Skip to main content

Bluelink Live

Rigged using industry standard shackles, such as the Crosby G2130, the Bluelink has been designed to minimise headroom; it measures only 6 inches or 156mm from eye to eye.

As Straightpoint’s (SP) latest innovation hits the market, Mr. Loadlink relives the Bluelink journey—and looks forward to going live.

I was sipping coffee with U.S.-based colleagues Wayne Wille and Aaron Orsak when Bluelink was first discussed. It must’ve been strong coffee; we spoke for a while. We didn’t know we were taking about it at the time though, nor was it clear if a product at all—new or old—could embody the matters we were chewing over.

Many new products start that way. In my experience, working in industrial markets in particular, it’s rarely a case of envisaging the shape, size, look, and feel of a product, and setting a course to it, but more identifying a gap, challenge, limitation, trend, or nuance and mapping a pathway from it.

How do you know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve come from?

Wayne, Aaron, and I weren’t talking about a load cell that introduces Bluetooth technology. We were wondering when existing and prospective customers still utilising outdated mechanical force measurement products might gravitate towards more high-tech solutions, if at all. The same scenario has played out among colleagues and business partners the world over; the individuals, the product, and the marketplace don’t really matter. The synergy is that there’s habitual behaviour to note that could possibly create a business opportunity.

But we were, and remain, an innovative pioneer in force measurement technology; we’re known for smashing through walls and delivering state-of-the-art solutions. One doesn’t have to be that way to be successful, but it’s how we roll. How then could we tap into a demographic that is gatekeeping tradition? Surely that’s for companies more aligned with their place on the curve. Bentley and Skoda both sell cars, but Bentley don’t covet Skoda’s mailing list.

There’s an app for that

Maybe the three of us gazed out the window at one point resigned to that fact. Still the accompanying biscuits stuck in the throat though. This isn’t the automotive business; we’re nowhere near its cycle of evolution. Think about it: 95% of lifts remain unmonitored. Our conversation arrived at a point, therefore, where it became clear to all of us that we needed to create a product with all the SP hallmarks, but that tapped into the curiosity of less progressive minds. Our target audience here wasn’t indomitable, we surmised. There are inherent advantages, after all, of reading data on a smartphone. More than 5% of people have smartphones and most of them love apps.

We are increasingly engaging with the world through apps, which is a culture that lends itself to Bluelink’s uptake

We’d come a long way over a couple of cups of coffee, yet we were 18 months away from launching the eventual single capacity Bluelink—a 6.5t (14,300 lb.) capacity load cell. As we brainstormed in the days and weeks that followed that landmark conversation, it became even clearer that we needed to stick to our principles but hone the product to a more conventional mindset. I’m sorry if that appears oxymoronic. It’s not, really. We’re wireless innovators and we wanted to roll another wireless innovation off the production line.

The next step was a big one and it’s a leap that some companies forget to take. Sure, Wayne, Aaron, and I know our way around the marketplace but we had to put the concept to distributors and end users to get a sense of its viability. Companies avoid this important phase, typically for two reasons. Firstly, they don’t trust the market’s opinion. In other words, they think they know better. It’s an arrogant stance to take and it’s seen some get caught out. Ok, Henry Ford said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses,” but generally a marketplace is a great sounding board. Knowledge is power when deciding on performance and price point.

Secondly, people don’t like to hear bad news. And, true enough, some products have fallen and died at the first hurdle. If someone is particularly proud or sentimentally attached to an idea they might be inclined to take it as far as they can without exposing it to criticism. They only see green lights. That’s tempting but naive. The earlier an idea is scrutinised, the sooner one can measure its viability. Often the negativity isn’t about the concept in its entirety but more elements or components within it, so it should be embraced. For example, “It’s a great idea, but could you extend it to this?”

Amber gambler

Did you know that, at least here in the UK, an amber light means vehicles should stop unless it is unsafe to do so? It’s widely misinterpreted, sometimes even as, “Quick, speed up, it’ll turn red in a second.” This is relevant to product development.

If in doubt, stop and check all bases are covered before moving on.

I like to maintain an amber light mentality as we advance through product development. We can still travel with intensity and vigour, yet we don’t move on until it is right to do so. One never wants to get too far too quickly. The mindset adopted during testing should be consistent throughout, as all departments become involved: battery, waterproofing, range, strength, and so on, all has to be recorded, documented, calculated, verified, and tested again.

Eventually, everyone who’s anyone at a company becomes involved, from operations to marketing. Where three of us once sat around a table drinking coffee, now 20 of us are in a boardroom, flanked by whiteboards, buried beneath prototypes, paperwork, and marketing concepts. To help keep a project of such magnitude on track, we use an online tool called, which I would recommend. It is essentially a team management solution to connect people to workplace processes. It was founded on the belief that transparency and collaboration create a culture of ownership and empowerment. I buy into that concept.

