Ensuring reliability and flexibility at altitude

Making mobile elevating work platforms safe and secure has led to the development of new systems that meet customer needs.

As a manufacturer of mobile elevating work platforms for almost 35 years, GMJ Equipment is used to surveying the landscape from above. When working at a heights, safety becomes an even greater priority than when on the ground, and with an elevating perspective, GMJ has selected Pilz to provide its safety systems for the last ten years.

Managing director of GMJ, Joe Cetraro, had already been interacting with Pilz, but it was visiting their booth at bauma, the Munich-based trade fair for the building and construction industry which had a quarter of a million visitors last year, which led to Cetraro to see how Pilz could further help and develop his business.

“Pilz was very professional in their approach and in showing how their systems work. A wide range of new systems and devices were available and Pilz personnel were prepared to further assist in designing and further improving our current safety system,” said Cetraro.

The implementation of the latest Australian Standard AS1418.11 10 -111, (Mobile Elevating Work Platforms – MEWP), set out requirements for safety that were not previously present, mainly safety devices to ensure stabiliser pressure on ground and category 3 emergency stops and based on the knowledge that Cetraro had of Pilz, GMJ decided to select the German automation technology company.

“We needed someone that could help us with these safety upgrades and Pilz were there for us. They assisted us with the design of the safety systems that we now have in place,” said Cetraro.

GMJ is a manufacturer and distributor of mobile elevating work platforms to both government authorities and the private sector. Their products help satisfy the needs of various industries such as electrical services, telecommunications, emergency services and vegetation management. One of the most significant safety issues is having platforms that can safely allow operators to work on live power lines. If an incident occurs in this context, the consequences can be catastrophic.

“The power lines don’t get turned off, so you’ve got to have proper systems in place that are failsafe,” said Cetraro.

Another major factor to take into account for GMJ is that the platforms are truck mounted and vibration becomes a critical issue for many electrical compnents.

To confront these issues, GMJ selected the Pilz PNOZmulti safety system to be installed on their platforms across the GMJ product line. Flavio Tur, operations manager at GMJ, noted how well this system dealt with the key challenges in the operating environment that GMJ was working within.

“The Pilz system complies with and exceeds all our safety requirements. One of our biggest concerns when we started using this system was whether it would stand the test of time regarding vibration and variable voltages, and it did easily,” said Tur.

With it coming up to 10 years since the first Pilz systems were installed on GMJ platforms, the systems will have to be checked for ongoing performance, however, Tur believes that the PNOZmulti will need minimal renewal.

Part of GMJ’s reputation and selling point to customers is the reliability of the platforms. According to Cetraro, Pilz’s equipment is essential in ensuring this reputation.

“We know that the end users target our equipment because of their reliability. Even though they’re remotely based we can fault find and repair in the systems that we use,” said Cetraro.

With one of the main advantages of the PNOZmulti being its modular nature, GMJ have adapted the system to suit their individual needs. With their equipment being used to operate in out of the way areas, whether in mines or electrical lines in remote areas, the equipment has to be flexible and adaptable. At the beginning, Tur and the GMJ team worked with Pilz representatives to find the right fit.

“Pilz firstly started developing the software and then gave us a good idea on how to run our systems to suit the multi mini, which was really good because that made our system really flexible,” said Tur.

Initially, one of the most significant features for GMJ was the fact that the system is easily replaceable, which fit into a core use case for GMJ.

“The fact that it has a SIM card as the main memory makes it so that if there’s any problem with the system we can replace the multi mini and keep the program in the SIM card. It was really good for us, especially because our machines are in remote areas,” said Tur.

From that basis of mutual understanding, GMJ and Pilz have worked together to develop new solutions that has enabled GMJ to extend its capabilities and the quality of its offering to customers. The latest area where this collaboration was explored was through the installation of screens on the platforms which increase the useability of the safety system and its user-friendliness.

“We can now interface the PNOZmulti with a screen which simplifies installation and increases diagnostic capabiities for our customers,” said Tur.

The next step for GMJ and Pilz is designing a system that can be monitored and accessed remotely via a mobile internet network.

“Pilz has been working with us for the last six months in trying to supply us with a mobile 3G network adaptor that will let us connect remotely to the machines wherever they are. They also offer us a cloud-based system, which allows you to remotely connect to a machine as long as there is internet connectivity,” said Tur.

This will enable GMJ to make updates to the system and guide the rectification of any issues to the machine without needing to be present, greatly increasing efficiency and adaptability.

Developing solutions between the two companies has led to Pilz bringing its in house engineers to work on issues for GMJ, which, due to the nature of its client base, sets high standards for safety.

“We’re continually investing in research and development in upgrading our equipment to cater for the electrical authorities and government departments,” explained Cetraro, noting that an electrical authority has different requirements for an elevating work platform than a painter or a tree clearer, but GMJ treats and supplies them all equally and to the same safety level.

“GMJ has been manufacturing elevating work platforms for close to 35 years and safety has always been a paramount feature of our industry,” said Cetraro. “In the future, I can only see it getting bigger.”