JCB Joins Powered Access Market

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JCB is entering the market for aerial work platforms with a new product family of scissor, telescopic and articulated boom lifts.

For more than 50 years JCB has been synonymous with digging machines. Its move into the powered access market, therefore, has generated many headlines in the trade press. But maybe we shouldn’t be too surprised.

Production of aerial work platforms is an $8bn a year market, with 130,000 units a year being sold; it is more surprising that more of the earthmoving machinery manufacturers do not seek a slice of it.

Received wisdom has it that dirt people look down while lifting people look up. The machines and the people that sell them are different breeds, it is said. That is why Caterpillar does not make cranes. Those that do make both cranes and excavators, like Liebherr, Kobelco and Sumitomo (Link-Belt), have kept the different sides of their businesses apart (although Kobelco has recently moved them closer together). But even these have not moved into powered access, deeming it too niche, too specialist, with not enough profit to be made.

scissor lift jcb

Only Terex, among the major names, has really tried to make a go of producing the full range of earthmoving and lifting machines, including access, but it too failed to fully conquer the dirt market. It has got out of earthmoving and is now focused on cranes and access (with some stone screening on the side).

Several powered access manufacturers also make cranes or telescopic handlers as well as aerial work platforms (e.g. Genie, Palfinger, Manitou, JLG and Tadano), but most are tightly focused on platforms (Snorkel, Skyjack, Bronto, Niftylift). All can be considered to be lifting specialists.

So how will JCB fit into this rather specialised world of access?

While JCB is irrefutably ‘a dirt player’ it has also been in the lifting business for nearly 40 years too. It has produced more than 200,000 Loadall telehandler since 1978, many with man-riding baskets as well as forks, so it clearly knows something about lifting.  The general equipment rental companies that purchase Loadall telehandlers provide a ready customer base for JCB’s new range of access equipment, so it is not totally alien territory.

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JCB has spent two years preparing its entry into this market. Its chosen way in is to put its badge on machines made by a Chinese manufacturer to JCB specification.  JCB entered the dumper truck market a couple of years ago in similar fashion, through a badging deal with Terex. Whether we will see JCB start manufacturing its own dumpers and access platforms in a few years remains to be seen. We do know, however, (because they have told us) that JCB will have a range of 27 new platforms on offer to the market place by the end of 2017, including scissors, articulated booms and telescopic boom machines.

JCB owner Lord Bamford says: “The access market is a truly global market and offers immense opportunities for growth for JCB. It’s a market that is ripe for a new supplier with the ability to offer industry leading, round-the clock-product support. JCB’s 770 dealers with 2,200 depots can deliver the back-up that global customers expect.”

JCB’s range of access platforms will include: nine electric and three diesel scissor lifts from 4.6 to 13.8 metres; five articulating booms – four diesel and one electric – from 14.9 to 24.6 metres; and 10 diesel telescopic booms from 20.6 to 41.6 metres.

JCB is calling its entry into the powered access sector ‘a revolution’. That may be hyperbole, but is quite possible that they could shake things up a bit. The question is: will access remain a specialist niche business?

Steve Rhine

About Steve Rhine

Community Manager at MachineryZone USA - All latest construction news on MachineryZone Mag!