Monday, April 11, 2022
There are a couple of lines in the song, ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’ that go:
‘If life seems jolly rotten
There’s something you’ve forgotten’
And it’s true.
I’m not suggesting that there isn’t a long list of things we should all be worrying about because there is: Ukraine, pandemic, costs, logistics, workforce, etc. It’s equally true that many business leaders of the past only had to deal with one thing of this magnitude in an entire career, where we find ourselves battling against them all every day. But there are also many positives to take or, as the song goes, ‘something you’ve forgotten’. A pessimist might say that one such silver lining is that most people in the industry are busier than they’ve ever been before and, given problems A, B, C, D, E, as referenced above, they can’t keep up.
I prefer to look at the glass as half full, and there are several things that are making me full of the joys of spring this April. Here’s my six of the best:
- The prominence of lifting
Over the last two years, we have all become much more aware of supply chains and the orchestration of logistics to put food quite literally on our tables. Looking at empty supermarket shelves certainly taught us not to take it for granted that things will always be able to be thrown on a boat and transported to us from the other side of the world. Without lifting, logistics would stop, meaning we’ve never been more relevant as an industry.
When everything shuddered to a stop, even people who have never looked up before, realised that tower cranes were still lifting, and product was still being raised and moved through warehouses. Never has warehousing, logistics, supply chains and, therefore, lifting been on the consciousness of so many. Think about the opportunities that has created in engaging future workforces. Who wouldn’t want to work in a fast-moving, challenging industry that can’t be stopped, even by global pandemic?
- A post-Covid world
At the time of writing, Covid case rates were at their highest ever level in England, with experts warning of an increase in hospitalisations and deaths, while here in Wales 1,834 new positive PCR test results were recorded. But you wouldn’t have known it by going for a walk or visiting a job site. That’s not because we’ve become blasé, but we’ve learnt to live with the virus. A combination of waning potency and successful vaccine programmes mean life now is about as normal as it’s been for two years.
This is something to be celebrated, and the feel-good factor heading into the UK summer can only be a positive thing for our personal and professional lives. I recognise the role that masks played in keeping people safe, but we can all do business better if we do it face-to-face and engage with the person we’re talking to. We mustn’t take our eye off the ball—some residents under lockdown in Shanghai say they are running out of food, amid the city’s biggest-ever Covid outbreak—but we should take a moment to enjoy the progress we’ve made.
- Return of in-person activity
In the post-Covid era, or at least in a period of Covid awareness versus panic, we can get back to networking and coming together as an industry. I was encouraged to hear about the MODEX show hitting record exhibitor and attendee numbers over in the states last week, and organisers tell us that several upcoming UK shows have welcomed record pre-event registrations.
After almost two and a half years the industry finally got to meet again at the highly successful and sunny Vertikal Days last year, so next month’s return to the East of England Showground in Peterborough is much anticipated. The Lifting Equipment Engineers Association’s (LEEA) LiftEx is back too, in Aberdeen, this October. Returning for its 17th year, LiftEx is the unmissable global event for the lifting industry, with 100 exhibitors, over 1,000 industry professionals attending, two days of educational content, as well as the industry awards celebration. We’re also going to be at a few end user market events, but I can’t tell you about those yet.
This activity is important because it keeps an industry innovating and challenging its key players. These events provide new insights into trends and technologies that are transforming supply chains. And we’ve never been in a better position to drive impactful and lasting change. I’m looking forward to seeing the wares and solutions of manufacturers and understanding how they will be implemented at the point of use, as we tackle the challenges—and meet the opportunities—of infrastructure, construction, and other markets.
- Building for the future
There are a series of long-term infrastructure projects that are keeping us all busy—and will do for months and years to come. Along with HS2, Crossrail is one of the biggest transport infrastructure initiatives that has ever been undertaken in the UK. As we discussed last month, construction at Hinkley Point C began in October 2016, while projections made last year by EDF said that the site should start generating power in mid-2026. EDF hopes that Hinkley will provide a blueprint for Sizewell C. Then there was the landmark moment a tunnel boring machine broke through into the shaft at Thames Tideway’s Chambers Wharf site only this week, completing work on the Greenwich connection tunnel. That’s without mentioning the redevelopment of Liverpool’s docks and many other multi-year projects.
These sites have already or will go onto create a myriad of opportunities for companies in and out of the lifting industry. We get involved with the manufacture of brackets, pipework, and mobilisation of new workshops, for example, while supporting the tier one contractors that are mobilising as these jobs gather pace. We also deliver lifting equipment and conduct periodic Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations (LOLER) inspections. This type of work is great for business planning because you can forecast in a way you can’t with, say, contract lifting.
- Health of renewable energy
The UK government says it wants to generate enough wind energy to be able to power every home in the UK by 2030. Its new energy strategy promises a major expansion of offshore wind turbines over the next few years. The government wants 50 gigawatts of the UK’s electricity to be generated by wind by the end of the decade—5GW of which is likely to come from floating platforms off the UK coast. It’s clear that the time it takes for new projects to be given the green light is speeding up.
Radio-frequency identification (RFID) tracks every item of our equipment at many offshore and other renewable energy sites. We have stocked lifting and rigging equipment stores at numerous remote locations—and many of those shackles, hooks, slings, and harnesses are fitted with a tag that can be read by a smart device to capture inspection and location details on an app. But the whole supply chain, from design through to maintenance and decommissioning, is a hotbed of activity for lifting companies, above and below the water.
Of course, this is of particular interest given that we were recently named a UK distributor of Verton’s load orientation products. Verton is an innovative technology firm and inventor of the world’s first remote-controlled load orientation system, which makes taglines obsolete, removing the need for workers to be near moving or suspended loads. It is focused on providing scalable lifting solutions for the industry, whether it be for heavier and bulkier loads, reducing environmental impacts on operations, or providing actionable data for identifying opportunities for further reducing risks.
- Spring has sprung
Who doesn’t like the warmer days and longer nights of spring? We’re starting to see heightened demand as the renewable energy and telecommunications sectors prepare for their busiest period of the year offshore. Other industries are energised too as the risk of storms causing costly delays is lessened. More generally, people tend to feel better when the sun is shining, and we read that Covid prefers the colder temperatures as well, which is another reason to put the shades on and smile.
‘Some things in life are bad
They can really make you mad
Other things just make you swear and curse
Rope and Sling Specialists Ltd