Soaring to New Heights
Skyreach Equipment, Inc. builds niche with glass-handling equipment
You could say that the sky’s the limit when it comes to Skyreach Equipment, Inc.’s future. The renter and seller of specialized aerial construction equipment is growing steadily, with the company focused on providing safe and reliable methods to lift people and equipment in high or confined construction spaces.
Skyreach Equipment reports that its rentals, sales and service business has grown approximately 20% each year since the company was founded in September 2015 in Glen Burnie, Maryland. And, in Fall 2021, the company opened its first satellite facility to provide sales support and equipment storage in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
Glass is one of the main drivers behind the company’s growth in the rental business. The versatile material is in high demand within the construction industry. And, as a result, Skyreach Equipment has developed a niche market in renting sophisticated glass manipulation equipment to construction companies.
“The need is there—glass is used in more than 75% of new building construction. In addition to being attractive, glass can improve insulation resulting in greater energy efficiency,” says Kevin Gray, Vice President of Skyreach Equipment. “Fortunately, we’re gradually seeing glass handlers demand more sophisticated machinery to install it. They’re moving away from using three workers to lug a 500-pound piece of glass by hand. Risks for injuries and breakage are just too great.
“I have been traveling the world going to conventions to discover new machines and techniques for glass installation,” he adds. “I think with the specialized glass-handling machinery we offer today, we’re revolutionizing the way people are installing glass.”
Looking for Equipment Outside the U.S.
Kevin began developing his company’s niche in glass-manipulation equipment after attending a bauma show in Munich, Germany, in 2013. The bauma show is billed as the “world’s leading trade fair for construction machinery, building material machines, mining machines, construction vehicles and construction equipment.” There, he noticed a Jekko glass manipulator crane. The spider crane was equipped with a suction cup attachment designed to grasp large pieces of glass safely and securely.
“I was wanting to find some equipment not yet offered in the U.S. and this was it. I learned that Jekko’s U.S. headquarters was in Sparrows Point, Maryland, near us, so we started developing a relationship. We told our customers about Jekko, and then we began showcasing their products,” he says.
In the six years since Skyreach Equipment was founded, Kevin says it has become one of the country’s premier suppliers of glass-manipulation devices, aerial lifts, rough-terrain forklifts and mini cranes, primarily in the mid-Atlantic region.
Glazers are Ideal Customers
Kevin and his father, Michael, who is President, discovered early on the importance of developing this niche. Kevin expands on why glazers are an attractive target for the company.
“Glazers comprise about 75% of our customer base, and there are a couple of reasons why they are some of our best customers. They pay their bills, they’re highly trained and they always keep our machines very clean because of the nature of their work,” he explains. “This means less maintenance and headaches for us.
“We cater to these glazers’ needs with our tailored equipment,” he continues. “All our equipment has glazing packages, foam-filled tires and powered platforms, and all our forklifts feature enclosed cabs with heat and air conditioning,” he says. “These features may cost us more up front, but we think adding them pays dividends on the back end because the customer gets a better product.
“Operators need to be comfortable and protected from the elements in order to focus on the job at hand—completing their work in the safest, most efficient manner,” he says. “I think having these features shows how much we care about our customers. We pride ourselves on offering the safest, cleanest and most efficient equipment in the industry. And my customers don’t mind paying a little extra for this.”
Aerial equipment itself is reaching ever higher these days, too. Today’s telescoping booms—or aerial lifts—are capable of safely hoisting two people up to about 185 feet in the air, much higher than their articulating counterparts. Manufacturers are introducing other, newer equipment, such as telehandlers, which can lift products and people to heights not previously attainable. Skyreach Equipment has developed the telehandler market in the mid-Atlantic region with its line of Magni Telescopic Handlers’ telehandlers that can reach up to 167 feet.
“These telehandlers are expensive, but once users realize how effective they are and how they can increase productivity, they’re sold on them,” Kevin says. “Overall, our company offers between 400 and 500 pieces of glass-handling and boom lifting equipment. And demand for leasing our equipment is starting to come from all over the country.”
