Preaching, Practicing and Producing Safety at Spika

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Spika Design & Manufacturing, Inc. celebrates over 2 years without lost work.

Friday, May 1, 2020


Yesterday marked yet another milestone in our journey towards a safer work environment. With joy, pride and much humility, we celebrated having completed over 2 years without lost work at Spika’s manufacturing plant in Lewistown, Montana.

Spika Design & Manufacturing, Inc. believes in practicing what it preaches, and producing what it practices.

We produce safe OSHA compliant walking-working surfaces for elevated access, so that operators at our customer’s factories know that they are in safe hands.

The noteworthy thing about the celebration at Spika is the stress-free work-environment in which we design and manufacture the products that keep your operators and workers safe, giving them priceless peace of mind.

Our team takes pride in its work knowing that safety is a responsibility that we owe not only to ourselves but also to our valued customers. We take great pride in the fact that we at Spika Design & Manufacturing are playing an important role in providing safe work environments around the world, making sure that people return safely to their families every night after working on the safety platforms we meticulously design and build for them.

Yesterday’s celebration of our safety record was as much a celebration of the safety of our family, as it was of the safety of your family. Thank you for being a part of our journey and giving us the opportunity to keep you safe and productive.

Stay safe, stay sturdy, and stay secure. Just like a Spika product!

Visit to learn more about Spika Design & Manufacturing, Inc. Contact us to learn how we can help your workforce operate with peace of mind, safely at heights.

Quick Guide to OSHA’s Fall Protection Standard Update (2017)

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The most significant change with the 2017 update is that the generic term for anything that is a mobile work platform is now called a “mobile ladder stand platform” (even if it has a staircase instead of a ladder). OSHA has also redefined standard railing as a “guardrail system,” and portable metal ladders are now “mobile ladder stands.”

Be sure to check out the employer deadlines at the bottom of this post and read more about the key five OSHA standards for industrial work platforms.


Old Terms New Terms
Manually Propelled Ladder Stands Mobile Ladder Stand Platform
Standard Railing Guardrail System
Portable Metal Ladder Mobile Ladder Stand

OSHA STANDARD 1910.21-30

Old §1910 Subpart D Standard Number New §1910 Subpart D
Scope and Definitions 1910.21 Scope and Definitions
General Requirements 1910.22 General Requirements
Guarding Floor and
Wall Openings and Holes
1910.23 Ladders
Fixed Industrial Stairs 1910.24 Step Bolts and Manhole Steps
Portable Wood Ladders 1910.25 Stairways
Portable Metal Ladders 1910.26 Dockboards
Fixed Ladders 1910.27 Scaffolds and Rope Descent Systems
Safety Requirements for Scaffolding 1910.28 Duty to Have Fall Protection and Falling Object Protection
Manually Propelled Mobile Ladder Stands and Scaffolds 1910.29 Fall protection Systems and Falling Object Protection – Criteria and Practices
Other Working Surfaces 1910.30 Training Requirements


  • May 17, 2017 | Training workers on fall and equipment hazards
  • November 19, 2018 | Installation of fall protection (personal fall arrest systems, ladder safety systems, cages, wells) on existing fixed ladders (over 24 feet) that do not have any fall protection
  • November 19, 2018 | Installation of personal fall arrest systems or ladder safety system on all new fixed ladders (over 24 feet) and replacement ladders/ladder sections
  • November 18, 2036 | Installation of ladder safety systems or personal fall arrest systems on all fixed ladders (over 24 feet)


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Five Key OSHA Standards for Work Platforms

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OSHA requirements for work platforms have always been complex. But since January 2017 when OSHA completely rewrote the standard 1910 Subpart D: Walking Working Surfaces.

Want an easy checklist to make sure your equipment is compliant? Download the 2017 OSHA Compliance Checklist here. 

OSHA Compliant Work Platform Checklist Download

The OSHA standard for fall protection had been in dispute in the decades leading up to the January 2017 final ruling. The basics of the update established the requirement for employers to protect workers from fall hazards along unprotected sides or edges that are at least 4 feet above a lower level. It also established requirements for the performance, inspection, use, and maintenance of personal fall protection systems.

