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Luck of the Irish…

Sometimes one can make their own fortune, says Mr. Loadlink upon his return from Ireland, where LEEA staged back-to-back roadshows last month.

David Mullard, SP business development manager, and I spent a week in Ireland at the end of June, where LEEA staged two roadshows in three days in Belfast and Dublin. I’ve blogged before about the association’s ‘Lifting the Load—Out on the Road’ initiative that brings seminars, a small exhibition and networking to a regional audience that can attend free of charge.

I like the format for a number of reasons, chiefly because it requires all participants to be dynamic and make the best of the short window of opportunity. In only a few hours—everything happens between 10am and, say, 2pm—a tabletop expo, networking and educational presentations are all staged, usually in adjacent rooms at a small hotel or similar venue. Snooze and you lose. Blink and you miss it.

The concept also leaves something to chance, which only adds to the appeal for me. It’s impossible for LEEA to guarantee large crowds at a free-to-attend event and there wouldn’t be time to network with 500 people anyway. It means every roadshow varies somewhat; some attract large, engaged audiences and others less so. To some extent, Belfast and Dublin followed suit with the latter drawing a larger delegation to a venue that was probably better suited to the concept than the other. But I liked them both.

The roadshows are a microcosm of any other trade show or conference and the same rules apply; if one is prepared to engage with people and make the best of it, there are opportunities aplenty, even at the quieter events. Too many exhibitors make quick assumptions about the footfall and likely outcomes of participation. They look at the lack of a queue at the door at 9:30am and write it off. They get their smart devices out and waste the day surfing the net.

These doom and gloom merchants are often the type who pass up the bonus networking opportunities to be had over breakfast, dinner and at the bar. Dave and I, meanwhile, had countless conversations with friends old and new outside of roadshow opening hours. A holistic approach should be taken to all business events, especially the short ones. At a bar in Belfast, I was about to order another Guinness to toast that very sentiment when the phone rang…

“Is that Mr. Loadllnk?” they said.

Ok, they didn’t ask after me by my blogging pseudonym but the conversation was uplifting nonetheless.

It was a local marina and dockside walkway specialist (there’s a market for everything!), interested in learning more about our centre of gravity and compression load cells. As luck would have it, we were only an hour away from their facility and booked a meeting the following day. It was fascinating to see the volume of cranes required at their yard alone and hear about potential use of our product range on jobsites.

We also made a point of visiting W.H. Scott & Son Engineers Ltd. (founded back in 1897), which offers a range of lifting and rigging gear, including our load cells, to clients across the UK from depots in Dublin, Belfast, Plymouth, Wexford, London and Bristol. Water utilities work continues to be a popular market for force measurement equipment, the team at W.H. Scott says.

Music to my ears

A lot has been said about the UK’s recent election results and subsequent commencement of Brexit negotiations with the EU. If you’re from far afield and have been following the news, you’ve probably gathered that the Conservative Party won, but lost, and the Labour Party lost, but won. Make sense? Probably not, but essentially it means the latter performed beyond expectations and the Tories have had to prop up a minority government via a deal with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

Now, we’re arguably in an even weaker position to talk ourselves into a favourable Brexit than we were before we went to the polls last month. This isn’t a political blog but I’m unashamedly a Remain voter. I didn’t see the logic in leaving the EU when the referendum was held and I still don’t. However, I’m also a practical person and understand the importance of accepting the decision and moving on. We’ve got to somehow get to a place of political and economic stability as soon as possible.

On the upside, regardless of political persuasion, it should be celebrated that the election turnout was up 2.6% from 2015 to 68.7% and, moreover, half of those aged 18-24 came out to vote, up a whopping 16%. For too long the younger generation has felt detached from politics and poorly represented by politicians, but a combination of Brexit (the vote didn’t go the way most young people wanted) and the latest General Election has set a C-change into motion.

Young people are talking about politics, which is great to hear; it’s their future politicians are shaping, after all. Politics even made the headlines at the recent Glastonbury Festival—a famous music event that takes place over five days in Somerset, UK—where attendees were chanting the name of the Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, when he made an appearance on the stage. It’s not about whom they were shouting, but what they were shouting about—politics—and I give that engagement a standing ovation.

I’ve also been monitoring closely events across the English Channel, where French President Emmanuel Macron recently took office. I see similarities in how he’s assembling his top team to that of a successful business leader who understands that it takes people with different skill-sets and personalities to excel in the varied posts of government. Mr. Macron found room in his cabinet for a campaigning environmentalist and an Olympic fencing champion, for example. Some of the UK’s more one-dimensional political parties could take note.

Rising in the East

The oil and gas industry in Singapore, like many places around the word, isn’t out of the woods but it shares a mood of cautious optimism with other hotbeds. Growth of some description will be recorded this year over last and the longer-term signs are good, says Gaylin’s load cell guru Presley Ng Seng Tat, who I visited recently. Fellow Singaporean Intermarine Supply Co. (Pte) Ltd was equally upbeat about market conditions.

