Holland Lift: Working safely at heights
From Germany to China and from Dubai to Australia, in harbours, warehouses and at airports: whenever and wherever people have to work at heights, Holland Lift is a well-known name. Not bad for a family owned enterprise from the small city of Hoorn in the Netherlands.
The ongoing success of Holland Lift is easily explained however. Holland Lift is just one of the few companies in the world that builds mobile elevated work platforms (MEWP’s) with a height of over twenty meters. The highest work platform in the current company product range measures a daunting 111 feet, which is just as tall as a ten-floor building. Building a stable platform this high is a unique feat: no other company has neither the know-how nor the technique to construct a safe mobile elevated work platform using steel scissor beams.
Things are looking good for the enterprise from Hoorn, a former VOC-harbour city on the Dutch IJsselmeer lake, states managing director Eline Oudenbroek. The company was founded in 1984, developing mobile elevated work platforms for Tata Steel in IJmuiden. Over thirty years later, the company has grown to over 70 employees, with offices in Hoorn and Schwalbach in Germany. Holland Lift sells this mobile work platforms to rental companies, shipbuilders, maintenance-, building- and warehousing companies all over the world. Holland Lift is family owned, with ProDelta Investments, a Dutch family owned company in itself, holding part of the shares.
The highest platform measures 111 feet (34 meters)
Oudenbroek is managing director since 2013. She is proud to tell that Holland Lift realized a strong increase in turnover and revenue in 2016 and predicts similar results for 2017. Most of Holland Lift’s mobile elevated work platforms are being sold to rental companies like Riwal en Gunco. Companies like these often operate on a worldwide scale, which allows them to invest in high quality, heavy equipment. As stands to reason, rental companies demand the utmost of their machinery. Equipment must be low in maintenance cost and manifest a long lifespan. Mobile elevated work platforms, above all, must be extreme stable and safe. In short, rental companies need high quality equipment. Which is exactly the kind of product Holland Lift specializes in.
Oudenbroek: “Our work platforms are station built and offer the highest quality. Our biggest platform HL-340 weighs in at over 30 tons. Part of that weight will be lifted up into the air, allowing to lift an extra weight on the platform of 1.000 kg. It’s a big challenge to build a work platform that remains stable once fully elevated. We are the only company to have designed an operating system that can control these kinds of weights. The operating system is designed by our German sister-company. The German industry is well known for its technology and sturdy design, the Dutch are specialized in running a tight and efficient operation. Under the current market circumstances, this has proven to be a winning combination.”
Our platforms can be operated safely within the confines of a warehouse
When looking at safety, the English market definitely is a frontrunner. This is where to look for future developments. In the whole of Great Britain, especially in construction, hardly any company uses ladders or scaffolding anymore. As a result the demand for stable, certified work platforms has steadily grown. A second factor is the growing demand for warehousing capacity, caused by developments in the online shopping industry. Oudenbroek: “Warehouses up to forty meters high are not an exception anymore. In building these structures, mobile elevated work platforms are almost a necessity. Our work platforms can be operated safely within the confines of a warehouse. Which in turn makes them a valuable asset for building equipment rental companies.”
“All work platforms are built on site and by hand. Producing a big platform may take up to three weeks. When a platform is finished, it’s shipped from Hoorn to its new owner.”
Work platform are not only operated in high tech, smooth floored warehouses: they must remain stable in uneven terrain too. Work platforms that are suitable for the rougher circumstances that are commonly found in building sites and harbours, depend heavily on advanced technical solutions for security.
Oudenbroek: ”Our HL 330 platform can lift up to 1.000 kilograms in weight and still remains stable on outriggers. Even in strong winds, up until force five on the scale of Beaufort, they offer a stable working environment that gives working staff [labourers] a great sense of safety.”
What makes the Holland Lift work platforms special is their ability to be driven and operated with the work platform in an uplifted position. A dedicated hydraulic system keeps the work platform stable, no matter the circumstances. The design of the rugged base of the truck too is a lot more sophisticated than meets the eye. Oudenbroek: ”The suspension is designed to be able to navigate every kind of uneven terrain. Potholes pose no problem: the wheels remain in contact with the ground and always assert a steady upward pressure. As a result, the work platform will remain perfectly level. Even while driven over uneven surfaces.”
Walking through the production facilities in Hoorn, Oudenbroek points out the highlights in the production process. Oudenbroek: “The tallest platforms contain over 1.500 parts. The arms of a big scissor lift are constructed out of heavy steel beams. This steel has to be ordered four months in advance and a specialized welding company constructs the beams. We control the quality, take care of the powder coating and assemble the arm. One part that doesn’t have a perfect fit and the arm simply will not lift.”
In Hoorn, Holland Lift takes care of the design and the engineering. Colleagues in Germany manufacture the drive system. This hydraulic system is very advanced. It is the result of years of experience and partnership with international suppliers. Oudenbroek: “All work platforms are built on site and by hand. Producing a big platform may take up to three weeks. When a platform is finished, it’s shipped from Hoorn to its new owner.”
Holland Lift was elected within the ranks of the Fifty most Innovative Companies of The Netherlands in 2014. This reward was a result of Holland Lifts’ first hybrid MEWP: a twenty-seven meter high work platform sporting a diesel-electric drivetrain. In 2015, this ‘green’ work platform also won de IAPA award ‘IPAF Product of the Year’ in Washington.
In a parallel hybrid drivetrain, the diesel- and electric drivetrain can be used simultaneously or separately while operating the hydraulic system. When put in stand-alone mode, the electric drive minimises exhaust emission and reduces fuel consumption by forty per cent.
Smarter – not higher – is the future
Holland Lift keeps a keen eye on current market developments. Oudenbroek: ”We regularly exchange views with partnering companies like Liebherr. We do not expect that MEWP’s are going to be built even higher. That would involve using materials totally different from steel. We do think however, that regulations concerning safety, exhaust emission and noise reduction will become stricter. Our product development funnel is therefore geared towards better service. We already make ‘specials’ for companies like Tata Steel in IJmuiden and Aircraft maintenance companies in many European countries. Holland Lift has customers all over the world. Being able to use mobile data for maintenance issues is going to be the next big thing. ICT-developments will also become more important. A good example is an anti-collision system for platforms being operated next to airplanes on airport terminals.”
Holland Lift builds scissor lifts from 15 up to 34 meters in working height. The platforms have a maximum load capacity ranging from 220 kilograms to one ton and can be operated both inside a building and outdoors. The product range covers roughly thirty models that can be adapted according to client specifications. Customers can choose between diesel-, electric- and hybrid drivetrains. Holland Lift MEWP’s can be driven and operated while fully loaded even on the extended platform thanks to a low centre of gravity and a high-tech hydraulic operating system.