When a purchaser is out looking for M4 screws, the sales team are in meetings with distributors, the engineers are waiting for feedback from a testing verification body, and marketing are finalising a launch campaign, it’s good to know who’s accountable for what and when delivery is due. leaves nothing to interpretation. If Elsie is a day early on this, Abdul is a day late on that, or Gabriella needs more time on the other, everyone knows about it. It’s fun to have an end (launch) date in the system to aim for too.

The reaction to Bluelink’s launch proves the value in our methods. Wayne, Aaron, and I will raise a cup of coffee (or something stronger!) to its success one day soon.

LinkedIn live

Such launches will increasingly feature live video. Business networking platform, LinkedIn, recently confirmed that it is currently piloting live video streaming, as the feature continues to be popular on Instagram and Facebook, for example. It represents natural progression for some LinkedIn users, like me and other SP staff, who already record videos and post them to the site. Eventually, we’ll be able to go live as a trade show opens or to unveil a new innovation—like Bluelink.

LinkedIn is going liveand so should you.

It’ll take some strategising to get it right. It helps if an audience knows someone is going to be there. If a launch date on says June 6, work backwards and plug in some social media content and other live videos teasing the launch, advising people to tune in at 3pm when they won’t want to miss the grand unveiling. Of course, it’s important not to give the game away and don’t overstate it. What could live up to expectations if a company has been talking about, “The game-changing, earth-shattering, product of a lifetime, that you won’t be able to live without”? Not even Bluelink! Instead, hint at the problems it solves or the applications where it might be applied.

It’s that time of year

I travel to the states soon where the Associated Wire Rope Fabricators (AWRF) Product & Information Exhibition (PIE) takes place on Monday 8 April. The expo is co-located with the association’s general meeting that runs 7-10 April at Hilton Cleveland Downtown. It’s always one of the most enjoyable and productive events in the calendar and there’ll be greater significance to our stand (booth) next to new owners, The Crosby Group, this year. Given timing and logistics etc., the first official SP-Crosby co-exhibit will also be seen that week, at the Bauma show in Munich, Germany (8-14 April), where David Mullard will represent us.

On the subject of Crosby, it was an honour to host their CEO, Bob Davies, here at SP HQ earlier this week. M&S (Marks and Spencer) sandwiches and Yorkshire Tea were consumed as we discussed many an interesting subject about business and the lifting industry.

I want to close by wishing SP’s Lauren Rose, who will be leaving us shortly for pastures new, all the very best for the future. It’s always a pleasure to be able to influence anyone’s personal or professional journey. She’ll always be part of the SP family and I look forward to hearing about her future successes.

Travel safely if you’re off to trade shows. Thank you for reading.

Mr. Loadlink

It was good to spend time with Bob Davies, CEO, The Crosby Group, at SP HQ this week.

Brand New…

As industry responds positively to Straightpoint’s (SP) elevated profile, Mr. Loadlink reflects on the rebrand

“That’s it,” I said, the first time I saw the design for Straightpoint’s (SP) logo. The continuous yellow path from the bottom left-hand corner of the S to the point of the P. It became iconic on the blue background, as did the full logo, complete with tagline ‘making the lifting industry a safer place’. Furthermore, it was a hallmark of quality, state-of-the-art technology, engineering magnificence, and marketing prowess.

People wanted an SP to measure their load. And they still do.

As has been widely reported, a new chapter for the brand was recently opened, under the ownership of lifting and rigging hardware giant, The Crosby Group. Now, in the smaller form of the logo, ’Crosby’ sits neatly above the ‘SP’. In the full SP version, the mantra has progressed more broadly to ‘know the load’ (more on that below). In other references, the two logos sit side-by-side, separated only by a thin, vertical line, blue in colour. What a pair they make!

I still pinch myself when I see it. Since I took ownership of SP on April 15 2002, I’ve looked up in admiration at the Crosby machine. Its bright, red logo was symbolic of scale and presence in the marketplace. It was something to aspire to be more like, yet impossible to replicate. So when I think of SP now under its ownership and look at the two logos so neatly woven together in partnership, it still prompts a sharp intake of breath. Perhaps that’ll wear off. I hope it doesn’t, actually. There’s no better legacy for me as former owner and CEO to have secured than to put the brand on such a platform.

Made for each other.

Desel powered

I’m pleased with the outcome of the rebrand, as I’ve seen plenty of companies in the lifting sector and elsewhere get such an exercise wrong. There was some pontification along the way but the Crosby-SP marketing teams always had a clear vision to create an identity that showcased the best of the existing businesses and, moreover, the new offering. As Robert Desel, chief commercial officer at Crosby, said, SP already represented a force in the marketplace and now the products and expertise can be positioned closer to the point of use than ever before and the pace of innovation increased.