Here is a list of five current OSHA standards for work platforms that you may not be aware of

1. Any working surface 4 feet or higher must be protected with guardrails on all sides at least 42″ tall.

OSHA 1910.29(b)(1): The top edge height of top rails, or equivalent guardrail system members, are 42 inches (107 cm), plus or minus 3 inches (8 cm), above the walking-working surface. The top edge height may exceed 45 inches (114 cm), provided the guardrail system meets all other criteria.
Mechanically attached foam protects personnel and assets.

This may be the quintessential OSHA requirement for work platforms. Any work area four feet or more above the next level lower MUST have guardrails. The guardrails must be on every open side of the platform, excluding openings. The only time railing is not required is when the platform is up against another vertical surface (like the side of a helicopter). In that case, it is still critical to ensure railing covers any gaps.

Don’t forget: when you’re performing manufacturing or maintenance tasks, there is a good chance you will be setting tools, parts, and hardware on the floor beside you. In order to prevent a wrench from falling off the platform and smacking a coworker on the head, 3-1/2″ tall toeboards are required on all open sides of the platform (excluding openings). Guardrail systems should also be capable of withstanding 200 pounds of force applied in a downward or outward direction.

2. The platform’s height cannot exceed 4x its base width.

OSHA 1910.23(c): The maximum work-surface height of mobile ladder stands and platforms does not exceed four times the shortest base dimension, without additional support.
Mechanically attached foam protects personnel and assets.


If you need to access something at a great height but have limited space, consider requesting a stand with extended caster beams that can slide underneath your equipment and maintain this 4:1 ratio. These outriggers will provide enough of a base to keep your platform stable. Some companies even offer inboard outriggers which can lift up and over obstacles on your equpiment, such as helicopter skids.

3. Stairs must be at least 16″ wide, 7″ deep, and have no more than 10″ of rise between them.

OSHA 1910.23(e)(1): Mobile ladder stands and platforms have a step width of at least 16 inches (41 cm). Steps are uniformly spaced and arranged, with a rise of not more than 10 inches (25 cm) and a depth of not less than 7 inches (18 cm).
Height control capable of vertical travel from 12 to 96 inches or more.


If you need a height-adjustable work platform with stair access, the best option for OSHA-compliance is a variable pitch staircase. The Spika-developed Variable-Pitch Staircase maintains consistent step interval at any height and ensures you comply with OSHA standards, no matter if you have 2 feet or 12 feet of vertical travel.

4. Self-closing safety gates are always required around openings (like ladder holes).

OSHA 1910.29(b): When guardrail systems are used around holes that serve as points of access (such as ladder ways), the guardrail system opening (1) has a self-closing gate that slides or swings away from the hole, and is equipped with a top rail and mid-rail or equivalent intermediate member, or (2) is offset to prevent an employee from walking or falling into the hole.

Self-closing safety gates are critical for OSHA compliance; you have to ensure that your technicians cannot back through a hole in the guardrail or push the safety gate open without intending to. Safety gates can either be spring loaded that close behind you when you enter the platform, or they can utilize latches for times when you have to have the safety gate open outward. For extra safety precaution, consider using an interlock mechanism to ensure the safety gate cannot be opened when it’s unsafe.

5. The platform must be tested to 4x its rated capacity.

OSHA 1910.23(e)(1): Mobile ladder stands and platforms are capable of supporting at least four times their maximum intended load.

Technicians can wonder if their work platform will fail them if they need to carry an excessively heavy tool onto the deck or need a little extra help from fellow technicians to perform a task. It’s highly unlikely that a failure like this will ever happen, as quality manufacturers of work platforms actually test the structure to 4x its load rating in-house to make sure there will be no failure before sending it to the customer.

The number of safety standards that apply to work stands can be overwhelming. If you’re unsure whether your platform is in compliance, ask the experts. It’s not worth risking injuries, fines, and decreased employee moral, and often one little fix can bring you into full compliance.

For more information on employer deadlines, new terminology, and at-a-glance guidelines for mobile work platform compliance, download the checklist below.

