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Executive Report : Showing the Way
The Riwal Group has opened a big new depot in Hemel Hempstead and introduced an augmented reality app as it targets the UK access platform hire market. Nick Johnson paid a visit.
Ten years after it entered the UK access platform hire market, the Dutch Riwal Group has invested in a new, smart North London depot in Hemel Hempstead. Whilst best known for its very high-rise self-propelled boom lifts, the company has a growing fleet of low-level access platforms. It is also making good use of advances in augmented reality.
Worldwide, the Riwal Group now has some 14,000 access platforms but the origins of this Holland-based business actually stem from a former UK crane hire company. It was in the late 1960s that
Dick Schalekamp Sr. became General Manager of the Dutch-based division of British crane rental firm, Richards & Wallington. Almost two decades later, the operation added aerial work platforms to its portfolio under the name Riwal - an abbreviated and shortened version of Richards & Wallington.
Riwal UK currently offers approximately 1,000 access platforms for hire, from depots based in Wellingborough (serving the Midlands), Sevenoaks (Kent & South London), Wigan (North West) and now Hemel Hempstead (North London). Conveniently located near to Junction 8 of the M1 motorway, on the new Prologis Park close to Hemel, the purpose-built depot is very environmentally friendly. It features rooftop solar panels for pre-heating hot water, rainwater harvesting to re-use grey water and superior insulation to minimise energy loss.
The site has been acquired on a 20-year lease and a capital investment of £650,000 has been made to bring the shell of the new building up to Riwal standards. The facility comprises 1,951m2 of covered office, workshop and indoor storage space as well as 1,765m2 of external area. This should enable a maximum fleet of 750 machines to be operated from this location by 2021.
The fleet currently extends from low-level access platforms, such as the Power Towers Pecolift and Nano models, Bravi Leonardo HD and Skyjack SJ12/SJ16 vertical lifts, up to the largest JLG boomlifts. JLG is the predominant supplier of booms along with Manitou, Genie and Niftylift models. Scissor lifts are sourced from Genie, JLG, and Skyjack and, for the larger sizes, Holland Lift.
Hires for all UK machines are controlled from a central hire desk within Riwal UK’s National Customer Centre, which is now located at Hemel. The building also houses a new Training Centre, one of five in the UK run by sister company ALS Safety. This operation has embraced the use of the latest virtual reality (VR) simulator training for working at height.
The latest advances in digital interaction are also being introduced by Riwal itself. Now called My Riwal Rental, the company’s app has been cleverly upgraded to include an innovative augmented reality (AR) feature that integrates images of an aerial platform within a real-life site. By using the camera on their smartphones, customers can now view a 3D model of an aerial platform they are interested in hiring, projected onto the real environment detected by the camera. This advance takes the guesswork out of exactly which platform is needed to carry out a specific task.
The AR feature is now available on both the Apple iOS and Android versions of the app. Initially, operators can use the new AR capability to check out the suitability of Riwal’s 50 most popular hire fleet platforms.
As part of what the company calls its ‘Riwal Way’ of enhancing knowledge and skills, it plans to make more use of VR technology. In Holland it already operates a solar panel-equipped van housing a simulator for on-site training, and a similar unit is planned for the UK. •