Spiderman: Chris Taylor of CAT Access has a zeal for spider platforms.
By Maria Hadlow19 February 2010
The most frustrating thing about talking to Chris Taylor, owner and manager of UK rental company CAT Access is that he won't let me write about some of his more interesting jobs.
Being a comparatively small company Mr Taylor clearly wants to protect his commercial advantage but it's doubly provoking given the enthusiasm with which he talks about the scope of his work and the successful business he has built in a little over two years.
Mr Taylor started CAT Access at the beginning of 2008 with just one Platform Basket spider.
When AI visited at the end of 2009 he was impatiently awaiting the delivery of his latest purchase, a Platform Basket 20.10, which would bring his spider fleet to 11 - this is the first machine of its kind in the UK and the third ever produced by the Italian manufacturer.
Platform Basket Machines are supplied in the UK by Promax, which also supplied the CAT access Bil-jax equipment before BIl-jax was acquired by Haulotte.
Mr Taylor says he is very happy with the service he gets from Promax , it is important his machines are kept maintained in optimal working order as they are on hire almost constantly. "In 18 months we've had just one burst hose and a flat battery," he said.
Over the last two years, as the company has grown, Mr Taylor has added a number of IPAF trained operators to his team all of who are local people he has trained.
"70 to 80% of our rentals go out with operators," he said, "always in a two-man team to ensure safety." The operators have a company uniform and are responsible for keeping the machines clean and presentable.
This year Mr Taylor intends to expand his business further, opening at least two new depots - in Birmingham and Newcastle with planned fleets of 10 rental units including spiders and Bil-jax specialist access equipment. There may also be a third branch opened on the outskirts of London.
CAT Access may not be a huge operation by many standards but Mr Taylor personifies the work ethics and out-of-the-box thinking which could help many other companies through the recession and anticipated slow recovery.
Everywhere he looks Chris Taylor sees an access opportunity, as we drive to lunch (just five minutes) he points out at least half a dozen sites where CAT Access platforms have been used - churches, the local rugby club flood lights, housing estates and so on.
At lunch he is on the look out for the owner of the pub/restaurant who is about to embark on painting part of the building at high levels.
Mr Taylor is genuinely passionate about his business, a passion that is rubbing off on his wife, who has left her teaching job to join him full-time in the business, and his employees who were equally keen to get their hands on the new Platform Basket 20.11 spider.
Mr Taylor says that much of his business comes from word of mouth or from potential customers seeing the machines in action elsewhere. "I know a lot of people," he says, "I was 12 years at Nationwide."
Nationwide Access, which was bought by Lavendon and now operates as Nationwide Platforms Lavendon's UK-wide access rental operation is one of the companies to which CAT Access cross-rents its spiders.
Mr Taylor is, in fact very much more sophisticated in marketing himself than he admits, for example since actively marketing the equipment to householders through flyers and local lifestyle magazines 6.00am on a Sunday is one of the busiest times at the depot.
Private householders use the machines for a range of DIY jobs such as exterior painting, putting up their Christmas lights and guttering maintenance.
Because the machines are supplied with an operator the customer is completely safe and can complete jobs at height in a fraction of the time it might take with a ladder.
Mr Taylor's next project for the company - "after we've taken down everyone's Christmas lights," he said is to build a test centre and training room to use as IPAF training centre with a dedicated trainer. "Promax will also be able to use the facility for its training," he says.
As we struggle through the recession many rental companies are looking for a product which will generate income while construction is quiet. Mr Taylor and CAT Access are indicative of what can be achieved.
It is not enough to buy the machines, it is important to understand their capabilities and have the drive and vision to promote them to potential customers who may be completely unfamiliar with the technology.