OSHA Compliant Work Platform Checklist Download


Are you interested in seeing what your OSHA-compliant work platform could look like?

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“Employer of Choice” Honorees Announced

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Lewistown Job Service Employers Committee members Karen Sweeney and Tracy Kelsey presented Hobson Insurance and Spika Design and Manufacturing with the 2016 Employer of Choice awards. Spika Design and Manufacturing CEO Tom Spika, founder Carol Spika, COO Katie Spika, and Director of Marketing Bekhi Spika, with their staff, accepted the 2016 Employer of Choice Award for business with 25 or more employees.


Spika Design & Manufacturing: A Family Affair

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Just over 4 miles from the heart of historic Downtown Lewistown, Montana sits a large, beautiful building that seems right at home against the glorious Central Montana landscape. But, take one step in the door, and you instantly know, this is no ordinary building. Hidden behind the front door lies Spika Design and Manufacturing, the company that sets the standard for the work platform, and became a successful global player in the industry. COO and Director of Quality Assurance Katie Spika, and Director of Marketing Bekhi Spika, both daughters of Founder, CEO and Director of Design, Tom Spika, sat down with us and shared a glimpse into the world that is Spika Design and Manufacturing.

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3 Features That Will Save You Money with Your Cantilevered Work Platform

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One of the most common access challenges technicians face, especially in manufacturing lines, is the need for cantilevered access at multiple levels. Because overreaching access requirements vary from project to project, cantilevered work stands have to be customized to the end user’s specs almost 100% of the time. Sometimes these requirements call for simply a “diving board” design that allows a technician to lie above a piece of equipment for access. Other applications, however, require a larger platform that has extensive overreach capabilities and can accommodate two or more technicians.

While there are plenty of cantilevered work platforms on the market that can hold multiple technicians at a time – the B Series platforms come to mind – the real challenge is finding a large overreaching work platform that provides vertical, cantilevered access without compromising on stability.

Below are the top three considerations you and your technicians should discuss before choosing a company to design and manufacture your cantilevered work platform.

1. Make sure the work platform is stable while in use.

Many existing cantilevered work platforms, by their very design, sacrifice stability due to extreme lengths of overreach from the foremost support points. Side to side sway, as well as “bounce” when working from the deck, increase the farther the platform is from the support points.

Look for a work platform that is designed with the front leg support member as close to the center of the load as possible. This type of design allows greater overreach, as well as greater width of the workspace, without the feel of instability. If necessary, add outrigger jacks to lock the stand in place and increase stability during use.

Depending on the design, certain cantilevered work platforms will utilize counter-balance weights.

2. Choose a work platform with reliable actuation.

Hydraulic actuation has been a popular method of actuation for cantilevered work stands. But hoses and seals age and deteriorate, causing leakage of hydraulic fluid, and because of aging components, hydraulics have the tendency to “seep,” or slowly settle over time. This can create a significant problem when the stands are positioned above vulnerable components or surfaces. These issues increase maintenance costs, but also increase the likelihood of equipment damage during use.

Consider using a work stand that has electric or manual actuation. For example, the RangerMax work platform utilizes a dual-acting telescopic linear actuator system. This unique design provides greater extension capability while retracting into a compact length. The 120VAC or 12VDC electric actuators provide smooth, predictable extension and retraction, and cannot back-drive or seep from the set extension. These systems are also virtually maintenance-free.

3. Ensure the work stand can be transported easily.

Users have found existing cantilevered work platforms are very difficult to maneuver in tight hangars and work areas, and it can be a struggle repositioning the work stand. Depending on your work environment, you might also be moving the stand over more rugged terrain, which can be nearly impossible if the stand isn’t equipped with the right casters.


For easy, manageable movement of your stand, look for a system that uses dual-disc casters. These casters allow easy movement of the platform both backward and forward and side to side, making positioning simple. Also, check for a system that uses high-quality face brakes to secure the system during storage. If required, request outdoor-rated casters.

Also, consider choosing aluminum. While aluminum is more expensive than steel, it’s roughly ⅓ the weight of steel, can be ribbed or extruded, and is corrosion resistant.

