24/05/2022 - 12:59 pm

Christmas Came Early

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, as an emphatic return to in-person networking proves, says Steve Napieralski, president at Oz Lifting.


Are you ready for Christmas? You should be. Jane and I have already got our stockings hanging above the cabin fireplace. And we’re not the only ones.

The world’s logistics nightmare endures and, as Shanghai persists with its Covid lockdowns, there is no immediate sign of that changing. I saw on television only recently that China is bedding in for the long haul, quite literally. Footage on social media platforms shows fences being erected on highways and in residential areas to stop people moving to other neighbourhoods. The Shanghai Health Commission reported something like 2500 new positive cases of Covid last time I checked with total daily case levels over 30,000. They’ve adopted a batten down the hatches strategy and they’re not budging, which means freight from the region isn’t either and the impact will be felt all around the world in this tightly choreographed industry.

Last Christmas, toys weren’t under the tree – they were floating somewhere on the Pacific Ocean, just like many of my containers. Nobody wants a repeat. Many retailers have already placed their Christmas orders and the trend is being replicated in the industrial space too. It means stock is now more sovereign than ever and if you want to celebrate the 2022 festive season in style, now is the time to start planning for it. If you need new industrial equipment for your warehouse, that needs ordering now too. Go big, hard, early—and in abundance. It’s the only way.

As equipment manufacturers, while there are headaches aplenty right now (Ukraine, pandemic, costs, logistics, skills shortages, etc.), we’ve never been busier. And as the spring trade show season has delivered the best in-person networking and engagement we’ve arguably ever experienced, running a business is a heady game right now. People are as energised as I’ve seen them.

“Show me that new Dyno-Hoist,” one visitor said to me here in Houston, where the Associated Wire Rope Fabricators (AWRF) Product Information Exhibition (PIE) has only recently concluded at the time of writing.

“What’s this dynamometer-equipped lever hoist I’ve heard about?” another asked while resting a hand on a more familiar davit crane.

“The load cell is an integral part of the hoist,” I told an inquisitive attendee who considered the benefits of such technology in her facility.

Here comes another visitor with a list of questions, this time about our composite products…


Home run

It doesn’t really matter what the product is in question. The point is that people are excited to be back to face-to-face activity and they know they’ve got to make quick buying decisions with companies that can deliver. As I sipped on a Tito’s Handmade Vodka in a bar named after baseball player Craig Biggio, the former second baseman, outfielder and catcher, I reflected on yet another trade show home run.

I remember MODEX too, sponsored by MHI, which took place only a few weeks earlier in Atlanta, and a smaller show that also served up one juicy pitch after another. Honestly, I’m relieved, because heading into the spring, I wasn’t sure if trade shows would bounce back quite so quickly. After a meaningless MODEX in 2020, as the pandemic first reared its ugly, wart-infested head, I feared it might take another instalment of the exhibition to really get back to pre-pandemic handshakes and product touchy-feely. But back it roared, just like every other event we’ve participated in over recent months.

Shame on me for ever doubting it. I rejected claims that life would forever more be conducted via video call. Anyone who would prefer to sit in their lounge Googling product than getting out to see it and meet the people who made it, needs their head wobbling. You can read that the net weight of the Dyno-Hoist (head only), is 16.5, 27.94, 45.1, 66, and 96.80lb in order of capacity, but what does that actually mean? How does that steel handle with rubber grip sit in the palm? What do those push buttons feel like to press?

I detected that Dyno-Hoist wasn’t the only technologically advanced product or solution that was popular at AWRF. We’ve all used technology more in recent years and it’s enabled even those that used to scoff at it, to experiment. I know people that only used to use a telephone that are now setting up video calls, mood-lighting their faces, and have upgraded to the latest smartphone. All this chimes with a younger, more diverse demographic (noticeable at MODEX especially) that will naturally gravitate to more technological solutions. There are apps now that show the weight being put through lifting slings and others that track every shackle and hook at sprawling, multi-site construction projects.

Kids want high-tech gifts this Christmas so guess what will excite them most when they become purchasing decision makers.


Don’t be a Scrooge

Keeping up with everything is a challenge, as fellow business owners agreed at all the aforementioned get-togethers and co-located networking parties. They’re realising that attracting and keeping skilled workers is going to be key to long-term success, which is changing the way many of them think. I’ve been fortunate to have assembled a great team of people, but we’ve always been keen to offer flexible working conditions and good employment terms. If your sector, like ours, has more opportunities than people, there’s little incentive for a real firecracker of a professional to join or stay somewhere that doesn’t reward them suitably. I’ve currently got another two positions to fill but I’ve already welcomed interest from people that will be perfect additions to the team.

I look forward to adding them to my Christmas card list.

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