We’ve got to get better at promoting our industry’s unique selling points, says Steve Napieralski, president at Oz Lifting.
We share much in common with other industries, but we should focus more on what sets us apart.
Lifting is different – better, even -than many sectors despite the fact that it continues to stay under the radar, or beyond the consciousness of people.
Think about the major construction or infrastructure projects going on in your town, city, state, or county. The community probably understands their purpose and has an appreciation of what goes into completing them, up to a point. You’ll hear conversations in grocery stores, supermarkets, and restaurants:
“Have you seen the speed they’re building that bridge?”
“Yes, and that new apartment block is shooting up too.”
“I think that new toll road is going to be ready before Christmas.”
“That railway line extension can’t happen soon enough.”
These exchanges often go onto discussions about the positive and negative impacts such projects will have, whether that be increased traffic, new jobs and creation or destruction of green spaces. References are made to the architects, engineers, and construction workers they see arriving onsite, and the haulage vehicles delivering plant and equipment.
Occasionally, someone will reference a tower crane, mainly due to their prominence in the sky or on the horizon, but the true impact and importance of lifting technology and expertise more widely is overlooked.
The recent Global Lifting Awareness Day – #GLAD2023 – centred on raising the profile of our sector but we’ve got to do more than celebrate it once a year. With pressures created by labour and skill shortages, we have a duty to present our industry as something young people should want to work in, not stumble upon by chance, which is the story many tell.
Ok, we need tower crane erectors, inspectors, and operators as well, but other types of overhead lifting products, hoists and rigging gear are used at every step of most projects; further, everything we touch, eat, drive and buy has been part of a material handling process or lifting application to one extent or another. People still don’t appreciate that and it’s a crisis. I’m serious: unless we better sell ourselves, our industry will struggle to exist efficiently as the next bunch of retirees put down their tools and the latest wave of school-leavers choose alternative career paths.
I’ve picked four USPs that we can all promote more effectively:
- An industry with heart
I know Ross Moloney, CEO at the Lifting Equipment Engineers Association (LEEA), commentated on this recently, but it’s a point worth reiterating.
In a world of AI, automation, IoT, etc., it’s uplifting to work in a sector that will require interaction between people for generations to come. We need problem-solvers and intuitive minds to continue to deliver lifting, moving and material handling solutions high above buildings, deep down mineshafts, miles offshore and many feet under the sea. Users feel good about explaining their application and allowing us to come up with a solution that is safe, affordable, and deliverable to a short lead time.
I can guarantee you that lifting will always be a people business. How many sectors can say that?
As Moloney wrote, ‘…the industry is full of interesting people and fascinating projects in anything from the entertainment sector to major construction…’
You can’t replace these people or bring these projects to fruition without sharp minds and fully trained engineers. At every turn, safety and efficiency is in the hands of people first, technology and product second.
It’s created a sector where people are woven into the fabric; they are in the industry’s DNA. It’s why I, like most lifting company owners, will never sign off on experimenting with automated answering services or replacement of the interaction between the person presenting a material handling challenge and those with the expertise to respond with the solution. Think of the frustration we all feel when we’re trying to explain even the simplest of things to the digital voice on the bank’s telephone line; it was easier when you could get straight through to a person, wasn’t it?
You can’t replace experience, knowledge, competence, and common sense—and we shouldn’t intend to try.
- Continuing professional development
You’ve never learnt all there is to know about lifting, and the knowledge you have acquired needs to be refreshed and revisited to make sure that competence is upheld. It means that from a new recruit’s first day in the industry, right through to retirement, training and learning are constant.
It means that, while people earn money for their employers, they are also equipping themselves with wisdom that they can perhaps one day monetise for themselves or take elsewhere should a journey with one company reach an end.
This isn’t always the case in other sectors, where a license might last a lifetime or there isn’t the omnipresence of danger to keep everyone on their toes. Only through continuing professional development (or CPD) can people contribute to others going home safely to their families at the end of a shift. It’s just one of the reasons why most individuals you meet in this sector are high-skilled, energised and willing to give back to their peers and those new to the market.
- Job variation
No two days are the same in lifting.
You can be at a residual and biosolids event on Monday and talking about a solution for lowering jet skis into the water on Tuesday. Wednesday might start with a brake winch project for a kayak launch and end by sourcing a solution for lifting materials to the roof of a major regional teaching hospital. By Thursday, hoists could’ve been sent to a multitude of different end-user markets, and on Friday someone always needs a crane before the weekend. Then there are the last-minute and out-of-hours jobs that keep us on our toes when other industries have gone to bed.
We really are hundreds of feet in the air one minute, and subsea the next. Products need to be explosion proof, waterproof, heatproof, and able to withstand the demands of cleanrooms and cold environments. Some industries don’t even deal with extremities; we have to endure all of them.
- Cutting-edge technology
No amount of tech can remove the existence of gravity—loads will always fall back to the ground unless they are safely lifted—but state-of-the-art systems are everywhere in lifting.
While it’s true that people hold the key to our future, long gone are the days where the lifting sector should be overlooked in favour of the aerospace, electronics, or pharmaceuticals sectors because they utilise the latest technology and we don’t. Some cranes are part of the most advanced, intelligent systems on the planet, and our manufacturing processes with composites and other materials are as modern as those building rockets and submarines.
I’ve heard it said in the past that young people wouldn’t be interested in a career in lifting because they want to work with computers; today, that is no longer valid. Not only must we showcase the technology in our sector, but we can’t use supposedly more glamorous industries as an excuse; we’re every bit as exciting, fast-paced, and diverse. AI, automation, IoT, etc. won’t replace lifting industry professionals, but they’ll likely make it an even more exciting place to work.