Additional Considerations

In addition to the above requirements, consider the following questions when sourcing your cantilevered access equipment:

  1. What is the lowest height at which you need your work platform to start? Many work platforms are designed with the lifting mechanisms underneath the deck, which limits its lowest height capabilities.
  2. How much cantilever capability do you need? There are various platform designs that provide cantilevered access, from a simple diving board design to the RangerMax stair with excessive overreach capabilities to a full-blown work platform with 24” or more of slider overreach. Do your research to make sure you’re finding the cantilevered access that fits your needs perfectly.
  3. What type of decking do you need?  Consider if your technicians will be working on their knees a lot, or will have slick shoes, etc. Manufacturers can add specific high-traction or draining deck tread to make sure your work platform remains safe in all working conditions. You can also request deck matting for technicians that will be working on their knees.
  4. Keep it OSHA-compliant. Since you’re getting an expensive piece of equipment, it should comply with OSHA’s standards to eliminate any potential issues while in use. Look for a manufacturer that meets or exceeds OSHA’s standards for mobile work platforms.

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15 Montana Companies to Watch in 2017

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By Christina Henderson

Here’s a quiz – how many high tech and manufacturing companies do you think we have in Montana?

On December 20, 2016, the Montana High Tech Business Alliance emailed our third annual survey of Montana tech companies with the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Montana to 242 Alliance member companies and 304 non-member companies in high-tech and manufacturing. That’s 546 total tech companies in Montana.

This doesn’t include the tech companies we haven’t found yet. We have to hunt them like rare wild beasts as they tend to hide in remote business parks and second floor offices without signage.

The Alliance is ramping up our efforts to raise the visibility of Montana’s many world-class businesses and related jobs that need to be filled. To kick things off, we’re highlighting 15 Montana companies to watch in 2017. To form this list, we looked for startups and growth companies that fit at least one of the following criteria:

  • steep revenue growth and/or working in a high-growth sector
  • received notable angel or VC investment
  • poised to launch high-potential products or services
  • plan to expand operations or add a significant number of jobs in 2017

Here are our picks in alphabetical order.

1. Ascent Vision, Bozeman

Ascent Vision founder Tim Sheehy was a Navy SEAL officer and Army Ranger who saw an opportunity to provide lower-cost aerial surveillance to government and industry. Launched in a barn in 2013, Ascent Vision formed a joint venture with Australian gimbal maker UAV Vision and in the first year grew from two people to 50 and multi-millions of dollars in sales. In late 2016, Ascent Vision broke ground on a 30,000 sq. ft. facility to meet high demand for sensors in unmanned aerial vehicles, maritime surveillance and self-driving cars.

2. Audience Awards, Missoula

Launched in 2013 by award-winning filmmaker Paige Williams, Audience Awards is a platform that connects brands to high-quality, user generated content through video contests and film challenges. Partnerships with GoDaddy, Hilton Worldwide and Kodak have brought Audience Awards recognition in Forbes, Entrepreneur and Inc. magazines. The company raised more than $500,000 in funding in late 2016 from Alliance of Angels and Victress Capital, expanding its offices and its team.

3. Centricient, Bozeman

Centricient closed a $6.5 million round in 2016 led by Venrock (venture capital arm of the Rockefeller family) and followed by Next Frontier Capital. Centricient is re-imagining customer service for a mobile world, connecting customers and enterprises through text messaging. The firm was founded by Mike Myer, the former CTO of RightNow Technologies which sold to Oracle in 2011 for $1.8 billion. Centricient also formed a partnership in 2016 with Helix Business Solutions, an Oracle Service Cloud solutions integrator, to sell and implement messaging to its customer base.

4. Clearas Water Recovery, Missoula

Clearas Water Recovery, maker of a patented biological wastewater treatment system, closed a $4 million series B round in 2016. The 40-person team has developed a scalable, algae-based system that purifies industrial and municipal wastewater to the highest regulatory standards and creates a useful byproduct. According to CEO Jordan Lind, Clearas earned $4 million in revenue in 2016, and has a backlog to reach $16 million in 2017 and $27 million in 2018. Lind is a 3rd generation Montanan, descended from sugar beet farmers, who co-founded a previous high-growth Missoula tech company as an MBA student at the University of Montana.

