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Sat 21 Nov 2009 04:00 AM

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High power

There is no substitute for small tools. We look at a market that has gone power mad for the hand-held devices.

High power
Tools await servicing at one of Dubai’s largest plant departments. Professional equipment is built for rugged use.
High power
Power tools of an unknown provenance piled high in a shop somewhere in the region.

There is no substitute for small tools. We look at a market that has gone power mad for the hand-held devices.

Where would we be without power tools? True, most motorised applications can be done by hand - but can you really imagine a construction site using hand-cranked drills, or cutting steel to length with a hacksaw?

So it stands to reason that power tools are big business. The world market is estimated at around US $20bn, with the total value of the UAE market pegged at around US $ 89.8 millionlast year.

As far as the Middle East regional market is concerned, it is difficult to estimate its worth.

Suresh Srinivasan, marketing manager, Middle East & Africa, industrial product division, DeWalt, feels that the power tool market in the MEA region is fragmented and in absence of any data it's difficult to put a value to market size.

Market Growth

As an associated industry, the fortunes of the power tool companies are dependent on how the construction sector is performing.

In the boom years before 2009, the power tool market grew very fast. Customers wanted tools and services immediately and the market registered a consistent growth of 10-15% year on year.

With the worldwide slowdown, the power tool industry has experienced deceleratio, though not as seriously as many of the heavy machine manufacurers have been reporting.

The slowdown will serve as a time when companies will be able to assess the market and focus on the necessities, such as deliverables, products and services.

"Our company will be able to support the construction sector in these trying times and will emerge a much stronger brand at the end of 2009. With the investments and plans that we have in place for the next 2-3 years, we will consolidate our leadership position in the power tool industry and continue to take market share. In this uncertain environment, distributors especially would like to invest in a brand that not only provides them with return on their investment but also provide long term sustainability," says Srinivasan.

Safety First

Power tools usually come in variations of 110 volts and 220 volts.

"The industry is moving towards added safety in every sphere and 110 volts tools are safer. The main advantage is the decrease in injuries when any type of electric failure occurs. Currently, around 30% of the projects are run in 110 volts." says Moin Audi, product manager, drilling and demolishing, Hilti.

A major challenge for the power tool industry is the need to educate the huge number of unskilled workers on safe and healthy operation of machinery. In an effort to promote safety, power tools suppliers have been trying to raise awareness through several approaches such as training seminars, team coaching and tool designs."Key players are moving towards operations training for all types of tools on the job site to decrease the number of accidents and injuries and to increase productivity," says Moin Audi.

Apart from providing training, most of the latest models of power tools come with in-built safety features to enhance security on the job site.

The UAE doesn't spell out the standards for safety and regulations regarding the correct exposure time to power tools, which makes it even more vital that power tools come with safety features.

"Our tools have features such as AVR (active vibration reduction) and ATC (active torque control). AVR reduces vibration exposure to the operators and prevents diseases such as the white finger, a disorder which affects the blood vessels, nerves, muscles and joints, of the hand, wrist and arm."

"So far, we do not have any restriction in terms of amount of exposure for power tools in UAE, nevertheless, all our tools comply with the EU and US standards. AVR is highly recommended for serial drilling applications," says Audi.

ATC is built into Hilti's products, especially in the power tools used in the building and construction industry. ATC is specifically designed for the construction industry where a large quantity of reinforced concrete is used.

ATC is a sensor that detects any sudden turn exceeding 45 degrees and disengages the motor to prevent an injury. ATC is recommended when drilling through reinforced concrete.

This feature prevents any sudden turn or movement when hitting rebars which can result in hand/ wrist injury.

Breaking

"While drilling or breaking, a large amount of dust is generated and inhaled by operators which can cause lung damage. There are some precautions taken such as masks which do not prevent the dust from being inhaled completely. The dust removal system sucks in all the dust generated through a similar system to vacuum cleaners."

"Dust removal systems, or DRS is available as an accessory for rotary drills, combi hammers and even heavy breakers and is highly recommended for use in closed areas," says Audi.

In the future, power tools will continue to get lighter, more powerful and durable as more safety and comfort features such as ergonomic grips keep getting added on.

Despite fierce competition and the uncertainty surrounding the economy, the power tool market in the Middle East should continue to grow slowly, but steadily.

The shocking truth

110 volt appliances are standard on all European construction sites - in fact, using domestic 220/240 volt units is actually illegal.

The reason for this is that while a wet or malfunctioning 110v tool may give the user a nasty shock, it would be very unlikely to kill him, but a 220/240v machine probably would.

Power tools live hard lives - and users might not be familiar with spotting defective units, so many plant managers appoint somebody with ‘tool safety' status.