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The Full SP…

Let the marketplace become your sales force, says Mr. Loadlink upon his return from Asian peregrination.

sp logoThere have been two stages to the SP revolution. First, industry started to refer to SP Radiolink pluses and SP Wireless Loadshackles etc.; now, many engineers are driving the brand towards synonymity with all requirements for force measurement, load monitoring and suspended weighing load cell technology, regardless of the specific product required.

“You’ll need an SP for that,” she said, looking at the job spec requirements to perform load tests on a 400t capacity deck crane aboard a vessel. This particular engineer, like many of her peers the world over, simply identified a need for a low headroom load cell and knew Straightpoint could provide the solution. In a completely unrelated email I received recently, the same assumption was made: “Can you help me source an SP package to measure this load before we order the crane?” it read.

Family values

It’s a heady status that the whole Straightpoint family has been working towards for many years, in earnest since we launched the new ‘SP’ logo, say, five years ago. Yet the marketplace is driving it; they’ve become our sales force.

We’re not getting ahead of ourselves and it certainly doesn’t represent the completion of any journeys—only another milestone—but it’s something we’re extremely proud of. Where Tannoy might be used to describe a public address system, or one might buy a Coke neglectful of the brand of fizzy drink available before Hoovering the carpet, SP will one day be used just as ubiquitously in the rigging industry.

Consider that there will always be more weighing requirements than there are Straightpoint personnel or distributors, and think how powerful ‘SP’ could become. As such, I thought it prudent to share in brief the four main reasons, in no particular order, why this evolution has taken place, in the hope readers might be able to apply similar strategy to their own businesses. Remember, our starting point can be likened to many other companies; we started off small in a market with a number of much larger competitors.

  1. Quality

Engineers don’t give compliments easily. They understand materials, structures and systems as they relate to their fields of expertise. They identify problems and set about finding solutions. Thus, only by providing a world-class product, backed by a dedicated distributor network, has SP become associated with the positive impact it can have on an industry, jobsite or application. Ironically, it takes an incredibly reliable and efficient product to achieve secondary status to a brand.

  1. Diversity

It’s taken constant diversification and enhancement of the SP range to differentiate us from alternative solution providers. As our new Clamp On Line Tensionmeter (COLT), specifically targeted at the plumb and tension market, proves, we can tailor solutions for end user marketplaces. Of course, the National Association of Tower Erectors (NATE) community—we launched the product at their event—isn’t shouting about SP from the rooftops yet, but it is getting its first taste of the comprehensive range of equipment that provides solutions for such varied applications.

The engineer referenced at the outset wouldn’t have said, “You’ll need an SP for that,” unless she trusted the brand to cater for all application nuances. She’d have said, “We need to find a load cell supplier that can work with these headroom restrictions.”

  1. Marketing

Visibility and consistency of marketing message has given the marketplace faith that we are sincere about our endeavours to make the lifting industry a safer place. Backed by a simple but effective and recognisable logo, we have associated the SP concept with a commitment to make a positive difference to the way industries across the world use cranes and other equipment. Through non-commercial blogs, press releases, advertisements, social media, trade shows and more, we’ve been authentic and ever-present.

  1. Internationalisation

SP means the same in any language. It’s easy and fast to say, meaning non-English speaking distributors and their customers have been particularly keen to adopt the abbreviation. The effectiveness of our product in meeting local requirements has also endeared us to different geographies. Regulations are different in the UK, Australia, China and the Middle East, but we have ensured our range can be used everywhere. SP would never have caught on if it only provided a solution in certain industries or regions.

Rising in the East

The evolution of Straightpoint to the point where SP has become a solution in its own right was particularly apparent during a recent trip that saw me visit the Middle East, Korea, Malaysia and Indonesia in quick succession.

First, I was honoured to be a guest of Gaylin International and Rigmarine (part of the Gaylin Group) in Dubai, where I was among a select group of manufacturers—Modulift, William Hackett and Samson Rope were also there—invited to network and give a presentation to representatives from 10 locations around the world. I’m grateful to Mike Duncan, managing director of Gaylin, for the opportunity, which I also used to spend some time with the company’s CEO, Desmond Teo and his team.

From the Middle East, I flew out to visit Borneo-based lifting and rigging equipment supplier Leyden Engineering Services, which is based in Labuan, a territory of Malaysia off the coast in East Malaysia. There, I conducted training and participated in meetings with the company’s founder, Anthony Ho; his son, Chiang Seng Ho; and other representatives, all of whom spoke highly of the “SP” range.