5. Elixiter, Bozeman

Founded by Billings native and RightNow Technologies veteran Andrew Hull in 2011, Elixiter is a marketing services firm focused on clients of the Marketo platform. Rapid expansion led Elixiter to relocate four times in four years. Since the company’s inception, Elixiter has averaged 100% year over year growth and landed on the Inc. 5,000 list of fastest-growing companies in 2016. Fortune Magazine ranked Elixiter number 52 on its inaugural list of 100 Best Workplaces for Women. The company has a team of about 40 consultants serving clients like FitBit, Aetna, Cisco, and

6. Foundant Technologies, Bozeman

Co-founded in 2006 by MSU graduates who were early RightNow Technologies employees, software-as-a-service company Foundant Technologies helps philanthropic foundations streamline and simplify their grant proposal processes. Foundant was on the Inc. 5,000 list of fastest growing companies in 2014, 2015, and 2016 and named one of Outside Magazine’s Best Places to Work. By late 2016, Foundant had 50 employees, more than $4 million in annual revenue, and merged with Washington firm Smalldog to offer the promising new CommunitySuite – financial solutions for community foundations.

7. Girlzilla, Malta

Misty Kuhl’s vision for Girlzilla – a marketplace for women’s used outdoor gear – earned her a spot as a Native Entrepreneur in Residence and $125,000 in funding from New Mexico Community Capital, as well as a seat at Obama’s 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Palo Alto. An enrolled tribal member (Gros Ventre) of Montana’s Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, Kuhl graduated (cum laude) from Montana State University as a first-generation college student. She then relocated to Albuquerque, NM where she was a small business owner, whitewater rafting guide, and REI sales lead. Kuhl moved her company home to Malta, Montana in 2016 in the hope of bringing sustainable economic opportunity to her community. The Girlzilla platform is slated to launch in 2017.

8. GTUIT, Billings

GTUIT was Montana’s fastest growing company last year, reaching the 203rd position on Inc. magazine’s 2016 Inc. 500. The firm grew 1,894 percent over three years and earned $10.9 million in revenue in 2015. GTUIT was Launched in 2011 by three engineers with decades of experience in the Bakken oil fields. After convincing their first customer to fund the prototype, the co-founders developed a process that cuts emissions and puts flare gas to use instead of burning it as waste. In 2015, GTUIT received equity investment from Caterpillar Oil & Gas and an award of excellence from the World Bank Global Gas Flaring Reduction Partnership.

9. LMG Security, Missoula

After earning degrees in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering from MIT and writing the world’s first textbook on Network Forensics, Sherri Davidoff launched LMG Security in 2008. LMG is a cyber security consulting, research and education company experiencing fast growth in a hot field. LMG’s global clients include government agencies, health care organizations, and Fortune 500 companies. Davidoff teaches at industry knowledge centers like SANS and Black Hat and has been featured in Wired Magazine. The LMG team has doubled in size over the last three years to 25 employees and climbing. The firm just purchased a new building near the Clark Fork River in Missoula.

10. Montana Precision Products, Butte

Montana Precision Products was created in 2013 when SeaCast Inc. and General Electric formed a 50-50 joint venture to build parts and castings for GE’s jet engines. SeaCast was owned by Butte natives and brothers Bert and Mike Robins, who continue as owners of Montana Precision today. According to General Manager Chris Eurich, Montana Precision has around 135 employees in Butte. The company invested $1.5 million in new technology in 2016 and plans to grow its workforce by 50 percent in the next three years to meet growing demand for more fuel-efficient LEAP jet engines.

11. onXmaps, Missoula

Eric Siegfried launched onXmaps in 2009 as a new graduate of Montana State University’s College of Engineering to solve his frustrations finding accurate land ownership maps while hunting in Montana. He started making GPS plug-ins and later launched the ROAM app for hunting and backcountry recreation. Siegfried bootstrapped a $500 initial investment into a multi-million dollar enterprise employing 65 people. Thanks to the ROAM app’s popularity, onXmaps is expanding its offices in 2017 and plans to have 200 employees in Missoula in five years.

