Sustainability Key to Building Back, IPAF Summit Hears

IPAF Summit

SUSTAINABILITY, DIGITISATION and new technologies are key to building back from the coronavirus pandemic. That’s according to presenters at this year’s Summit of the International Powered Access Federation (IPAF)

The theme of the IPAF Summit on 18 March 2021 was sustainability in powered access, the challenges of operating safely and effectively in the post-pandemic era, and the opportunities of digital and technological innovation for safer work at height.

Headshot Suzanne Nichol at IPAF SummitSuzannah Nichol, CEO of Build UK, asked during her Summit-opening presentation: “How do we grow and build sustainable businesses? Pay suppliers on time, treat staff well, and invest in new technology. That’s what IPAF and Build UK have in common. We benchmark our members, and most now pay their suppliers within 30 days – while we’re not there yet, we have made great strides on this issue.

“We also want to make our industry more efficient, reduce waste and increase productivity. Why have one form when you can have ten, seems to be our industry’s mantra at times, and so we are building a new prequalification framework, the Common Assessment Standard. We think this will save the industry up to £1 billion a year, not to mention reduce paperwork and free up key staff for other more productive tasks.

“Last but by no means least we focus on people: Recruiting, training and retaining talent. Without the right people, we can’t operate. It is up to all of us to take our enthusiasm, passion and skills into schools to encourage young people into our industry. How we train people is really important and IPAF is definitely a leading light in that department. We need to provide more apprenticeship places and encourage young people into them. Finally, working flexibly has seen a major shift in the past year.

Construction Pipeline

Considering the post-pandemic future, she added: “Construction work is holding up and the figures from February 2021 show we are back to pre-pandemic levels already, albeit a lot of that is catching up on the existing pipeline. We are keeping an eye on the pipeline for the future, and we need to do all we can to make sure that the UK is a great place to do business in future.”

Søren Brogaard, the new CEO of Trackunit, along with Peter Douglas, CEO & MD of IPAF, spoke about the organisations’ collaboration in producing the new ePAL app. They said it is set to revolutionise the way operators store and share training certification – via digital PAL Cards – and log their equipment time.

With a digital demo of the ePAL app, it can also be used to create a centralised database that records an operator’s activities that can be anonymised and shared to benefit the industry.

“We can also use the app to encourage and make it easier to report an accident or near-miss incident through the new IPAF reporting portal. My hope is we can all share in a safer, digital future for operators,” Peter Douglas added.

Powered Access Sustainability

A virtual round-table discussion closed the Summit asking ‘is the powered access industry doing enough to be sustainable? As its starting point.

Discussion centred on the industry being proactive in marketing cleaner electric-powered machines but is limited by a need to balance costs and what customers are willing to pay. Other points were the need to get the economic imperative in balance with what the market will pay. Investing in battery technology to drive innovation and affordability was also felt to be important

The conversation touched on how powered access rental embraces and embodies the circular economy, the importance of enhancing the life-span of machines and batteries, utilising tools such as the Equipment CO2 calculator from the European Rental Association (ERA), and looking at end-of-life strategies for powered access machines. Participants agreed the pandemic would not halt the drive for sustainability.

The presentations and discussions were interspersed by announcements of the category winners of the 2020-21 IAPAs, as well as video presentations from sponsors and a closing virtual delegate networking session. There was also a video about how IPAF member firms have supported clients, communities or charities in the pandemic.

More than 1,000 participants from 67 countries worldwide. Peter Douglas, CEO of IPAF, said: “It’s fantastic that despite the pandemic, attendees from all round the world were able to benefit from a high-quality series of speakers and to participate in the celebrations as we announced the IAPAs winners. We thank CMC, Sinoboom, Trackunit, ZTR, Hinowa, Alimak and Imer Group for their sponsorship.”

View a recording of the IPAF summit here.

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