Both are welcoming increased demand for our ATEX and IECEx range of products, which is consistent with a number of notable orders we’ve received here at headquarters. Our most popular product, the Radiolink plus (RLP), was our first explosion proof load cell and we recently received an order for 40 25t RLPs from a Greek shipping company, which noted the product’s Zone 0, 1 and 2 hazardous area classifications.

It’s been interesting to compare the market’s consumption of our ATEX range versus, say, our Clamp On Line Tensionmeter (or COLT). There’s a lesson for all product-based businesses to learn in that the speed with which new products go out the door isn’t always the most important barometer. Much fanfare greeted the ATEX RLP—and then the expanded range some six months later—while the marketplace was equally rapturous when we unveiled the COLT. However, the latter has proved to have a much quicker ramping up period; customers started buying it straight away.

That’s not to say it’s a better product than the ATEX range and herein lays the point. There are other load cells out there, thus, the ATEX range fills a smaller gap in the market. The COLT, meanwhile, is in a league of its own, offering a state-of-the-art Bluetooth load monitoring app among a myriad of standout features. It’s not more important to our growth strategy than the ATEX range, it’s just delivering at a different tempo.

H1 high

Finally, we conducted six-monthly planning meetings at the end of Q2, which are always beneficial and enlightening, especially when you follow a record Q1 with another record second quarter! I fly to the states this week to complete a similar exercise with the North American operation (we have a 30-strong global team in place). Punctuating our year with these plans keeps us on track. Imagine implementing a strategy in January and leaving it 11 months before working out where something went wrong only a few weeks into the session.

Here’s to a great H2 2017 for everyone!

Thank you for reading and use the hashtag #loadcell on social media.

Mr. Loadlink


Dizzy Heights…

Mr. Loadlink comes back down to earth after scaling the heights of the recent National Association of Tower Erectors annual conference in Fort Worth, Texas.

Was the suspense killing you?

I closed my last blog with reference to our latest ‘groundbreaking innovation’, offering only a clue that it will be used for ‘measuring tension on static lines’, and kept you on tenterhooks by adding, ‘watch this space’ before signing off and disappearing knowingly into the sunset.

The Clamp On Line Tensionmeter (COLT) boasts a state-of-the-art Bluetooth load monitoring app among a myriad of standout features.

The Clamp On Line Tensionmeter (COLT) boasts a state-of-the-art Bluetooth load monitoring app among a myriad of standout features.

I wasn’t really trying to create the same effect as the novelist of a good old-fashioned page-turner; I’m a humble blogger. I was merely honouring a commitment we made to stage the official launch of the Clamp On Line Tensionmeter (COLT) at the National Association of Tower Erectors (NATE) annual conference, which straddled the end of February and the beginning of March in Fort Worth, Texas. As the show proved, there was no need for added theatrics.


The reaction from the tower erection, maintenance and service professionals in attendance was overwhelming. I’d go as far as to say it was the most emphatic response I have seen for a new product in nearly three decades of attending trade shows and exhibitions. I’m glad it was kept under wraps, as the engaged, positive, quality demographic that NATE attracted to the convention deserved the first look.

Of course, many pointed to the state-of-the-art Bluetooth load monitoring app, while the integral quick adjustment mechanism (meaning it can be used to measure wire rope diameters from 3/16 in. to 1 in. or 5mm to 25mm) was the standout feature for others. Both elements equally impressed one of the early visitors to the exhibit, from the tower erection sector. “So I won’t need additional sheaves or tooling and the app will contain details of infinite wire ropes,” he remarked. “Wow!” he added. It wasn’t the only time we heard that word.

If the constant flow of footfall had abated I would have sat down to catch my breath. Reality was, no sooner had one inquisitive tower maintenance team left the stand (or booth as they call an exhibit stateside) a service company arrived, followed by another tower erector. At times, people had to leave the back of the crowd and come back later. Our product range is generally well received but this was unprecedented.

Tower erection and maintenance professionals were among visitors to our exhibit at NATE’s recent conference and exhibition.

Tower erection and maintenance professionals were among visitors to our exhibit at NATE’s recent conference and exhibition.

Plumb market

This blog isn’t about basking in our glory. The more important takeaway is the importance of tailoring a product to a marketplace and launching it in their back yard. Not everyone in the below-the-hook or, more specifically, force measurement industry knows what ‘plumb and tension’ means. To the NATE community, that’s their world. It’s a way of life. It was the perfect audience for the COLT, hence our endeavours to keep it behind closed doors until the event.

Welcoming another NATE attendee to the Straightpoint exhibit.

Welcoming another NATE attendee to the Straightpoint exhibit.

