The annual Europlatform heard how the global fleet of mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs) will grow almost exponentially over the next two decades to reach seven million machines worldwide, up from 1.25 million today.
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Pierre Saubot, chairman of MEWP equipment manufacturer Haulotte, delivered the event's keynote address, which comprised a fascinating overview of the history of the access industry and some eyebrow-raising predictions as to how the industry still has some way to go before reaching market saturation in even the most developed markets such as the UK, US and Germany.

His prediction that the global MEWP fleet could grow to reach seven million MEWPs worldwide in the next 20 years was even bolder considering he was referring only to self-propelled MEWPs and not vehicle-mounted variants.

Saubot insisted the target is achievable but only if manufacturers, rental companies and regulatory bodies work together to offer a safe and convenient product that meets end users' requirements and at a cost they can afford.

"The only way to create a market and develop it is to have between the manufacturers a large and developed network of rental companies," he said.

Manufacturers and rental companies must continue to work together to deliver sustainable growth by embracing safety as well as innovation in the marketplace, and by getting ahead of sustainability requirements by continuing to develop cleaner and more efficient MEWPs, according to Saubot.

Europlatform, held in Warsaw, attracted almost 150 delegates from across the European powered access industry, including representatives of 20 rental companies, including nine of the top 11 access rental fleets in Europe. The estimated total European access fleet size represented by the attendees was around 150,000 units, which represents more than half of the total rental fleet as measured by IPAF in its recent Global MEWP Rental Market Report for 2017.

Other highlights included presentations from Phil Godding and Ignacy Puszkiewicz of JLG Industries, covering topics such as standardisation of MEWP controls and the advance of new technologies such as robotics and machines that remove the need to lift operators at all but rather allow them to carry out tasks remotely from the ground.

IPAF's own Rupert Douglas-Jones presented the latest Fatal Injury Rate statistics and analysis, and reiterated the importance of IPAF's ongoing Accident Reporting and Incident Database to creating tailored training and safety campaigns to reduce the most common causes of accidents and fatalities during MEWP use.

Martin Vögtli, owner of a trio of powered access companies in Switzerland - WS-Skyworker, SkyAccess and SkyService - spoke passionately about the imperative for the industry to reduce its carbon footprint by developing new hybrid and electric machines and improving battery capabilities so that new MEWP equipment can compete in terms of efficiency and cost-effectiveness with more polluting diesel machines, and Jim Colvin, CEO of Serious Labs Inc, offered a glimpse of the future in describing how his company's award-winning technology can offer trainees a new immersive experience when learning to control MEWPs in both virtual and augmented reality applications.

It was also confirmed that the 2018 edition of Europlatform will be hosted by IPAF at the Europa Hotel in Belfast, UK.