As an aside, it was interesting to visit a local museum to learn of the region’s history and, in particular, the importance of coal during British colonisation. I’ve blogged before about the area’s stunning seafood!

In between activity with Leyden I visited a local museum. This plaque reads, ‘Here, on the 10th September, 1945, the commander of the 9th Division, Australian Imperial Forces, received the surrender of the 37th Japanese Army in North Borneo’.

In between activity with Leyden I visited a local museum. This plaque reads, ‘Here, on the 10th September, 1945, the commander of the 9th Division, Australian Imperial Forces, received the surrender of the 37th Japanese Army in North Borneo’.

Next stop was Batam, Indonesia, home to PT Rigspek Perkasa, a distributor across a key region of Southeast Asia and Oceania, where Erald Bangapadang was a fantastic host. It was interesting to note synergies between his company and Leyden, who both see a lot of potential for the SP COLT and wireless compression load cells. Driving demand for the latter is local customers increasingly seeing the importance of getting information about loads before sourcing lifting equipment or instructing a lift. As Asia and the US catch up with Europe in terms of pre-lift preparation, the future for these load cells is exciting.


In other news, we completed a record first quarter and have recruited industry stalwart Mike Neal as project sales engineer. He will utilise over three decades of relevant experience to primarily focus on promoting the company’s range of non-standard products. As I said in a press release, we want to increase our conversion rate on non-standard products to somewhere close to that of our standard range. He was actually my sales manager many years ago and we have kept in touch since; it’s great to have him on board.

There was one more announcement to make but I might save it until next month as Dean Nelson, managing director of Melbourne, Australia’s Hoisting Equipment Specialist (Vic) Pty Ltd is about to arrive and he’s had a long journey. Watch this space!

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

Mr. Loadlink


mr loadlink with Mike Duncan

Mr loadlink (right) next to Mike Duncan at the Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens last December

Mr. Loadlink invites guest blogger Mike Duncan, managing director of the Gaylin Group of companies, to talk about management, relocation, becoming a thought leader, and more.

Not long ago, if Mr. Loadlink, aka David Ayling, director of Straightpoint, had asked me to blog in his place, I’d have asked him what he’d been drinking.

“Blog in your place? I beg your pardon,” I might have replied.

However, since late last year I have become more familiar with content and inbound marketing strategy, to the point that I now understand why David invests so much of his time addressing target audiences through his monthly posts.

That’s not to say I wasn’t always a reader—I was—but it’s only upon communicating more readily with trade media through case studies and other articles myself over recent months that I’ve realised just how much traction there is to be gained by sharing stories. It also represents natural progression for someone, in myself, who has always believed in the power of effective, honest, communication.

Yes, David (like me) wants to give back to the industry but it’s only recently become apparent to me how rich the returns are. I don’t mean in a crude sense related to revenue, but also in terms of engagement, interaction and positive interest. I know it has taken Mr. Loadlink time to achieve this status but I can see the potential in the early stages of our own content outreach campaigns. I hope this blog continues to build that momentum.

For background, I have worked in the lifting equipment industry since 1989; I am a long-time distributor of Straightpoint’s range of force measurement, load monitoring and suspended weighing load cell equipment; and I oversee 10 facilities across the world, including Rigmarine (part of the Gaylin Group) locations.

I’ve long seen myself as something of a mentor in the industry, not just from a product and technical standpoint, but related to management. I’m fascinated by the science of managing people. Most of my middle and senior managers have come up through the ranks after starting with hands-on, practical roles.

It’s been a steep learning curve for all of us, but it’s taught me a huge amount about getting the most out of individuals and their varying skill sets. Everyone brings something different to the party and the trick is positioning people where they can play to their strengths. I often refer to it as human chess—a great game of tactics, strategy, patience and practice.

Accordingly, I hope to take this opportunity to share three pieces of guidance that might serve you well in the lifting gear industry and others—managing a supply chain, embracing relocation and expanding a global operation.

  1. Supply chain

Treat suppliers as importantly as one would a top customer. As a distributor of equipment, the reputation of the Gaylin Group hinges on the quality of products we supply. It’s an overused cliché that the customer is always right and many business leaders claim to get out of bed in the morning only thinking about their clients. While they’re important—obviously—we place equal emphasis on our key suppliers.

Whether it be load cells from Straightpoint, spreader beams from Modulift, or a rigging item from another world-class manufacturer, we choose suppliers carefully and build long-term relationships with them to ensure our customers are getting the best possible technologies and solutions, aligned with our own expertise. Most of our suppliers are very innovative so understanding new products and solutions as they’re put to market is also vitally important. We have a hand in driving that innovation too by providing constant feedback from the frontline.

