Skyjack President Brad Boehler Eyes Future of Remotely Controlled and Autonomous Aerial Equipment

"The industry focus on return on investment will ensure that Skyjack will continue to bring simple and pragmatic solutions..." says Boehler. "Longer term, being able to perform tasks at height remotely or autonomously will certainly come eventually."

Brad Boehler, president of Skyjack
Brad Boehler, president of Skyjack

Rental asked Brad Boehler, president of Skyjack, what he thinks of the current state of the aerial market, what's driving it and where it's going. Following is an excerpt from that discussion: 

Rental: Where do you see the aerial market going in 2018 and how does that compare to last year?

Brad Boehler, president of Skyjack: 2017 started a little bit slower than normal, picking up in Q2 and Q3 and actually accelerating through the normally down cycle of Q4. For Skyjack the result was a record year! That positivity has continued into Q1 of 2018. The ARA has set its forecast at 4.5% growth and sees the sentiment continuing beyond year end. We entered 2018 with our biggest sales backlog ever and continue to ship aggressively this quarter. Skyjack feels very positive about 2018 as a whole.

Rental: What are the main factors driving the direction of the global market?

Boehler: In North America, strong stock market indices, a growing construction segment and continued positive rental market penetration seem to drive the market. In Europe, the market seems to have awoken from its slumber of the past few years and is growing effectively at the moment as well.

Rental: How will the new steel and aluminum tariffs affect the aerial market?

Boehler: The short answer is that no one really knows, but it’s exceedingly likely to add to everyone’s overall cost. Ultimately tariffs of any sort are a blunt attempt to influence nature or the market, when the real action needed is to increase productivity and efficiency. That being said, the industry is facing strong headwinds in terms of commodity costs, but we have decided to see the overall outcome of the new tariffs to our production costs prior to raising our prices in the market. If we do feel it’s necessary to pass through some sort of commodity surcharge in the future, we will ensure that we pass the message personally and effectively through our customer channels in our traditional, simple, reliable, easy relationship manner.

Rental: Do you think the industry is ready for the new ANSI standards?

Boehler: The development and awaited publication of the new suite of ANSI standards has been a long and arduous road. I think most rental companies have a good degree of understanding by now. Skyjack has taken steps to educate, our white paper on ANSI is available at our website for example, ( and we have given numerous customer presentations on the subject, produced much editorial material and encouraged rental companies to inform their customers through the use materials we do supply. The one area I think we have decided to focus on now us the actual operator and general construction companies. We have recently seem some confusion and misunderstanding at this level and are of the opinion that more general construction communication is required (as opposed to access-oriented publications).

Rental: Skyjack had a lot of news at The Rental Show and seems to be really embracing technology in conjunction with its “Simply Reliable” philosophy. What was the inspiration and where do you think it will take the company in the future?

Boehler: The one constant in life is change and to that end, Skyjack knows the future involves adopting some of the most advanced technologies. We also know that the way we implement these needs to be an adaptation in the sense that no matter how complicated the given technology is, it still needs to be simply reliable in both use and application. So if we look at our new telematics package we spent a great deal of time thinking the adoption through from the customer perspective. In doing so we identified a number of barriers to adoption that made us take another look at the technology and how it has been traditional packaged. That’s probably best exemplified by the “On-highway legacy” that we replaced with a true off-highway approach whether it be in partner choice or cost structure. Following on from telematics one immediately finds that there is a whole eco-system of “spin-offs’ that result... predictive analysis, insight reports, fact-based new engineering designs and more. Our focus will remain with the rental company, but we need to understand their day-to-day operations and in parallel with new technologies, we hope to supply pragmatic, but futuristic, products and services.

Rental: Skyjack has partnered with Serious Labs in the development of VR in aerial training efforts. What is your highest hope for this partnership?

Boehler: Well it’s a serious partnership in more than one sense! For Skyjack, we see VR as a way to reach more people and provide a revolution in the training segment. Time will tell but ultimately we see this and similar technologies in such a way that people will say “what did you do before simulation... and wow, that must have been hard.” The final goal would be to have effective, efficient training for everyone who will ever need to operate a boom or scissor lift.

Rental: What do you see in your crystal ball for the future, near and long term?

Boehler: I think once the fuss around ANSI has calmed down we will have a product that is well placed to take advantage of our new designs and move to a new control system. I see growth in the low level sector, some changes in the way our machines are powered, and of course, the continued expansion of products and services in the telematics or related ecosystems. But having said all that, the industry focus on return on investment will ensure that Skyjack will continue to bring simple and pragmatic solutions focused on the rental industry need to market at-height solutions to their customers. Longer term, being able to perform tasks at height remotely or autonomously will certainly come eventually.