The AlmaCrawler range of Athena, self-levelling tracked scissor lifts and Jibbi tracked boom lifts are making serious inroads in the access equipment market following their introduction four-and-a-half years ago.
Italian designed and manufactured, AlmaCrawler tracked access equipment, including Athena tracked scissor lifts and Jibbi tracked boom lifts, was first introduced to the Australian market almost five years ago. In this time, the scissor lift range has earned a reputation for operating safely in complex, specialised areas of the construction sector, especially on uneven, sensitive terrains where accessibility is a real challenge. According to Bob Mules, general manager for Almac-Pacific, the new range of crawler booms and ‘assist’ crawler mobile platforms will add to the brand’s growing reputation.
Mules is well known to the construction sector, having spent more than 35 years in the hire and access equipment industries.
“I started in this business straight out of school, working for Wreckair Hire in Brisbane in 1984. In 1987, I moved to Sydney to further both my work and rugby league careers, at the Western Suburbs Magpies. It turned out I was better at the former. I left Wreckair in early 1997 to become an accredited Workcover trainer and assessor, issuing of High-Risk licences for work platforms, forklifts and others,” he said.
After 18 months Mules went to work for Gillespie Cranes, and together with Chris Wilson they looked after a fleet of 120 booms and scissors.
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“At the time, Fox Studios was in full production and we were fortunate enough to work on such films as Babe, Mission Impossible, and The Matrix. The work included set construction, managing the lighting, and assisting the art department. We were either in the studios or out onsite, so it was a really interesting and challenging project to work on as no two days were the same,” said Mules.
In 2001 Mules was approached by Haulotte when they first entered the market and was the NSW State Manager for four years. In August of 2005 he moved to JLG as the state manager for NSW and within two years he became the national sales manager. From January 2010 until the end of 2019, Mules was the general manager for Australia and New Zealand.
“JLG was a great company to work for; great product and great people. The role involved a lot of hours away from home and plenty of travel. My wife and I discussed this; the kids were growing up and we agreed it was time to find the next adventure. I spent a month on the beach at the end of 2019, then the opportunity from AlmaCrawler presented early in 2020 and I thought I’d explore it,” he said.
Mules flew to Italy and spent a week with the owners of AlmaCrawler examining the operation and the manufacturing facilities.
“The quality of the product and their approach to the design, assembly and manufacturing processes impressed me most. The visit was invigorating, and I was excited about the opportunity and the challenges it presented. I could see a real position for this product in the market.
“The Athena tracked scissor lifts and Jibbi boom lifts are still viewed as specialised products locally, but there isn’t another product on the market that enables you to work on a 20° angle laterally or longitudinally, with the Athena scissor lifts, or 15° with the new Jibbi tracked boom range. The AlmaCrawler technology means the equipment, and weight-bearing points, are light, making working at height safer and easier than it has been before.
“You often see weird and wonderful things in the industry, with people jacking up equipment where they shouldn’t be, and putting in place ‘solutions’ to try and get a machine level. The patented AlmaCrawler Bi-Levelling technology does this automatically,” said Mules.
It took a while for the sector to understand and realise what the product does, says Mules.
“We still have a long way to go in terms of product awareness and education. After almost five years, construction companies are seeing the features and benefits of the range, and how it improves safety and increases productivity and efficiency on the construction site.
“These products don’t only work on inclines up to 20° or 15°; in the case of the Jibbi, they will actually self-level as they are operating, allowing you to continue driving. Previously you needed machines with outriggers, and once they are set, you are limited to the working envelope in that position. Now, with the Athenas and our Jibbi boom range, you can continue to drive when you are elevated increasinng both productivity and efficiencies. But as I’ve said, the most important issue is operator safely when they are at heights,” said Mules.
The Bi-Levelling technology is patented and is the only product on the market with this technology. The Athena range includes models with working heights from 8m to 14m, says Mules.
“The Bi-Levelling technology allows the equipment to self-level back to zero degrees when it is being driven. If you are driving up an incline or on uneven ground and the machine moves of kilter by 1°, it will stop. The operator reactivates the drive control which brings the level back to zero and the machine will continue. Every time you move 1° out of kilter, it re-levels you back to zero,” said Mules.