Another area where Skyreach Equipment is making inroads is in the rental of low-level access, mobile elevating work platforms that typically have a lift height of between 8 and 14 feet.
“We pride ourselves on offering the safest, cleanest and most efficient equipment in the industry.” Kevin Gray, Vice President, Skyreach Equipment, Inc.
Ensuring Safest Approach to Glass Installation
Kevin and his sales team are not just order takers; they consult with building owners, property managers and general contractors about their projects so the proper equipment can be recommended. Often, that can mean studying construction blueprints and consulting with glass manufacturers to determine the safest way to install glass.
“We don’t just write rental tickets,” Kevin says. “We write success stories.
“We tell companies that renting our equipment will help them reduce workers’ compensation claims because work assignments will be so much safer,” he says. “The efficiency of our equipment, which is produced by a wide range of high-profile manufacturers, can reduce the number of workers needed for glass installation jobs, too. What might have required as many as seven workers now can be done by only three to four. Fewer workers can lower construction costs and increase safety.”
Skyreach Equipment employs about 10 people, with each one capable of pitching in to do just about whatever job needs to be tackled.
“We encourage all our employees to use their initiative and assist customers in every aspect of their rental needs,” he says.
Training New Workers in Glass Manipulation
Another of Kevin’s priorities has been to establish SETS, which stands for Skyreach Equipment Training School. SETS is the company’s on-site facility built to provide specialized training for all the equipment the company rents and sells, with a special focus on the glass industry. This educational resource sets Skyreach Equipment apart from its competitors. Typical training may consist of several hours or up to several days, depending on the complexity of the equipment.
“One of the biggest struggles in the construction industry is finding enough skilled workers in certain trades. Right now, we’re expanding our curriculum to attract young people and train them in the glass field,” he says. “Within about six months, we also hope to offer our first classes to young adults coming out of high school who are looking for a career in a great industry.”
In addition to SETS, Kevin has launched an in-house apprenticeship training program focusing on the manipulation side of installing glass. Students are trained in both remotely operated and manually operated manipulators—from hanging and walk-behind manipulators to the crane-mounted alternative.
Kevin says the training facility and glass apprenticeship program are producing multiple positive results.
“First, contractors are learning which machines they like more than others, and this helps them in renting and buying decisions. Second, new talent is gaining real-world exposure by training on a variety of machines,” he says. “Plus, glass customers are being introduced to potential new employees.”
Kevin’s long-term goals include opening additional branch offices in the mid-Atlantic region with each one housing a SETS facility.
Notable Skyreach Equipment projects have included supplying equipment for the installation of heavy bulletproof glass for the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Washington. D.C., two years ago. Workers took about four months to complete the assignment and, Kevin says, were the only non-Chinese trade contractors engaged on the project.
Skyreach Equipment also supplied manipulators used in the installation of a glass wall addition to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, also in Washington, D.C.
“Each piece of its curved glass weighs about 3,400 pounds and was especially challenging to handle,” he remembers.
For a Bank of America Financial Center building remodel in Baltimore, Maryland, the Skyreach Equipment team consulted with the project’s engineer before supplying a Jekko glass manipulator crane and an atrium crawler. Workers installed exterior glass on the entire front of the building and then connected the glass to a curtain wall.
Kevin and Michael have a long history in the equipment rental industry and the two are proud of their reputation for safety, reliability and customer satisfaction.
“Our business has continued to grow because of our core principles—supplying safe, quality equipment at the most affordable rates while providing unmatched customer service,” Kevin says. “Details are important to us, and we strive to deliver the right equipment for the right job—every time.
“We only offer the industry’s top-quality trusted brands,” he adds. “Our fleet is maintained to standards set by original equipment manufacturers. What’s more, we continually update our fleet so that we remain on the cutting edge of innovations in the industry.”