Keeping Things Light
Small-equipment distributors talk about trends, efficiency and safety

As more construction projects in the affordable housing and education sectors ramp up, there’s an increased demand for lightweight equipment—not only for ease-of-use, but also for efficiency.

Light Trends

“Technology improvements have resulted in batteries becoming more powerful, longer-lasting and more efficient, and we are seeing a surge in interest in cordless options for all types of light equipment,” explains Samson Castillo, East Hawaii sales manager for HPM Building Supply on the Big Island.

He adds, “For paint sprayers, manufacturers are developing unique spray tips, such as low-pressure tips, with less overspray.”

MK Equipment Corp. is a construction equipment rental firm that focuses on small contractor tools—such as masonry, site work, trenching, landscape, demolition, compaction, pump and power equipment.

“We have noticed a demand in inquiries for smaller electric aerial lifts and smaller-sized track loaders,” says Michelle Nelson, president of MK Equipment Corp. “We feel that more emphasis is being put on safety and efficiency, and this has led to the influx of inquiries for smaller items.”

Service Rentals & Supplies Inc. also specializes in light and compact equipment, such as air compressors or even small rammers to fill potholes.

Recently, it has added more forklifts, scarifiers, scissor lifts, mini excavators, mini-loaders, light towers and generators to its inventory.

“This year in particular, we are seeing an increase in companies needing industrial 5,000-pound-capacity forklift trucks,” says Ryan Ouye, chief executive officer and owner of Service Rentals. “There are a lot of jobs involving renovations and repairs, and customers need to have forklifts on-site to increase productivity.”

Ouye says another high-demand item is their Doosan LCV6 LED 4,000-Watt towable light tower.

“These have been popular for many years—not just with contractors, but with homeowners and event coordinators, as well. These lights are very portable—anyone with a truck and a hitch can drive it to where it needs to go. They are also very easy to use. Lastly, the new LED bulbs illuminate any area with a bright and vibrant light, with no warm-up period.”

California’s trend is toward electric-powered light equipment due to its strict environmental laws, according to MK’s Nelson, so “since they set the trends, we should start seeing more of that.”

Additionally, she says, “Some upcoming trends include virtual training for operating forklifts and man-lifts, so operators can train safely in a virtual environment first, before going out.

“The lifts themselves are always advancing in the areas of safety. For loaders, emerging tech is being developed to eliminate blind spots by using cameras and smart windshields. Remote-controlled rollers are useful for tight spots and are safer since the operator can be at a distance while operating them.”

Safety and Training

According to James Allison, district manager for Sunbelt Rentals Inc., every employee at Sunbelt is required to be certified to operate any Mobile Equipment Work Platform (MEWP) and forklift. The company has several certified in-house trainers who are responsible for certifying the crews.

At Service Rentals, “Our staff undergoes a fairly rigorous safety training process—both when they are hired, and throughout their time at our company,” says Ryan Ouye. “It’s extremely important for our staff to understand the dangers presented with any kind of machine, because they need to be able to communicate the same message to the customers who will be using them.

“A very common injury we see with light equipment is lift-based injuries. The misconception with the majority of light equipment is that it is light enough to be carried by a single person.

“While certain people can definitely carry a jumping jack by themselves, not everyone should try. Back and leg injuries are no laughing matter, so when in doubt, please lift smart.”

Shipping and Stocking

“Like many businesses that bring in products from overseas, we have experienced increased lead times and shipping costs during the pandemic,” relates HPM’s Castillo. “We know that many manufacturers have been affected by issues, such as raw material shortages and rising prices.”

But he says their suppliers and partners, even amid the global challenges, have been able to keep them in a good in-stock position.

“Although we are feeling some supply chain issues when it comes to repair parts, Sunbelt Rentals was ahead of the curve when it came to ordering new equipment in calendar year 2021,” Allison points out. “As a company we will have our largest capital expenditure fleet growth in 2022, with all of our equipment vendors to be delivered this year.”

Nelson at MK feels that strong relationships with its manufacturer representatives have helped them meet the supply-chain challenge. “We were able to get some equipment fairly quickly from some of them and were kept in the loop about items that were going to be delayed so we could order early.”

Future Projects

“One of the projects we are proud to supply is Coastal Construction’s Kaiaulu O Waikaloa project in West Hawaii,” says HPM’s Castillo. “This development will add more than 180 affordable plantation-style apartment units for desperately-needed workforce housing in Waikoloa Village.

“This is one of the many initiatives that HPM is involved in across the state to help address the housing crisis and increase the supply of attainable homes.”

CAPTION: The Hyundai 25L-7A forklift, considered light equipment, can lift up to 5,000 pounds. 


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