12. Orbital Shift, Missoula

After earning a Master’s in Computer Science and an MBA from the University of Montana, Orbital Shift founder and serial entrepreneur Kevin O’Reilly relied on bootstrapping and early customer feedback to fine tune his SaaS products in online workforce management. Today over 40 percent of Orbital Shift users log into the software every single day. In late 2016, Orbital Shift closed a $1.25 million Series Seed round led by Next Frontier Capital and added an office in Bozeman.

13., Livingston

Founded in 1996 by CEO Andrew Field as a traditional print shop, PFL went online in 1999 with the first ever e-commerce site for commercial print – PFL landed on the Inc. 500 list of fastest growing companies three times and was featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and on CNBC for its innovative HR policies. Two decades later, the firm has 225 employees and is evolving into a marketing technology company. PFL has developed a popular SwagIQ gifting plugin for Salesforce and carved out a niche MarTech category called Tactile Marketing Automation that’s on track for steep growth in 2017.

14. Spika Design and Manufacturing, Lewistown Lewistown native Tom Spika started his company in 2001 as a two-person shop on the family farm. Today Spika Design and Manufacturing is a multi-million dollar company, designing and building aviation maintenance equipment for global markets. Spika was Montana Exporter of the Year in 2013. The firm now employs 60 people, including Tom’s daughters Katie Spika (COO) and Bekhi Spika (Marketing Director), and is developing innovative programs to attract and train local talent for high-paying jobs. A 6,000 square foot expansion in 2016 is accommodating new contracts and engineers.

15. ViZn Energy, Columbia Falls

Ron Van Dell had stints at GE and Dell Computer and was CEO of three startups in Austin and Silicon Valley before coming to Montana to join ViZn Energy as president and CEO in 2014. During Van Dell’s tenure, the industrial-scale battery manufacturer has grown from about 15 employees to more than 60 scientists, engineers, and software technicians working on the forefront of the clean energy revolution. ViZn previously raised over $37 million in independent investments and was closing up another $25 million round of funding in late 2016.

These are just a few of the Montana companies we’ll be keeping an eye on in the coming year. Who would you add to the list?

Q&A with Rick Zaitonia, KUKA Systems Aerospace Group: Integrators Outsourcing Work Platforms

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Between the robotics required to build the equipment to the hundreds of tools necessary to support the manufacturing process, engineers are overloaded with developing customized systems and tools that not only satisfy the needs of the manufacturing line, but also meet or exceed safety standards, utilize ergonomics that promote efficiency, and employ cutting-edge designs that require little maintenance or repair.

Rick Zaitonia, Project Manager at KUKA Systems Aerospace Group, approached Spika about outsourcing the work platforms for their client. After the partnership concluded, Spika interviewed Zaitonia about the successes and challenges of outsourcing the custom work platform design and manufacturing for his facility.

How were you designing/manufacturing work platforms before you outsourced them?

Before Spika, we didn’t really have a need for a modular, portable work stand. We were using large steel work platforms, fixed in place, and at a fixed height, which we designed and built in-house. Rather than moving the stands to the aircraft, we’d pull the parts of the aircraft up to the stands.

What drove you to consider outsourcing the work platform part of the system?

When we started the helicopter program, that’s when we needed to use the same work stand at different heights. The way our assembly line process was, we didn’t need a large, fixed stand. We needed a portable, push-up stand.

If we’re at a high volume and there’s work we need to offload to keep moving forward, we’ll outsource — if we’re not over capacity, we’ll keep it in house.

Read the full case study here

What were your primary concerns about outsourcing the design and manufacture of work platforms?

When we went out looking for it, it was going to be just the cost, making sure that it would fit into the budget. Also, just the functionality and quality of the stands. Could we find something that could fit into our operations that was good quality and cost-effective.

What are the benefits of outsourcing the work platform portion of an assembly line?

