LinCon aims high as Australia’s leading supplier of elevated work platforms
When discussing elevated work platforms there’s a tendency to think first of portable, self-drive, scissor lifts that beep as they travel between light poles so an operator can change the globes. There’s still a market for this entry-level of equipment, but, with the strict operational controls covering the safe height access industry, there came the need for a total rethink of how to reach extreme heights in safer ways than using a box hanging from a crane.
Colleen Lindores is the director of LinCon, a company she founded in 2001 after 15 years experience working in the crane industry.
“Although I started in self-propelled elevated work platforms and scissor lifts, as we became more familiar with this section of the industry we realised there was a need to specialise in the bigger end of the market. We consequently moved from the self-hire light end of the market and tailored our business to work in areas that needed very specialised equipment,” said Colleen.
“Much of our success can be traced back to us being the first. We were the first in Australia to facilitate live line maintenance, the first to bring Palfinger Platforms – unique German manufactured machinery – to Australia, and we were the first to be appointed exclusive agents for Palfinger and Barin, plus the first to secure a contract as the Bronto service agent,” she added.
With its 17-year history, LinCon has become the undisputed leader in the supply of elevated work platforms, providing a national service in all states.
With over 70 highly specialised off-road access all-terrain heavy-duty trucks, LinCon is one of Australia’s largest operators of MAN all-wheel-drive rigid trucks, on which are mounted highly sophisticated extended-reach equipment that can extend as high as 70 metres, with a maximum outreach of 41 metres.
Jeremy Wales, LinCon’s state operations manager for Queensland, explained that the company’s core business was to be able to supply access for maintenance to equipment that in most circumstances would be classed as inaccessible.
“We were the first company to mount elevated work platforms (EWPs) on all-terrain accessible trucks in this country. In Europe EWP-equipped trucks usually only travel on the bitumen. Out here, power lines cut straight across the country over terrain that can only be accessed by highly capable off-road vehicles,” said Jeremy.
“When building new power lines or testing existing installations the power transmission cables run in a straight line. If they have to go over a mountain, then so do we, as we provide service access to all the major power networks in Australia, together with wind farm and telecommunications installations”.
“Our fleet of 70 MAN off-road vehicles includes 4×4 units that can reach 30-metre work heights, 6×4 units that reach 45 metres, 6×6 units that can reach 45 metres and our 8×8 MAN trucks that can reach 53 metres, 61 metres or 70 metres, dependent on the equipment fitted to each unit,” said Jeremy.
As Callie Le Roux, MAN sales executive of Penske Power Systems in Brisbane that supplies the MAN chassis to LinCon explained:
“Each new MAN is built to special order in Germany, with modifications made to lower the cab roofline, lower and relocate the front axle suspension to comply with axle weight requirements, and reposition components to facilitate mounting the Palfinger Platform.”
“The MAN all-wheel-drive capable chassis operates when on the highway as a single-drive axle, but when off-road the driver can lock in the transfer case to introduce drive to each of the remaining axles. Cross-axle and inter-axle differential locks can then be operated to further improve traction and vehicle performance,” added Callie.
The technology of the EWP is similar to that used in the design of fire appliance escape ladders, and, when is the boom extended, its stability is ensured by two-stage stabilisers that extend to 7.5 metres. The largest unit in the LinCon fleet has a reach height of 70 m with an outreach horizontally of 41 metres. A typical value for each unit is estimated at $1.4 million.
As the outreach increases the load capability in the basket reduces. Using a 70 m boom as an example, with an outreach of 33-34 metres the basket weight capability is 600 kg, at 38 metres it reduces to 300 kg, and at 41 metres the maximum SWL is 100 kg.
In all operating conditions, safety systems using interlocks take information from sensors that evaluate ground pressure to prevent any part of the system being operated unless all stabilisers and control systems are in place and operating correctly. When the boom is out of the cradle there’s an interlock that prevents the outriggers from being lifted through the Palfinger controls.
Prior to LinCon commissioning these MAN and Palfinger Platforms the only alternative for reaching heights such as 70 metres for service or maintenance was to use a dog box hanging from a crane jib. In these applications a crane is subject to a control of wind speed being not more than 7 metres/second. Using an EWP the control restraints are at 12.5 metres/second.
The increasing number of wind farms is also driving development by Palfinger of larger units, with the latest EWP design having a reach height of 100 metres and a 30-metre outreach at a height of 70 metres. At this level, the maximum permissible wind speed is at 17.5 metres/second (approximately 60 km/h).
Current wind farm developments underway in Glen Innes, NSW, involve the erection of wind turbines using 60-metre blades, and applications are possible for turbines using 90-metre blades with a hub centre 143 metres from ground level. Specialised cranes complete the erection of these turbines, with the EWPs being used for regular maintenance.
“Everybody has his or her forte. We are the largest company operating EWPs in Australia, and what we do we are extremely good at. We do not want to expand into new areas such as providing the maintenance crews, our job is to provide the access equipment,” said Tony Fish of LinCon technical sales.
“We are the agents for Palfinger in Australia and New Zealand and they work so well with the MAN. We have had experience of other brands, but the MAN will go to places that we would never contemplate if using another brand. The MAN will regularly outperform other equipment that is stuck and go round them because of the high ground clearance.
“It’s been that successful that we are going to put a 70-metre Palfinger EWP on a MAN 8×4 chassis because we were so impressed by the performance and ability that we believe in many circumstances an 8×4 unit will reach the destination, without having to resort to using an 8×8 unit at a higher cost.
“In the unfortunate event of getting bogged, we can use the outriggers to lift the chassis off the ground while we add material under the wheels to regain traction. This way we are very independent when in remote areas,” added Tony.
All maintenance on LinCon’s units is completed in-house, in accordance with Work Health and Safety service schedules that require 90-day inspection cycles with a further 2×50-hour inspections, every three months. The company also runs oil sampling at 400 hours at the same time as oil drains to monitor any diesel saturation.
One of the features of the MAN Electronic Control Units enables the monitoring of fuel use when the unit is operated in a stationary position on an hourly flow rate, as a contrast to simply monitoring fuel flow based on distance travelled. This can be a major benefit when monitoring engine idle rates.
“The uniqueness of our service is what drives our success,” said Jeremy Wales.
“We can provide a product range that extends from a Ford Ranger cab/chassis with a 13-metre EWP to an 8×8 all-wheel-drive MAN with an EWP reaching 100 metres. We also supply and operate underbridge units that can extend their EWPs to check under a bridge from the roadway above by hanging the EWP under the bridge and extending to a maximum reach of 22 metres.
“You’re not just hiring our machinery, you are buying into our expertise. For us, everywhere is accessible. No job is too high, too complex, too specialised or out of reach. We go to great lengths to ensure that everything is possible,” Jeremy added