We started work on the rebrand before the deal was announced. There, in deepest winter, we set about creating a concept that would lead the next 50 years of force measurement evolution. We had brilliant brainstorming partners in Crosby, a company with a codified brand standard. I knew the connotations of the brand as a stakeholder in the marketplace, but it was fascinating to go behind the curtain and learn about the principles that hold it up. I guess that kind of high-level brand management is reserved for larger businesses, but there’s a lesson even for the butcher, baker, and candlestick maker in understanding what a brand name means.

What does your brand say about your sausages, bread, or scented flambeau?

SP’s marketeers brought a lot to the table too. We started with about 12 different logo concepts and we set about shortlisting and then committing to the frontrunner.

This is a more complicated exercise than it sounds; it’s not necessarily a case of selecting one that looks the best. We constantly had to be mindful of the mission the brand would represent. Practically, we also had to consider how the logo would look on a catalogue, on a product, in print, in digital, on an app, on a smart device, on the chest of a ripped global business development director for load monitoring solutions (what?), and so on.

If one is entering a similar process, it’s important to think about the different places a logo will appear in the modern world. Background colours, shapes, sizes, etc. are all crucial.

The real vision isn’t really what the logo looks like at all.

Crosby catapult

A tagline or mantra can help define a brand. ‘Making the lifting industry a safer place’ was a meaningful ‘Why’ for the previous SP business; we didn’t want to be a load cell or component manufacturer, we wanted to make the lifting industry a safer place for people to work. However, while we had successfully diversified on our own, Crosby will catapult the range into a big wide world of dragging, jacking, towing, pulling, pushing, rotating, uprighting, weighing, and more. Sure, we’ll still be making the lifting industry a safer place, but plenty of others too.

Our new brand better have broad shoulders; the scope is vast. Think about the myriad of applications that currently use load cells and then consider the volume that don’t. Even to isolate our traditional market—lifting, where most of our distributors reside—only, say, 5% of lifts currently use a load cell. What about the other 95%?

Our long-term goal is that every lift is monitored, every time—and we’re going to pioneer that evolution. That was on the whiteboard from the first marketing meeting about the company’s new dawn and it eventually became our tagline: ‘know the load’.

Our newest innovation, Bluelink, was conceptualised out of the same school of thought. The product, a 6.5t (14,300 lb.) capacity load cell, introduces Bluetooth technology to existing and prospective customers still utilising outdated mechanical force measurement products. Bluelink is thusly targeted at end users that remain loyal to traditional equipment but who might be receptive to enhanced technology and the inherent advantages of reading data on an iOS or Android smartphone installed with SP’s free HHP app.

The launch won’t place a yardstick by which to measure the ongoing technological progression of our range, but more reflects our ability to continue to provide tools for the many different types of user looking to understand the forces being applied.

Crosby has given SP an opportunity to accelerate its growth curve.

Life’s a beach

I’d like to think that, one-day, the majority of Crosby shackles will be supplied with a load cell in them. I’ll be on a beach (or in a wooden jacket!) by the time such technology is ubiquitous but the ball is rolling. And it’ll gather speed. If I know Crosby and SP as well as I think I do, it’ll probably happen sooner than many think. Do you remember when people said that they didn’t want cameras in their mobile or cell phones? Or that they preferred looking at printed photographs? What about the folks who said remote-controlled television sets were inconvenient because the remote is easy to lose behind the sofa?

The new era has started with a bang, as U.S.-based Wayne Wille and Aaron Orsak; and UK-stationed David Mullard and I, have hit the campaign trail. David and I have already covered Azerbaijan, Egypt, Dubai, and other locations between us, while our colleagues stateside have been on a whistle-stop tour of their own. Through Crosby, we’ve gained access to hundreds of new purchasing decision makers and thought leaders, all of whom want to learn more about the SP range and have sat in awe as we’ve delivered product demonstration after load cell showcase after presentation.

And then joined one or two of them for dinner to evangelise some more.

Remember when I said in my last blog that I sat down with my new employers to discuss my role moving forward, and the plan was based on playing to my strengths? It’s been hugely rewarding to feel that plan coming to fruition. There, among the Emiratis, I sat in my hotel room—I was amid the organised chaos of opened suit- and flight-cases, one sweat-stained, newly branded polo shirt screwed up on the floor, another, pristine, hanging up ready for the next day—and beamed privately. I feel blessed to have been given a new lease of life. It’s been a long time since something close to me felt embryonic, and I’ve missed it.

Mr Loadlink

A global business development campaign is underway under new ownership