Lifting at your Leisure

29 May 2017


Demand for hoists and rigging equipment in the entertainment and hospitality sectors is buoyant. Sally Spencer reports

Suppliers of hoists and rigging equipment into the entertainment sector have been reporting good levels of business so far this year, attributing this variously to changes in legislation and to intrinsic growth in the market.

“We supply mechanical lifts to bars, clubs and restaurants throughout the UK and business is booming,” says Jess Penny, general manager for sales and marketing at Penny Hydraulics. “The market is stronger than ever.”

Legislation governing manual handling practices has been key in driving demand within the hospitality industry, she says. “Harmonised EU standards have played a part in ensuring safer workplaces in the UK. Business owners have a duty of care to their staff to provide them with suitable work equipment and therefore the more rules that are introduced, the more demand there is for lifting equipment. “As a result of this, almost all architects build in a goods lift into the initial plans for a building and all reputable pub and restaurant chains ensure all their premises have suitable lifting equipment on site.”

Mantracourt, designer and manufacturer of BroadWeigh, a wireless monitoring system for the entertainment sector, also cites legislation as a key market driver.

“We’ve seen a significant increase in demand since the summer of 2015 when we launched the upgrade to our BroadWeigh system,” says Jonathan Purdue, BroadWeigh business development manager.

“We have taken on key industry players globally, especially from the US and Europe,” he continues. “The BroadWeigh brand is well known in the industry and we see a large proportion of sales from word of mouth recommendations.”

He says that each month saw “more interesting and diverse applications within the entertainment industry” and that this led to developing new technologies to support the existing BroadWeigh range. He adds that the company had also seen growth in the rental market.

“There is growing interest in exact point loading and the variability that happens when hoists are at different heights,” says Tom Lilly, BroadWeigh sales engineer. “This is rapidly increasing acceptance of load monitoring as an improved tool for the modern rigger. More and more venues are asking for full weight reports and are always pleased to see live monitoring to back up the calculations.”

Lift Turn Move (LTM) also reports growing demand and has recently restructured the entertainment side of its business with the appointment of Stuart Fraser as head of entertainment products. According to John Jones, LTM’s managing director, the entertainment rigging market has increased “dramatically” this year.

“We have noticed a substantial increase in business from staging companies, where our larger capacity hoists are providing a good solution,” says Jones. He adds that LTM had seen the increasing use of its hoists by staging and production companies for several high profile world tours.

“The skills and experience of the people involved is driving the demand,” says Jones. “From our side, we feel the training we provide on our products is key to the support we give. For us it’s not simply about supplying a product but looking at the total cost of it over its lifetime. Proper training helps to extend the life of the chain hoists we sell.” The fundamental demands of the industry remain the same, however, says Mike LiLallo, director of industrial sales and vertical markets at Columbus McKinnon.

“End users expect dependable, reliable and safe products,” he says. “Users want motors and rigging products that can be trusted to perform with minimal maintenance and low total cost of ownership. Our products, from our Lodestar electric chain motor to our STAC, are designed and built to meet these needs.

“We are also seeing an increasing demand for smart technology.” He reports that “from the outdoor concert and sporting venues to the small house theatres”, the entertainment industry remained healthy throughout 2016.

“We have taken steps specifically to increase our support of the touring market with a presence at Rock Lititz [a live event company hub in Lititz, Pennsylvania]. At this facility we have a storefront as well as an entertainmentfocused training centre to support our customers in this sector,” says LiLallo. Demand is rarely evenly spread across all parts of the entertainment and leisure industries and while LTM says the production industry is doing “very well”, venues are not as active as they have previously been.

“We think this may be due to prerecession funding having now ended,” says Jones.

“We hope our latest hoist, the GIS LP500, will help us to be more competitive in this section of the market, thanks to its increased lifting capacity— up 60% on the previous model,” he adds. “The user gets more capacity for less cost on a like-for-like basis. Sometimes that means a smaller hoist will lift a load that a larger, more expensive hoist [has been used for] in the past. We feel that project engineers and riggers alike will find this feature extremely interesting.”

Penny says there is a trend developing for workspaces to double as entertainment spaces, which is blurring the lines between office and entertainment facilities. She cites the ‘Second Home’ project by way of example (see case study, below).

As far as the hospitality sector is concerned, Penny says the news from the pub sector was better than some people thought. “The reputable pub chains are doing exceptionally well at the moment,” she says. “We have been supplying lifts for lifting beer barrels in and out of pub cellars for the likes of JD Wetherspoon and Mitchell & Butlers for many years. Fullers has been a customer for over 20 years and is opening new premises all the time. We have just fitted lifts in six new Fullers pubs and two new Fullers hotels.”

In terms of the type of equipment customers are calling for, Penny says there is an increasing trend for pub and restaurant owners to install goods lifts in light wells. “Getting food and drink deliveries from the roadside to a cellar below ground can be very challenging and many old buildings, such as those in central London, were simply not designed to accommodate goods lifts. “When there is no space in or outside the building the premises owners use what space they have—and sometimes this is just the light well.”

