Opportunities within reach

Alan Guthrie visits Snorkel’s impressive Tyneside factory and discovers that the manufacturer is successfully targeting smaller hire operations supplying low-level access products in the UK.

While Snorkel is a famous name in powered access machinery manufacture, it is only comparatively recently that the company has actively sought to raise its profile amongst smaller tool and equipment hire businesses with a range of models for low-level tasks. Now, however, it is developing this market quickly and sees considerable growth potential for hirers serving this market.

Founded in 1959 to manufacture fire-fighting equipment, Snorkel expanded into general powered access machinery through various acquisitions and has itself been the subject of several takeovers in the past. In 2013, the Snorkel business was acquired by US-based Xtreme Manufacturing LLC, whose two main product lines are Xtreme telescopic handlers and Snorkel machines, and it is owned by Don Ahern, who also owns the powered access machinery hirer Ahern Rentals. Operating in more than 90 locations throughout the USA, Ahern Rentals is a general rental company, specialising in high-reach equipment like aerial lifts and forklifts/telescopic handlers, while also offering plant and tools for earthmoving, landscaping and other tasks.

Snorkel’s Vigo Centre factory in Washington, just south of Newcastle- upon-Tyne, produces access machinery for Europe, Middle East, Asia and beyond. It is also the base for Snorkel UK, the distribution

division that sells machines in the UK and Ireland. Snorkel UK was established in 2013; previously the company worked with independent distributors to service this market. The impressive Vigo Centre site incorporates a factory covering 250,000ft2 employs 175 people.


Considerable experience In March 2016, Andrew Fishburn was appointed as MD of Snorkel UK. He has considerable experience of the powered access industry, having started as an engineer and having previously held senior management roles with companies such as Instant Zip-Up and JLG, as well as forming manufacturing and supply businesses like Bravi UK and HLS (Height Lift & Shift).

The 3215E slab scissor is designed for indoor and outdoor use.

“I could see the developments that were taking place at Snorkel under its new owners, Xtreme Manufacturing,” Andrew Fishburn told EHN. “Here was an organisation that was prepared to invest in the business and was willing to listen to what customers needed. Being a hirer himself, Don Ahern knows what machine qualities the market requires, which he describes as ‘rental toughness’. Products are designed to meet the rigours of heavy usage and to last many years.

The S3010P is one of three push-around Snorkel mini scissors. The S3010E offers a maximum working height of 5m. 40

“We looked at the strategic opportunities in the market and identified customers who would appreciate the heavy-duty qualities of the machines Snorkel offered, and they can perhaps be best summed up as ‘owner occupiers’: managers of companies with a hands-on attitude who know their customers and have a passion for quality equipment. These include independent tool hirers, as well as specialist access machinery providers and end users. In many ways, the best vehicle for promoting Snorkel UK is our factory,

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