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Telescopic handlers: Part 2

Thursday, 24 Feb 2005 ( #197 )
Special Feature
The two main telehandler markets for French telehandler manufacturer Manitou BF are the construction and agriculture markets. What is the difference between an agriculture telehandler and a construction telehandler? Christine Liew reports.

French pioneered telehandlers

According to Off-Highway Research managing director David Phillips, the first telehandler was built by French manufacturer Sambron in 1957.

Its telehandlers are now sold under the Bobcat brand since the company was bought by Bobcat’s parent company, Ingersoll-Rand, in 2000. In October 2000, Sambron adopted the name Bobcat France and now produces its telehandlers in Pont-Chateau, France.

Telehandler manufacturers around the globe include Manitou BF, JCB, JLG Industries Inc, Terex Corporation, New Holland, Caterpillar Inc, Mustang Manufacturing Co and John Deere.

World’s largest telehandler manufacturer

Today, French equipment manufacturer Manitou BF boasts that one in every three telehandlers is a Manitou.

Communications head Pascale Noel-Hudson would not disclose which country was the biggest export market for Manitou but said Manitou telehandlers were sold by distributors in 100 countries,"mainly in Europe".

"We sell 59 per cent of our materials out of France – mainly Europe but also other countries like Australia, Singapore and Africa," she said.

In 2003, 44 per cent of all Manitou materials handling equipment was sold to the building sector, 29 per cent to the agriculture sector and 27 per cent to the industry sector. Noel-Hudson said the figures hadn’t changed much for 2004.

Two major markets

The two main Manitou telehandler consumers are the construction and agriculture sectors. Noel-Hudson said some Manitou telehandlers could be used across different sectors by merely changing the machines’ attachments.

The variety of attachments for telehandlers enables their multi-purpose use in different sectors. Forks, hooks, buckets and platforms are just a few of the attachments (or accessories) available for these forklifts.

"Last year we developed an accessory called a roofer’s platform. A platform was attached to the telehandler for roofing purposes but the same machine can be used for a different application without the accessory," Noel-Hudson said.

However, she said it was not always the case that a machine could be used across different sectors by merely changing the attachment. Telehandlers are also developed specifically for different applications.

"For example, Manitou’s MLT series is adapted for agriculture."

Driver not always the owner

What are the main differences between telehandlers sold to the two main markets, the agriculture and construction markets? Alexander Gasc, Manitou’s marketing product manager for agriculture, explains.

"The most important difference between the two is that the driver of the agriculture telehandler is also the owner of the equipment," Gasc said.

"The forklift driver is a farmer. Compare this with the construction telehandler where the driver is not always the owner of the machine."

The Manitou MLT 523
"Each time a farmer uses the machine, he will use it for roughly four hours a day. When he wants to feed his cattle he will switch it on. He will drive it for four hours just for loading a trailer. That’s four hours a day, 365 days a year.

"The builder only uses the machine for loading and unloading. Once the pallets or bricks are unloaded, he stops the machine," he said.

Comfort therefore was a priority for agriculture telehandlers as farmers used the machines for prolonged periods of time.

Creature Comfort

"Comfort is not the same priority for the two different markets. A farmer drives a tractor and likes to find the same sort of comfort inside a forklift’s cab," Gasc said.

"As for the construction market, the machine is not only used for shorter periods of time, but often the owner buys the telehandler for people who work for him."

Gasc said it was common to find rental systems for construction telehandlers but not agriculture telehandlers, where heavy use could easily damage oft-used machines.

"Usually the farmer doesn’t like renting and will buy his own equipment. A farmer uses the machine for approximately 1,500 hours a year while a builder uses it for 300 hours to 500 hours a year."

Manitou has more than 20 models specifically designed for agriculture and comfortable cabs is a selling feature.

The Manitou MLT 526
The models range from the MT835 through the MLT series to the MLA628. The company said the MLT series was a favourite among users and had become a benchmark for its telehandlers.

The MLTs have a spacious cab that allows a farmer to be comfortable over prolonged use periods. The cab is soundproofed with good ventilation and  has an ergonomically-designed seat.

Another model, the MLA 628-120 LS, is comfortable for the driver because of its unique 360 degrees visibility with no blind spot. The turning circle for the machine has been reduced by using an articulated chassis to improve manoeuvrability.

"Agriculture telehandlers have to provide better visibility when working in the cab because the farmer spends equal amounts of his time at the front and rear positions when working," Gasc said.

He says of the first Manitou agriculture telehandler built in 1986: "The MLT 626 had a lift height of 5.8 metres and a load capacity of 2600kg. The engine was built into the rear and the comfort level is not what it is today."

Looking for performance

Another difference between agriculture and construction telehandlers, is the need for speed in the machines’ performance, Gasc said.

"For the builder, the most important feature is the maximum lift height and the maximum reach distance for pushing and loading bricks or pallets.

"Farmers look for performance. They want to work faster. Agriculture telehandlers have a hydraulic system that enables quicker movements and quicker cycle times where the boom lifts, extends and closes at the same time," he said.

Manitou’s MLT series telehandlers are all fitted with powerful motors (up to 123hp) and have high-performance hydraulic pumps. The hydraulic pumps enable the MLTs to deliver the flow and pressure needed to the boom head to operate accessories. The hydraulic system also makes the MLTs’ movements quicker.

Additionally, the Load Sensing system in LS-type MLTs is fitted with a load-sensing pump that enables the telehandlers to simultaneously raise the boom, extend the telescope and open the grab in very short cycle times.

MLTs are adapted for tasks that need to be done on a farm. They can be fitted with a wide range of accessories, like grab buckets, grain buckets, muck forks, silage unloaders, pitchforks and earthmoving buckets.

Indoor or outdoor

"Farmers don’t like tall machines but prefer compact ones because they must go in and out of buildings," Gasc said.

Manitou agriculture telehandlers have a lift height from five metres to nine metres and a load capacity ranging from 2300kg to 4500kg. The most popular models have a lift height from six metres to nine metres.

Compare that to builders who work outside and hence can afford larger telehandlers. Manitou construction telehandlers have lift heights from five metres to 25 metres and load capacities from 2300kg to 4500kg.

So, agriculture telehandlers must not only be comfortable, fast, and multi-purpose (with their different attachments) but good for use in confined spaces.

Manitou’s latest arrival in its compact series 5 telehandler is the MLT 523. It has a lift height of five metres and a load capacity of 2300kg.

This telehandler takes up the least space of all the machines in the MANISCOPIC range with an overall width of 1.8 metres and an overall height of 1.98 metres. It has a turning circle of less than three metres and its small size makes it well-suited to work in confined spaces like hen houses or old stables.

Agricultural application: a growing trend

According to the American Rental Association:

"Telehandlers have come a long way from their roots as brick handlers on masonry jobs. The machines' popularity soared when other contractors saw all the tasks these compact machines can achieve. The work a skilled telehandler operator can accomplish in a day is astonishing. Today, the     equipment is serving many building trades … The agricultural industry in Europe uses telehandlers extensively for agricultural applications, and that trend is growing in the US."

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