In 1993, at the age of 28, Vincent Dequoy launched Dequoy, Expert Conseil Inc., a small engineering firm that designed and inspected scaffolding systems for various industries. One of his customers was Hydro Mobile, a privately owned Canadian mast climbing work platform corporation. Dequoy worked several years steadily improving its quality, capabilities and safety. Three years later, his passion for the design turned into a new occupation when he decided to invest in Hydro Mobile and join the company.
Hydro Mobile's revenues jumped from $712,290 in 1994 to $22.6 million in 1999, earning it a spot on the 2000 Profit 100 for Canada's fastest growing companies. Also in 2000, Dequoy became the President of Hydro Mobile to lead it into the 21st century.
Hydro Mobile and Bennu Innovation, Inc., another Canadian mast climber manufacturer, have crossed paths several times in the past.
"The majority shareholder of Hydro Mobile during 1996 to 2000 was the late Mr. Jean Robillard," says Dequoy. "In 2000, I purchased Robillards' shares in the company, and I became one of the major shareholders. Jean left to start Bennu Innovation."
After Bennu launched its mast climber, Dequoy claims that several technical features on the Bennu model were taken from the patented Hydro Mobile M Series. As a result, Hydro Mobile filed a lawsuit in Canada against Bennu for patent infringement. The lawsuit was dropped shortly after Bennu filed for a protection under the Canadian Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, the equivalent of Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, in October 2003, and later liquidated the company's assets. Dequoy stresses that Hydro Mobile did not acquire or purchase Bennu Innovation or any of the company's assets.
In 2003, the CSST Canada's equivalent to OSHA became concerned about the weight capacity of the Bennu machines. An independent consulting engineering firm is conducting a review and is expected to report in the near future.
"I'm a structural engineer, and I believe that the Bennu capacity is inflated," states Dequoy. "That's my feeling, and I'm not the only one to think that. It's not up to me to prove it, and I think the safety organizations are doing their job to really see the calculations."
Since becoming President, Dequoy has continued to change the dynamics of Hydro Mobile, making the company more effective in the competitive mast climbing market.
"In 2002, we introduced the M2, which was a new generation of mast climbers for masons," says Dequoy. "It was more flexible with the ability to move vertically without removing wall ties. We adjusted ourselves to the market, which was getting more competitive at that time. I think we surpassed our competitors in terms of quality and ingenuity of the system."
In 2004, Hydro Mobile celebrated its 1,000th sale of the M2 mast climber, as well as the 10th anniversary of the company, which has grown to be the largest manufacturer of mast climbing work platforms in North America, with over 3,500 machines sold.
As well as expanding its product line, the company has also invested in the safety of the customers and their crews. With the introduction of the Hydro Mobile University, owners of the M series or F series mast climbers can attend a three-day seminar on the proper installation, operation and transportation of their equipment.
"In October, we introduced the new P series," says Dequoy. "While the M series is more for the commercial, industrial and institutional market, we designed a new machine to address the residential market.
"Over the last 10 years, we focused on larger mason contractors. However, we now recognize that the majority of mason contractors are smaller companies and this segment represents a huge opportunity for manufacturers in the field," he continues. "We want this new mast climber to target these contractors who usually work on smaller projects and residential. So the future is to keep growing in the commercial, industrial and institutional market with the M2, and also get more tools to the masons in the residential market. That's the main focus."
Safety is Number One Concern on
Baltimore Masonry Inc. is using the entire fleet of HEK mast climbing work platforms from Specialty Access Inc. to provide vertical access during construction of the latest $97 million high-rise structure in the rapidly developing Inner Harbor area of Baltimore, Md.
The large, waterfront multi-purpose complex varies in height from 18 to 20 stories on a rectangular site measuring approximately 260' x 360'. As with most inner-city developments, the time-period for completion is tight just 30 weeks to lay as many as 900,000 bricks.
Baltimore Masonry has been using mast climbing work platforms for almost 10 years and fully appreciates the many benefits in speed of erection, increased productivity and safety.
Tom Ford, Project Manager for Baltimore Masonry, says that the company started using mast climbers because of their productivity and safety features. "Safety is our number one concern, and these machines are not only much safer to work from, but are also much more efficient. With scaffolding, you have many problem areas the risk of planks being left out or guardrails not in place, so there is nothing to stop you from falling. Scaffolding can be overloaded, and it is not the user-friendliest system for bricklayers. Mast climbers offer a much safer way to work and increase productivity. They also allow the bricklayers to adjust the height to the preferred working position, so there is less bending or stretching."
On this project, the subcontractor has 19 machines surrounding the building to enable the 35 bricklayers and 30 laborers to work all facades at the same time. There are 18 HEK MSM Supers and 1 HEK MS 5000. The machines are in various configurations of twin and single mast. The maximum deck length is 70' and the deck width is typically five feet.
The machines are anchored at around 26-foot intervals. "We have tried to anchor through the window openings in to the concrete slab. This reduces the number of 'make goods' that we have to do when the machines are dismantled," says Ford.
Depending on the machine configuration, the platforms are loaded at ground level with up to 6,000 lbs. of brick. A telescopic handler places the palletized loads at intervals along the work platform.
>"Scaffolding was never an option on this job," says Ford. "To scaffold a building such as this, in a downtown location which typically has little storage area so just getting materials in can be a problem would have required a lot of erectors and a lot of time. And time we do not have. With the HEKs, we only need two to three people during the set-up and a forklift to lift the platform on the mast. And, unlike scaffolding, you do not have to wait until the building is wrapped. As soon as a mast climber is erected, you can start using it."
When asked what the problems were on the site, Ford jokingly says, "The other trades people who want to use the work platforms to finish their work. We have no problem with the machines, and we have some brutal bricklayers. In the 10 years we have been using HEK machines, the only failure we have had is a burnt-out drive motor, which we had to have rewound."
Victor Marcantoni, Northeast Regional Construction Sales Manager for Intervect USA, which is responsible for marketing and support of HEK mast climbing work platforms in North America, estimates that the cost saving is significant. "In this type of project, you use 30 to 40% less labor because productivity is that much higher, and employees are healthier because of the ergonomic advantage."
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