Hiab’s latest development for the waste industry, the Multilift Futura, arrives in Australia this month. The man behind the Futura shares the story of bringing the new generation skiploader to life, from business case to launch.
Recognising the need is the primary condition for design. This was the assertion of Charles Eames, one of the most influential designers of the 20th century.
Eames was greatly inspired by a Finnish architect, Eliel Saarinen, who was renowned for combining his artistic talent with tradition and innovation in his work.
These characteristics are inherent in the Finland-based team behind the Multilift Futura, Hiab’s new generation skiploader. Moreover, the project manager embraced the philosophy of starting its design from a point of need – the necessity for better safety in skip handling.
Jussi Katajainen was the project owner for the development of the Multilift Futura skiploader. This quietly-spoken, knowledgeable and experienced mechanical engineer has worked with Cargotech – Hiab’s parent company – in Finland since 2003. As Hiab’s Product Manager – Demountables, he is responsible for researching and facilitating the development of hooklift and skiploader product lines.
So in early 2014, when senior management at Hiab were considering whether to continue manufacturing skiploaders, Jussi sprung into action.
As a leading provider of on-road load handling equipment, Hiab has a particularly strong reputation for its hooklifts and after sustained investment and development has enjoyed success in this product line.
“Hooklifts have provided so much of Hiab’s business for so long that the company had been justified in focusing its efforts in this area,” says Jussi.
“I saw the opportunity for us to bring a piece of equipment that hadn’t been developed for years right up to date. I thought that if we put in at least the same effort into the design of a skiploader that we’ve been doing with our hooklifts, then we’d have an exciting product that customers would be interested in.”
Jussi championed the business case to not only retain skiploader, but to create a market-leading piece of equipment to meet the needs of the modern, dynamic waste industry customer around the world.
Through meticulous research, he deduced that a new skiploader could contribute as much as 15 per cent to Hiab’s Multilift turnover. This would be achieved in part by meeting a major need in the waste management industry – improved safety.
“I needed to address two things in the business case,” Jussi explains. “First was to design a product that we could manufacture efficiently, and therefore offer at a competitive price for our customers. Secondly, and importantly, offer improved safety features. When comparing our old skiploader against others in the European and Middle Eastern markets, I saw that we were not offering safety features that were standard in their models.”
An important focus for Hiab’s leadership lately has been to reposition the company as a global equipment manufacturer. So making the new skiploader appropriate for customers around the world was also essential.
“The Hiab brand has traditionally been popular in Australia and Sweden, but now we’re no longer designing products for individual country markets,” says Jussi. “We are a global player and our skiploaders need to meet the needs of all markets.”
Jussi and his team got the go-ahead to scope the skiploader project in early 2014, then the designers started work this past April. The project team had expertise from all areas.
“Initially there was me and a couple of guys from sourcing,” says Jussi. “Then we had colleagues from quality and production. In the research and development team, we had six mechanical designers and two from hydraulics and electrics.”
As the project gathered pace, the team took over one of the industrial design offices. At one point, 70 per cent of the team in the Finland manufacturing hub were involved.
A future-fit design
Addressing safety needs and making the new skiploader fit for the future shaped the new design.
The innovations of the Futura concept came about to address two challenges that Jussi had picked up from the project research: safety of the operator and safety on the road. Jussi had discovered that the Germans were the frontrunners in skiploader safety features. His team also considered feedback from sales consultants, importers and some customers when designing the Futura.
During the process, Jussi visited Australia to better understand the challenges experienced by skip drivers and to obtain useful information from those working in skiploader sales.
“In Australia, we met some large fleet operators, who were keen to meet occupational health and safety guidelines for their drivers and others in the environments around them,” Jussi says. “Many were worried that some skiploaders were unsafe because the bins were not secured properly.”
The Futura has been designed to be safe to operate and prevent any accidents caused by user error. It has five key new trademarked features: SafetyPlus, SkipTop, FlexControl, SwanNeck and EvoLight.
Its SafetyPlus features include hydraulic side stops, container locks and lashing points, which work together to keep the skip securely in place. External alert buzzers warn people around the skiploader that it is in operation.
The dynamic on-board weighing system also contributes to operational safety. It weighs the container during the loading movement, helping prevent overloading and its risks to road-users.
The in-built SkipTop system, an optional extra, covers loads automatically and quickly to prevent anything flying out of the container.
FlexControl, which also contributes to user safety, allows the customer to choose what control they have for operating the skiploader. Options include outside, in-cab, radio remote controls, or a combination.
“With the radio remote control, the driver can operate the skiploader around the vehicle and see what’s happening,” says Jussi. “We had FlexControl and a dynamic weighing system in our hooklifts and we now have it in the Futura. It’s totally new to skiploaders. No other manufacturers are providing this.”
The SwanNeck 1.4-metre telescopic arm has been designed to give the driver more flexibility and increased reach over fences and obstacles. “If the driver can’t align the bin and truck fully, he can drive the SwanNeck over the container a little but retain stability,” says Jussi.
The EvoLight construction means the skiploader is made of lightweight, but tough, steel. This provides 300-500 kilograms extra payload, meaning users can haul more while saving fuel.
“The unit is very light,” says Jussi. “We understand it’s the lightest now on the market, but it’s built with steel castings, meaning it’s still tough and durable.”
One of the remits of the project was to make the product technically solid with an attractive design. Jussi is happy that the team achieved this goal.
“I think it looks fantastic,” Jussi states. “We are offering a factory final paint job in any colour, so it can complement a company’s branding. It’s unique, with the swan neck shape, but the design offers superior safety. We’re really proud of it.”
To offer flexibility for its sales teams and their customers around the world, Jussi deliberately scoped the new skiploader to be a modular design. The previous skiploader was constructed as one unit, which made shipping difficult.
“Building modular components at the factory in Finland makes it easier to transport the units overseas,” says Jussi. “They arrive partially dismantled to be reassembled at the dealer’s premises.”
Celebrations and distribution
With the combination of innovative ideas, mechanical design expertise and commitment, the new skiploader project took just under 12 months from start to finish. The Multilift Futura was ready for launch in April this year.
To celebrate, Hiab invited its employees, including those who worked directly on the project, to an internal launch event at the factory in Finland. Many of Hiab’s sales consultants and an importer from the Middle East also attended.
“It was a great feeling to celebrate the culmination of the project with all the team,” says Jussi. “We were proud to have produced this skiploader in one location – Raiso in Finland – to then ship it around the world.”
The Futura is now in full production at the factory in Finland. It takes seven weeks from order for the skiploader to be ready. At the moment, Hiab has four people on the dedicated production line, but it can add additional people to meet demand, with 50 employees working across the assembly line.
Jussi says that the Futura skiploader is “a very important product” for Hiab, for now and into the future. After initially launching with a 12-tonne model, the team is now working on producing smaller 8-tonne and larger 16-tonne versions.
The Multilift Futura is available to order now. Hiab is currently scheduling a series of test-drive days with a demonstration unit across Australia, which will be announced in the next few weeks.