As I said in the press release we circulated as NATE doors flew open, we based the COLT on feedback from end users. Combining industry intelligence with our own research and engineering expertise, we devised a product that fills a gap in the market and supersedes alternative solutions. Further, it raises the bar in tension measuring technology to the stratosphere.

The towers themselves are getting pretty high too. Many of the professionals we met frequently service structures that are hundreds of feet in the air and I heard references to 1,000-foot-high structures, as the communication network achieves coverage across the vast landscapes of North America. Imagine how important it is therefore that when there are, say, 12 guy ropes around a tower, the tension is equal. In this business, it’s no good being a few degrees off vertical.

That’s where the COLT comes in. The computer numerical control (CNC) machined aluminium construction with high precision roller bearing pivot; high leverage tensioning arm; auto-locking magnetic handle mechanism for security when installed; and IP67 / NEMA6 waterproofing rating, will all combine as the tensionmeter is applied to keep this fascinating sector working efficiently and safely.

(The COLT will typically be applied from ground level or using a stepladder to attach it two feet from a termination or connection).

Wayne’s world

Wayne Wille, technical sales manager, has walked the corridors of NATE for a number of years. He’s a trusted authority in tension measurement and served as a great product champion for us after he joined the company during the latter stages of the COLT’s development. It was tremendous to have him on the stand throughout the show.

Therein lies another important reminder: becoming a thought leader and commentator on a sector builds up incredible trust in a marketplace. It’s not as crude as this, and I paraphrase, but one delegate suggested, “If this product is as good as you say it is, Wayne, we want to buy it”. Another said, simply, “Wow! That looks awesome”, after exchanging pleasantries with their old friend and looking across to the COLT.

Wayne started working with the tower industry in 1994 and attended his first NATE event in 2006. I like the way he summed it up when I asked what he enjoys about working in the sector. “The tower industry is always looking for solutions that offer them efficiency, safety and reliability,” he replied. I could certainly relate, as a supplier of equipment that does just that. As Wayne added in networking conversations, Straightpoint offers a solution that is very quick and accurate. It was music to the ears of a captivated audience.

Wayne Wille, technical sales manager, talks a NATE visitor through the COLT.

Wayne Wille, technical sales manager, talks a NATE visitor through the COLT.

Even as the business leader, I was there to learn from Wayne and the contacts he has spent many years cultivating. It would have been a mistake to be bullish on my first visit to the show. As I listened to stories, I was charmed by references to the mechanical dynamometers with cable grips and come-a-longs that were widely used in the sector years ago. They spoke about juggling three pieces of equipment; with COLT they’ll use just one.

I’m singling Wayne out but it’s worth referencing the expertise Dave Mullard, our UK-based business development manager, has in this marketplace. The engineering and marketing teams deserve a doff of the cap too for producing a product that looks fantastic but is also designed for purpose. Many tower erectors identified its key components and standout features just by looking at the COLT’s dimensions, which was rewarding.

Despite this positivity—“The COLT will sell very well in this market,” Wayne beamed within the first hour of the NATE show—we haven’t put all our eggs in one basket. Manufacturers of any product will be wise to challenge its potential for diversity even when the fanfare from the primary marketplace is prolonged. We’re already looking at applications including cable median barriers, zip lines, metro transit, ski lifts, fall arrest systems, and more. The first units will be put to use on site as early as 1st May this year!

Wayne Wille and I used our trip to NATE’s conference to visit Aldinger, an accredited calibration, certification and repair center for test and measurement instrumentation.

Wayne Wille and I used our trip to NATE’s conference to visit Aldinger, an accredited calibration, certification and repair center for test and measurement instrumentation.

Power of positivity

It was truly an honour to spend a few days among tower erection professionals, most notably because of their positive outlook. Positivity is damn powerful; don’t underestimate it. I spend a lot of time at lifting equipment, oil and gas, maritime, breakbulk and other trade shows where, with all due respect to these industries, there is often an air of negativity about the state of the market and prospects for each other’s businesses. Not so at NATE. These guys are on the up, in more ways than one.

Meanwhile, Jeff Miller, the new general manager of Straightpoint Inc., has settled into the company and has started to focus on our six key performance indicators for 2017. The old adage is true, if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. (There’s a nice synergy there with our equipment!) Jeff’s introduction to the company has allowed John Molidor, director of sales for the western hemisphere, to concentrate on big projects, research niche markets and attend trade shows. He was at ConExpo-Con/Agg in Las Vegas this week where he caught up with many contacts to discuss force measurement, load monitoring and suspended weighing load cell solutions for the construction sector.

There have been other highlights over the last month or so but, as always, I can’t cover them all in detail. Joining Scott Abernethy on a traditional English pub-crawl during his recent visit from Straightpoint Inc. in California and an enlightening trip to Gaylin in South Korea were among the most memorable moments.

Thank you for reading! Use the hashtag #loadcell on social media.

Mr. Loadlink