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Site visit: Gotrade workshop in Dubai

Truck & Fleet ME visits the premises of Gotrade to learn more about Palfinger cranes

PHOTO: Gotrade initially began selling Palfinger tail-lifts, after which it became dealer for its loader cranes as well. Credit: Jerusha Sequeira / MEConstructionNews.com

At the Gotrade workshop in Ras Al Khor, Dubai, two trucks are parked in the yard with bright red Palfinger loading cranes mounted on top, while technicians are busy at work a few feet away. The machines have been brought here for servicing, a product manager explains in the midst of the bustling activity at the site. Inside the showroom at the facility, a range of cranes of varying capacities are on display for prospective buyers to look at.

Gotrade, the trading arm of Dubai-based GORICA Group, is the UAE dealer for Palfinger, an Austrian manufacturer of cranes, hydraulic lifting, loading and handling systems. Palfinger’s vast product portfolio has grown to include access platforms, tail lifts, truck-mounted forklifts, railway systems and bridge inspection units. The company’s core product, however, remains the hydraulic knuckle boom crane, used for loading and unloading trucks and other vehicles.

In the loader crane segment, Palfinger has established itself as a global player, offering close to 150 models with a worldwide market share exceeding 30%.

The products are deployed in a wide range of industries including construction, logistics, emergency services, waste management and mining.

The relationship between Palfinger and Gotrade goes back about five years, says Paul Austin-Price, general manager at Gotrade. It began when some customers looking to buy truck bodies from GORICA wanted their vehicles fitted with tail lifts as well, leading Gotrade to partner with the Austrian manufacturer to meet the needs of the market. “It was a natural progression,” Austin-Price says.

As business continued, Gotrade went on to sign with Palfinger three years ago to distribute cranes as well and is currently in talks to sell its access platforms, he explains. The cranes have been doing reasonably well so far.

The construction sector is the biggest market for the loader cranes in the UAE, with a large proportion of the products supplied to block manufacturing companies. However, other businesses in the industry are also starting to see the value of investing in cranes, as it means they need fewer labourers on-site, Austin-Price says.

Gotrade’s key clients for Palfinger cranes include Dubai Municipality and contractors like Khansaheb Civil Engineering and J&P. Apart from its Ras Al Khor facility, Gotrade also has a branch in Mussafah, Abu Dhabi.

So how does the process work, if a customer wants a truck fitted with a crane? Austin-Price explains that customers generally approach GORICA for a truck body, after which the company receives the vehicle from the manufacturer to fit out the body. “Once the body is fitted, it will come to me, and we’ll fit the crane on it. Then the customer will take delivery.”

This ability to deliver a truck body along with a loader crane gives the GORICA Group an advantage over its competitors, who typically aren’t in a position to supply both.

Once the order has been placed, the time frame for delivery varies depending on customer needs. “If the chassis is available, and if it’s a straightforward body and a straightforward crane, we’re probably looking at between six and eight weeks from start to finish. It varies depending on how big the body is, if there’s anything special within that body.”

Safety first

While earlier a crane was little more than “an arm with a hydraulic lift”, machines have now become a lot more sophisticated, Austin-Price says. Customers in the UAE have also grown increasingly demanding, particularly as far as safety is concerned.

In line with these developments, Palfinger cranes are now equipped with sensors to alert the driver or operator when the machine is overloaded or in danger of tipping over. They can also be fitted with extra stabilisers, Austin-Price says. “Safety is a very important aspect of selling cranes. We have to know that the crane we’re supplying to the customer is safe for his type of operation.”

Apart from issuing warnings, the machine automatically goes into safe mode and stops functioning if it’s overloaded or forced into a difficult position. In this case, the driver or operator has to retrace his steps to restart it.

Manufacturers can equip products with top-of-the-line features, but there’s no discounting the importance of the operator in ensuring safety on-site. Austin-Price agrees. “We have a handover procedure that’s been laid down by Palfinger, so when any crane is finished and ready for the customer, we always train the driver in operating [it].”

Moreover, maintenance agreements are offered if buyers require them. In case an issue arises during operation, Gotrade can send technicians to the customer’s site to sort it out. However, such instances are rare and are typically caused by the operator or other external factors, he adds.

“If the crane’s in a position that it’s stuck, and if some of the operators aren’t 100% sure what to do, we might have to go out and release the crane because it’s gone into safe mode.”

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