This wasn't the greatest year in the history of the rental industry by a long shot, but it continued to be a good time for innovation when it comes to technological advancement of equipment. Equipment continues to get more fuel efficient, with quieter, cleaner engines, and every year it gets more intelligent. No, the wheel wasn't re-invented or discovered for the first time, but if you compare today's machines to what was being produced 10 years ago, equipment is more powerful, more comfortable and more versatile.
This coming year will be a “ConExpo year” and manufacturers always gear up to show off their best and finest at the ConExpo show in Las Vegas every three years and I expect there will be a lot to see at this year's Rental Show in Vegas as well.
You can see the gold, silver and bronze winners of our innovative product competition in this month's cover story and hearty congratulations to Terex, Briggs & Stratton and Doosan for their achievements you can read about. This was not an easy year for our panel of judges because the “honorable mentions” certainly deserve recognition as well and you'll be able to read about all of them in the next couple of issues.
To all of those R&D specialists spending long afternoons on computer screens drinking coffee and researching and developing CAD drawings and other processes, you certainly earn my respect for your hard work. And you in the rental industry must know that most of the successful and innovative manufacturers spent a lot of time listening to your feedback and suggestions. I don't see how a manufacturer can succeed otherwise.
I hope you all get a chance to check out Higher Innovative Solutions' Phoenix Air Tamper, an engine replacement kit that replaces current Tier-2 gasoline engines with air-powered motors on walk-behind trench tampers. Or Point-of-Rental System's wireless alerts that automatically notify users via text message or e-mail when certain pre-selected events occur on equipment. Or CS Unitec's Portamix Hippo PMH 70 mixing station with its well-shaped balanced “easy-tilt” cradle for quick mixing and accurate placement of construction compounds. Or Deere's ZTrak PRO 900 series of zero-turn mowers with its “mulch-on-demand,” which allows operators to switch between mulching and side-discharging without leaving their seat. Texada Software's Systematic Portal uses Web technology to allow customers 24/7 Internet access to a lot of vital information. Wyco Tool's Sure Speed motor allows users to drive any combination of shaft length and head size with one motor by automatically adjusting its speed to the concrete load.
How about in aerial work platforms? Genie's duel-capacity booms allow operators to select the desired maximum load capacity and automatically restrict the operating envelope. How about JLG's E300 series boomlift models with improved hydraulic efficiencies, and 18-percent improvement in re-charging time. Skyjack's self-propelled vertical lifts with a slide-away platform that allows access to internal components even when the machine is in the stowed position.
There's a lot that's new and forward thinking from well-known names such as Caterpillar, Lincoln Electric, Gehl, Hilti, Sullivan-Palatek, DeWalt, Kubota Tractor and Toro, and others we haven't heard much about such as the Blue Island Scraper attachment from Daniel Manufacturing and the AirGo All-terrain package from somebody called Big Ass Fans. Now there's a name we'll probably remember.
This year's entries remind me that you don't necessarily have to be the biggest and have the biggest budgets, although that certainly helps when it comes to R&D. You require intelligence, imagination, fearlessness, willingness to take a risk and above all, listen to what your customers and the market are telling you. There are innovators in manufacturing and plenty of them out there running rental businesses as well.
To those of you who appreciate my commentaries — and since I do receive e-mails from folks about them, I sense some do — you might enjoy reading blogs by myself and Brandey Smith at www.rermag.com. Scroll down the left side to the blog link and check them out. You can read about my trip to Russia where I spoke at B2B-Rent's first ever Russian rental conference, you can read Brandey Smith's observations about the Innovative Product Awards, and dozens of other topics we've addressed.
I'm not trying to promote myself but to inspire more dialogue. E-mail or comment online, but we want to hear what you have to say. If you think we're right on or we're bleeping idiots, your opinion counts, right here, right now.