Sadly, I’ve seen such relationships and loyalty diminish in the lifting industry in recent years, further highlighting the importance of good partnerships. An old saying where I’m from calls it ‘buttering one’s bread on both sides’; in other words, wanting to maximise profits by supporting contradictory interests and abandoning certain principles in a quest for a quick buck. It’s shortsighted, narrow-minded and everyone loses—manufacturers, distributors and end users.

Mr. Loadlink (I call him Dave over dinner!) and I have a trusting relationship based on both parties committing in equal measure. After collaborating for over a decade, it’s clear we’re doing something right. It’s not rocket science that supply chains break down when there are weak links. Just as is the case when a rigging team is utilising a chain sling beneath the hook of a crane, the lift is only as safe as its weakest link. When it breaks, the consequences can be severe.

The strength of the Straightpoint and Rigmarine / Gaylin partnership has been built over a period of 14 years. Here are a number of load cell innovations amongst other below-the-hook equipment, including Modulift beams, that Rigmarine is proud to supply to customers.

  1. Travel bug

Twenty years ago I relocated to Azerbaijan, where Rigmarine now has a facility in Baku to the west of the Caspian Sea. The lifting and marine sector within the oil and gas industry had presented me with an opportunity to change my career (indeed, my life) forever. I did what people tend to do when such a door opens and consulted with my support network. Someone told me Azerbaijan was like Dubai and I was sold on it!

Looking back, I’m glad I took the plunge, spending 16 years there, over which time I got married and two of my three boys (they are 18 months, four and seven) were born on the crossroads of Southwest Asia and Southeastern Europe. However, it’s not for everyone and, while I’d urge young people to go for it if an opportunity to relocate presents itself, it’s important to do the necessary research and weigh up the options. First of all, if there is an expectation that a way of life and home comforts can travel in the suitcase, think again. Setting up overseas tips everything upside down.

I have met many unhappy people who have relocated. They typically think moving abroad hasn’t agreed with their psyche, but they should look closer to ‘home’ to find the root cause of the problem. It’s them. Relocation is change personified. A person has to learn to immerse themselves in the local culture and ways of life. Take the months of extreme heat in the emirates, for example. It gets people down not being able to go for a walk, but they forget what it’s like in Scotland during the winter months; nor is that the weather for a countryside ramble.

The travel bug has certainly bitten me. Seeing what other cultures have to offer only whets the appetite to explore some more. When I get the opportunity, I spend time at a house I own in France where the local produce is heavenly. It makes me laugh when I see advertisements in the local French paper promoting the luxury of placing an online order for groceries on a Monday and having a man in a van deliver from the UK two days later! Here, it’s fresh and available on the doorstep—yes, even bread!

  1. Thinking big

That theme bounces me onto my final piece of guidance about expanding a business, particularly when doing so across the world. We recently opened Gaylin’s sixth hub in South Korea—others are in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and China—which, inclusive of Rigmarine sites, was a landmark 10th in the group. As trade media also reported, Rigmarine just opened its fourth facility in the rural village of Insch, 30 miles to the northwest of Aberdeen, Scotland.

I see some companies poorly plan their expansion strategies. Our success has been based on a clear vision to become a global force. A business can’t expand across the world and do so with an apologetic whimper. We have grown significantly over the past three years despite the industry downturn, underlining the focus and drive of our management team and our passion to become a rigging powerhouse. We’re clear about that. We remain in a phase of growth, but already cover a larger footprint and offer greater diversity of product than any other company of our kind.

It’s important to choose locations carefully. A commonality of all our sites is a core customer base in offshore oil and gas, renewables, construction, break bulk, shipping and marine industries. However, we diversify when it makes sense; at Rigmarine’s Kazakhstan site, for example, we’ve highlighted synergies between inland and offshore industries to meet increasing demand from the mining and power industries. Everywhere, we build up a skilled workforce through accredited training programmes and third-party qualifications, whilst offering modern apprenticeship schemes to job seekers.

At risk of repeating myself from my first point, supply networks are particularly important when targeting a new geography. Before we had any potential or existing customers in to visit us in Aberdeen, our suppliers travelled to see the site and discuss with us the products we will stock to position us to best serve the lifting applications prevalent in the market.

We have a trusted blueprint that we’ll roll out for two further new facilities over the coming years (I can’t say too much more at this stage!), whilst customising our offering to each region. Combining the two will be key to our success as it has been in the past.

Thank you for reading my first blog, and thanks again to Mr. Loadlink for the opportunity.

Mike Duncan
Managing Director, Gaylin Group