“We also have a Bi-Levelling, Self-Levelling multi-loader platform in the range. I know a couple of the specialist crane companies have these platforms; they’re ideal when operating in tight areas with very little tolerance. We have a 6t option with a self-loading crane, and a 2.5t option. These machines can carry beams, glass or whatever it is you are putting up or taking down. There is a remote-control option on the multi-loaders while the scissor lifts, and the booms come with a long curly cord cable. If the operator is in a confined area or loading the machine onto a truck, he doesn’t have to be on board. He can operate the machine remotely up to 3m away,” said Mules.
“Twelve months ago, we launched the first of our Jibbi boom lifts which features a 12m boom. In November, we will have the first of the 16m range in the country. That’s a 16m working height which gives you reach of up to 8.5m. I think the 16m will sit right in the pocket for a lot of the rental and construction companies, and we will be releasing 20m and 24m models in late 2021/22. AlmaCrawler has some exciting expansion plans and we are working hard to achieve these,” said Mules.
The Jibbis include anti-crush technology, which works with ultrasonic sensors, says Mules.
“The Jibbi anti-crush, Anti Collision Detection System will detect an obstacle at 1m or 1.5m (a distance you can pre-set) and the machine will stop. The operator has to override the system to continue. The system is designed to stop you getting into a crush position with the boom and this technology is also being included on our scissor lift range,” he said.
“The AlmaCrawler range is obviously different to anything else on the market and although it is capable of ‘straightforward’ access work, it is designed for specialist work. When the working surface is uneven and access is difficult, nothing else on the market can match the range’s ability to traverse difficult terrain. Preston Hire have a fleet of Athena scissor lifts and Kennards Hire have the largest number of models from the HE series. Many rental companies have Athenas in their fleets with Coates Hire having the largest Jibbi fleet. The Jibbi boom range will allow these specialist hire companies to offer their customers with more specialised access solutions,” he said.
AlmaCrawler has a dealer network through United Forklift and Access Solutions, a national rental company with operations in each of the states, says Mules.
“United Forklift and Access Solutions were appointed Almac-Pacific’s dealer back in 2018 and have invested heavily in the product, in spare parts holding and in training their dedicated sales team. This dedicated sales team is on the ground in each state and have been trained in all aspects of the product,” said Mules.
“United Forklift and Access Solutions also has a trained service team who support the product, either through their national network of workshops or their extensive field service team. United carry stock in almost every state in Australia and their commitment to the AlmaCrawler product sees our partnership continue to go from strength to strength. United look after the end user/retail market as well as rental companies, outside of the national rentals companies.
“We use Youngman Richardson (YRCO) to sell and support our product in New Zealand. YRCO has been our dealer since mid 2019 and its team has done a great job in promoting and supporting our products over this period. YRCO has a dedicated sales team for the AlmaCrawler product, and this team has been trained in all aspects of our products. YRCO also hold a vast range of spare parts and boast a trained service team, both workshop and field based, operating from their branches in Auckland and Christchurch,” said Mules.
“We recently set up a factory in Pakenham, Victoria, which enables us to bring stock into Australia. This means our dealers get what they need in terms of access to stock, and we are able to cater to demand from the major national rental companies we deal directly with,” he said.
Next door to the new facility in Pakenham is a company called Swift Equipment. They are the parts dealer for the AlmaCrawler range. They hold a vast range of our parts in stock, particularly fast and medium moving parts.
“As we bring more products into the marketplace, we will bring more parts to support these and at some stage we will set up a parts department ourselves. From a service and support point of view, United Forklifts and Access Solutions look after the machines by including service packages with the machines they sell. Access Service Australia are based in Brisbane with facilities around the country; they look after the Kennards range and support us when needed,” said Mules.
“As we grow, we will certainly look at adding a degree of service to our offering. When we all get through the current restrictions and we can see the ‘new normal’, we will certainly examine what is required in terms of service and support for the AlmaCrawler range, to ensure we are meeting our customer’s expectations,” he said.