Stringent new European health-and-safety regulations and a boom in litigation have driven demand for this West Yorkshire firm’s powered access machines. From its 17 depots around the country, the company hiresout its range of 4,300 lifts – primarily boom and scissor lifts – to the construction industry, shopfitters and maintenance firms.
Falls from height are the single biggest cause of workplace deaths, and the new Work at Height regulations introduced in 2005 require employers to ensure such work is properly planned. Powered access is seen as safer than traditional equipment such as ladders, steps and scaffolding.
AFI-Uplift reported turnover of £20.4m in 2006, having grown to the size it is today through a series of regional acquisitions driven by chairman David Shipman. In 2002 Shipman bought into the company which, at the time, had three depots and a fleet of 270 powered access machines. He initiated a period of rapid growth, expanding south, opening depots across Britain and buying competitor Alan Drew.
In 2006, Barclays Private Equity invested £15m for a 39.5% stake in a buyout led by Shipman, who then merged the company with Wakefield-based Uplift Power Platforms. Since then AFI-Uplift has invested £18m, largely in plant hire, and bought two further regional rental firms, effectively doubling the size of the company in two years.
This growth has delivered a profits rise of 114% a year, from £549,000 in 2003 to £5.4m in 2006. Not content to stand still, Shipman recently restructured the firm, appointing general manager Richard Saunders as managing director and reorganising the company into six regions. It is now looking to the Olympics construction boom to help power demand to the end of the decade.
AFI-Uplift says it has won one of the biggest powered-access contracts ever awarded, to supply all the units required for the first construction phase of Media City Salford Quays, future home of the BBC.
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