Wednesday, March 8, 2023
The busier a company gets, the more blinkered it can become. The phone is ringing off the hook, orders are flying in, and it is a battle to get product and services delivered in line with demand. Staff members have got more on their desks than they can deal with, and there aren’t enough drivers or vehicles to send all the equipment out onto the road. Raw materials can’t arrive quick enough, and the hydraulic press and machine tools can’t work fast enough.
When someone suggests taking time out to attend a trade show, take a course, give a toolbox talk, lead a seminar at a university, or help a PR guy with a press release, the very thought of stepping away from the coalface, even for an hour or two, fills people with dread.
If I do that, what about the inbox?
What about the deliveries?
What about my customers?
What about my wire rope?
The trouble with this is—and the lifting sector has been running at such pace for a while now—that any operation that concentrates its efforts too narrowly, will neglect too much.
There’s more to business than taking orders and shipping product. Think about the early days; orders were only a small part of what took up any working day. They might have been the most important thing to survival—and they still are—but much else that was crucial then remains so today.
Get around the table
My team gave me two recent examples of taking time out to put time back in. Each was a case of working ‘on’ the business not just ‘in’ it:
First, we presented at an event hosted by a major steel company, where we also took a tabletop exhibit. We gave up a day to talk to stakeholders in their sector about safe lifting and compliance. In addition to the supply, hire, and inspection services we deliver to the site, covering everything from crane ropes to shackles, this was a chance to network, engage, and educate on a different level.
There was no immediate or direct return, certainly not in terms of the bottom line. And it might have meant we had to plan ahead and play catch-up afterwards to honour our contractual commitments to the operation, but it was important, nonetheless.
Second, and at around the same time, we participated in an event hosted by a large consortium at an infrastructure project, which was a forum underscored by a commitment for all parties to work collaboratively as one team towards a common goal, celebrate diversity, and recognise its people.
This project must be operational 24-hours-a-day. Only with the support of a world-class supply chain can it meet its objectives. We were recently called at 7pm one evening and three vans were scrambled to different points of the country to make sure we had the equipment we needed the next day to avoid downtime. Yet, everyone involved recognised the necessity to take a step back and widen the scope to include the bigger picture.
As Tony Teeder, our major projects director, told me, it is rewarding to be part of a collaborative effort that challenges everyone to strive for continued improvement. Such projects bring out the best in supply chains, which in turn drives best practice. This isn’t something that can be achieved by simply delivering on the products and services written on a contract or order book.
We’re also planning to get back on the road with The Crosby Group’s Rig Safe Rig Smart European Trailer during the summer months.
The truck is fully equipped with a fleet of lifting and rigging products. On board is a 500kg capacity electric crane, which allows the trainer to demonstrate the impact of using slings at angles of 30, 45, and 60 degrees from the vertical, recording the increased loads on load cells. We can use a 15t capacity vertical test bed to show the differences in deformation characteristics of fully certified Crosby hooks and alternatives.
Again, to take the truck to a site and invite members of the workforce to participate inevitably serves as an immediate distraction from the day job, but what everyone gains outweighs that short-term time commitment. I’ve seen conversations and demonstrations take place in this format that simply wouldn’t have been possible had everyone kept their nose to the grindstone.
I wholeheartedly reject the argument that people, ‘Ain’t got time for this stuff.’
It takes good leadership, planning, and a team that is prepared to make it all happen, for it to be a success, but extracurricular activity is fundamental to long-term growth, both in terms of businesses and people.
The Covid era taught us that some of this activity can be conducted in the digital world but, at least in the lifting industry, in-person, hands-on experiences remain the most valuable. To see and hear a destruction test live is different to watching a video. To pick up a shackle is different to looking at a picture of one. To see how a compression load cell calculates the centre of gravity of a load is different to reading about the theory behind it.
While our sector provides great diversity—a key #GLAD2023 message—there is always a monotony to returning to work at the start of each shift. What these other initiatives do is provide refreshing variety. They remind us how important people are to projects and, without going too deeply down an emotional intelligence rabbit hole, safety is best achieved when there is a purpose to it. There’s no better way to gain perspective than to meet the people that we want to go home safely that night and understand their personal and professional challenges.
Push the envelope
None of this means that anyone should throw themselves into everything.
We all follow those people on social media that would attend the opening of an envelope—and post a photo of them doing it. There are enough trade shows out there to visit one every week. There are enough demands on the time of a subject-matter expert that they can forget to monetise their expertise. It’s about selecting the most valuable opportunities and striking a balance.
Extracurricular activity should be challenged to be just as productive as the curricular; the measurables are just different.
If we commit to something, we always start by making clear our expectations about what we’re going to get out of it. We can use our lunch breaks to tell Arsenal fans that their title challenge will eventually falter, or our coffee timeouts to exchange notes about the latest fad diet. This isn’t what parking up a rigging truck is all about, or why we devote a day to steel and infrastructure customers.
Of course, there are many other ways to nurture and nourish a team and a business entity. And it’s necessary to do them all, or at least most of them. As an order book fills up, the latest business management software and strategy might be overlooked, but without adhesion to the plan, this is a sure-fire way to come unstuck. If it made sense to invest in Sage 200 (a set of accountancy and management products for medium enterprises) before that latest big order, it probably makes even more sense now.
If a business only operates to generate money, people only come to work to get paid.
Standards work is important as well. When a business is seen to be sending people to sit on standards panels and give back to an industry, guess what, they are seen to be setting standards and driving their sector forwards. These are the type of companies that buying decision makers want to work with, especially in an increasingly safe, sustainable world.
In takes more than a crane to lift a business, after all.
Rope and Sling Specialists Ltd