required power supply (400V for bigger machines) is not catered for as the use of such machines is not anticipated at the planning stage. Damage to the flooring is also another issue to be considered before any such equipment is brought in. Teupen specializes in access solutions to specific problems often with the famous LEO (Leopard) range of "Spider" machines on crawlers.

Where Teupen Steps in

With a market that is seriously underdeveloped to understand the concept of planning for maintenance, customized solutions often come at a formidable cost. It is not peculiar to India. Also in the west not everybody is that far down the line. At Teupen we find ourselves all the time advising architects, planners, consultant engineers, etc. selling the concept. At this stage it does not matter what the product looks like, or costs. We first need to establish and show that we have a solution to the problem, and then we can be more specific as to the model and cost.

Selling the Concept

Over the years Teupen has been highly involved in supplying serial model machines and indeed "specials" such as those on difficult projects like the "Gherkin" in London, Lehrter bahnhof, Germany, where in order not to disturb the aesthetics of the incredible architecture, our machines have to be not only functional, but unobtrusive. A part of the concept which also has to be understood is that if the application has to be fulfilled, like maintaining e.g. water sprinklers, due to safety and insurance reasons and if there is no other way, the price of the machine/solution becomes second priority anyway! Imagine if a fire broke out in a shopping mall, the water sprinklers failed to work due to lack of maintenance and people were killed, the building burnt down and the insurance company refused to pay out; what price the solution then? For a manufacturer like Teupen, working in more than 35 countries worldwide, part of the key to success is having good distributors in hand. The distributor is the local extension to the manufacturer and must translate the manufacturer's skills into something which satisfies all parties–market, distributor and manufacturer.

One hopes to have covered many, if not all aspects of the concept of solving specialist access problems at height, but the Indian market is big and the subject is deep, but should we be deemed to have awakened interest please feel to contact us.
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