Instead of us having to come up with custom designs for work platforms, we could go to the experts that already had the designs. We had a very complex large program and it freed up our resources to let the experts handle that portion and let us specialize in what we’re good at.

What would you caution people about outsourcing part of their design and manufacturing?

When you’re outsourcing something, it still reflects on your company, and you’re still responsible for the end product. We just have to make sure the outsourced product matches our standards. After finding Spika, our team did our homework and did a visit to the facility. One of our quality managers looked at the processes, quality reports, products, and system capabilities.

We had visited one other facility prior to Spika’s. Their product and end result looked really nice, but their company was small and their processes just weren’t there to meet the volume and demand.

What type of company do you want to partner with if you choose to outsource your work platforms?

The relationship with the outsourcing company is more of a partnership and team effort than a vendor relationship. There has to be that ability for the design team to communicate and handle the design reviews together. There has to be cohesiveness and transparency for it to work. There are no secrets, we’re not there to steal your intellectual properties.

Do you have any quantifiable results of money/time saved by outsourcing the work platform portion of your line?

It’s hard to quantify it due to the size of the project. I’ve had over 600-700 tools, so when you look at the work stand platforms, they may have been 10-15% of the project. In reality, we’re saving 10% of time because we’re not using up that resource.

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Case Study: Kuka Systems Outfits Entire Manufacturing Facility With Custom Work Platforms

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KUKA Systems Aerospace Group needed a custom work platform system for use in a high-profile aerospace manufacturing line. Rather than tie up their resources designing and building it themselves, they contracted the project to Spika. Working closely with the KUKA team, Spika provided 30 work platform systems for the project, which were based on 15 different designs. The project was comprised of over 90 modules.


KUKA Systems, part of Germany-based KUKA AG, is an international supplier of engineering services and flexible automation systems for the Automotive, Aerospace, Energy, and Industrial Solutions segments. Some 5,800 employees worldwide work on ideas, concepts, and solutions for automated production and the provision of products and services for virtually all tasks in the industrial processing of metallic and non-metallic materials. The range is marketed internationally via subsidiaries and sales offices in Europe, America, and Asia. KUKA Systems North America LLC, based in Sterling Heights MI, is responsible for the North American business and the worldwide aerospace group. The KUKA Systems Aerospace Group focuses on all aspects of tooling and assembly processes for aircraft manufacturing.

Sourcing Custom Mobile Platforms

A few years ago, KUKA Systems Aerospace Group secured a contract to develop the manufacturing facility for a high-profile helicopter. Included in the project was the requirement for a series of work platforms designed to interface precisely with the helicopter and tooling at various stages of production.

While existing work platforms were available, they were cataloged, and KUKA needed something custom-designed. Additionally, most of the standard work platforms were built of steel and fixed in place. KUKA needed platforms that were lightweight and mobile.

KUKA had the design capability to build the work platforms they needed, but the project involved coordinating and implementing over 600 tools. Instead of tying up their resources in designing and manufacturing work platforms, they decided to hire experts to work that part of the program for them.

They researched potential suppliers and performed site visits to ensure the companies could meet the requirements of the project. Ultimately they selected Spika to design and manufacture all the platforms required in the manufacturing line. “Spika has the production capabilities to take care of volumes, quality control systems in place to put out a good product, and a management team to help us with the designs for different manufacturing facilities,” said Rick Zaitonia, KUKA Project Manager for the program.

Partnering with Spika

For the next three years, Spika worked with KUKA and KUKA’s customer to design and manufacture work platforms for the various stages of assembly. Overall, Spika provided more than 30 work platform systems for the project, which were based on 15 different designs. The project was comprised of over 90 modules.

The platforms utilized several complex designs, including:

  • Electrically controlled, dual-stage actuation for significant height adjustability
  • Decks with trap doors which allowed the aircraft to pass through the platform when it was raised or lowered; the decks were equipped with sensors and limits to ensure the platform could not be lowered past a specific point with the trap decks down
  • Work platform sections that could be removed and reattached to larger sections for different configurations during assembly
  • Removable railings that could be used in multiple platform configurations
  • Electric and electric over hydraulic floor locks to remove the working load from the casters
  • Extensive air and electric supplies plumbed throughout

Spika worked with KUKA to accommodate to the updates and improvements to the system throughout the process, and both KUKA and KUKA’s customer were happy with the outcome.