Another trend Penny identifies is for goods lifts to be installed in warehouses, factories and retail outlets to operate between ground and mezzanine levels. “Mezzanine floor goods lifts are freestanding, lift up to 1,000kg, and can operate between ground level and up to three mezzanine floors,” she says. Mantracourt has seen good demand for the BroadWeigh 4.75 te load shackle. “It is popular because you can derate it to 2 te and gain a 10:1 safety factor, which a lot of people are now looking for,” says Purdue. “BS 7905-1 talks of having an 8:1 safety factor for most above stage use and 10:1 for lifting of people.

“In the past 12 months we have also seen the 3.25 te shackle increase in popularity, particularly in certain areas of Europe and the US.”

LTM also points to safety standards as a reason for the continuing popularity of high capacity hoists.

“We offer hoists up to five tonnes,” says Jones. “These hoists have been very popular for touring and fulfil the requirements of several safety standards.” Columbus McKinnon also cites the requirement for higher capacity hoists.

“The ability to easily transport and rig chain motors is always important, especially for touring productions,” says DiLallo. “Higher capacity, lighter weight units like our new two ton single-reeved CM Lodestar meet that demand. Swivel hook motor suspensions also add that extra dimension of flexibility when attaching to pick points.

“As a manufacturer of both motors and rigging products, we see end users asking for complete top-to-bottom, floorto- ceiling solutions, as well as individual units that have the ability to be integrated into existing solutions.”

As mentioned, legislation continues to have an impact.

“Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 was officially applied to the entertainment industry two years ago,” says Purdue. “For most people this has increased the paperwork. Any well-run show already did everything required and now there is an additional requirement for more documentation.”

John Jones at LTM adds that “new regulations are being written as we speak, with help from a UK committee”.

“Until this is completed, then [German safety regulation] BGV D8 Plus is changing the rigging requirements. For example, if you want to tour in Germany you would have difficulty using the older standard hoists that were used in the past.”

New products—and in some cases, new lines of operation—have also entered the market. For BroadWeigh the big ‘stepping stone’ for its progress in the industry was the launch of its new wireless system in 2015. “We already had riggers who loved our wireless kit but we were keen to raise the bar,” says Purdue. “The new system has a radio module giving four times the range of the previous system, as well as improvements in the omni-directional antenna and this has had a significant impact on performance. It also makes the system much more robust and reliable.”

The greater range is particularly beneficial on festival sites where the production office may be a good distance away from the stage where the load monitoring is taking place.

“There were two main factors that led to this upgrade,” says Purdue. “Firstly to eliminate potential intermittent signal—in extreme circumstances the old radio module could experience intermittent signal, but this has been overcome with the introduction of the new 800m range. Secondly, to provide greater functionality with the addition of smarter diagnostics, improved security and bulk updates on configuration settings.”

All the shackles BroadWeigh has sold in the last 18 months have had the new radio modules in them and have been very well-received. High profile events that have used the technology have included Mariah Carey and Adele tours, the Ottawa Blues Festival, Massey Hall in Toronto, a Live Nation Italy concert in Bari, Italy and a major American football league event.

LTM has introduced the aforementioned LP500 electric chain hoist, which GIS designed and manufactured specifically for the entertainment industry in response to demand for lighter weight, higher capacity hoists.

In addition to increasing lifting capacity by up to 60%, the LP500 also includes IP65 as standard, which provides better protection in external applications. And it is quieter than its predecessor—the decibel reading at one metre has been reduced from 75 to 65dB, which is a benefit for permanent venues or theatres. “It also has a different profile—square— chain that carries more load with better corrosion protection and, of course, increased lifting capacities,” says Jones.

“The LP500 launched in January this year and we have already sold our first hoists and are offering better solutions by going back over recent enquiries and requoting using the new hoist,” he says.

Penny Hydraulics entered a new market sector back in 2012, thanks to a business acquisition to complement its existing lifting equipment range. Penny Hydraulics R&L Systems supplies and installs raising and lowering equipment for lighting installations such as chandeliers and high mast lighting. Common applications for its winching systems include places of worship, theatres and stage light bars, hanging art such as pictures and sculptures, and advertising material. “Our chandelier winch systems are installed in Buckingham Palace, The Royal Academy of Arts, The Royal Geographical Society and many more,” says Jess Penny

LTM supplied LoadGuard hoists for The Corrs’ performance at the Liverpool Echo Arena in January 2016.
The JLS concert at the Liverpool Arena was made possible thanks to LoadGuard hoists supplied by LTM.
LTM also supplied kit to Royal Holloway, University of London
Penny Hydraulics reports that the cellar lift business is strong.
Stuart Fraser, pictured with a GIS LP hoist, recently joined LTM as head of entertainment products.