“We consider Spika to be a partner with Kuka. The Spika design team has been great — they’re flexible and accommodating to all the change requests we made throughout the process. Spika platforms are quality, clean, and well put together.” – Rick Zaitonia, Project Manager, KUKA

6 Tools Everyone in Lightweight Helicopter Maintenance Should Be Using

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When your next facility update arrives, consider incorporating the following items into your fleet of maintenance equipment.

1. Air and Electric Hookups

There are plenty of products on the market that offer small tool trays attached to the aircraft maintenance platform to make maintenance more ergonomic and efficient. While these tool trays do amplify efficiency to a degree, they don’t solve the problem of having to string cords and hoses across the facility to hook up air and electric tools. Providing on-board air and electric hookups for your techs saves a tremendous amount of time and eliminates the bulk of hazardous cords.

2. Tool-Free Guardrail Attachment

Since you have a small aircraft, your priority is getting the most bang from you buck, which means you need your maintenance stand to conform to all parts of your aircraft — including both sides and the tail. Because of the varying interfaces at those maintenance points, configurability is essential. For example, when placed directly against the side of a helicopter, no guardrails are required at the front. But when positioned for tail rotor maintenance, guardrails must be present on all sides of the platform to provide OSHA-compliant fall protection. To keep reconfiguration time to a minimum, consider purchasing an aluminum stand that has tool-free guardrail attachment — specifically, systems that come with fully-captured camlock-bolting guardrails. While pin and socket systems are “technically” tool free, they aren’t as user-friendly or stable. For an added bonus, get guardrails with hangers so they can be self-storing on top of the platform.

3. Telescopic Rails

Adding to the ease of reconfigurability, a stand that has telescopic railings offers the versatility you need to access all parts of your aircraft with only one stand. Vertically telescopic rails allow you to access difficult areas where obstacles such as rotor blades may limit clearance, while still providing the required 42” safety railing height around the rest of the work area. Horizontally telescopic rails provide 360° fall protection around curved aircraft surfaces, particularly when protecting the ends of extension slider sections, keeping you safe and OSHA-compliant.

4. Inboard Outriggers

The easiest way to boost efficiency is to make sure your equipment conforms precisely to the helicopter you’re maintaining. If you’re working on an OH-58, AS350, UH-72, H125, or another skidded helicopter, your maintenance equipment should have some type of support inboard of the skid to maintain stability.  While some stands can be lifted over the skid or interlocked by feeding around the front and rear separately, stands with rotating inboard outriggers provide fast, easy positioning and ultimate stability. Inboard outriggers are absolutely critical for maintaining stability when over-reaching skids. For added conformance to the helicopter’s surface, consider equipment that has deck extension sliders that extend independently.


5. Height Adjustability

This is where many companies decide to cut corners, and I can’t stress how much this feature will improve your safety and efficiency. If your tech has the right access at the right height, he or she won’t have to overreach, crouch, or balance precariously to get the job done. Many stands come with manual actuators that can adjust by at least 24”. (If you want to go fancy, you can invest in a stand that actuates electrically.) If you do choose maintenance equipment that has height adjustability, make sure systems utilizing stairs have maximum inclines of no more than 50° and maintain an equal distance between steps through all height settings. If the stand uses a built-in ladder (which offers a smaller overall stand footprint), make sure the ladder adjusts to all heights and doesn’t exceed a 20° pitch at any height.

Watch this video to see electric dual-stage actuation in action.

6. Adequate Deck Size

A lot of aircraft maintenance has been performed off of simple ladders or small ladder stands. While this is adequate in some applications, often it falls short of providing efficiency or preventing maintainers from reaching outside of the safe zone to access areas without moving their ladder. Working with a deck that is matched to the size of the area being accessed is critical to attaining desired task efficiency and minimizing injuries. An adequately sized work stand pays for itself fairly quickly.

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