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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

Curtain Call…

Deep in conversation at the LEEA Lifting & Rigging Conference Middle East in Dubai.

Deep in conversation at the LEEA Lifting & Rigging Conference Middle East in Dubai.

In his final blog of 2015, Mr Loadlink reflects on the last event of a busy year, welcomes a new distributor, looks forward to unveiling a new member of staff and more.

It’s fitting that I’m sat beneath the largest drapery I have ever seen as I pen my last blog of 2015 and bring the curtain down on another year. Someone told me that here in the lobby of the Shangri-La Hotel in Dubai, where the LEEA Lifting & Rigging Conference Middle East took place earlier this week, two curtains on either side of the room each weigh over half a tonne in silk. I’d like to use a load cell to get an exact weight!

It’s been a big year for us too, during which I’ve clocked up more airmiles, visited more companies, attended more shows, signed off more press releases, sent more Tweets…you get the idea… than ever before. One final journey of 2015 remains from Dubai to Thailand, where I will spend Christmas and the New Year in the beautiful Chiang Rai region.

I will leave for the airport from the Shangri-La on Sheikh Zayed Road later today where, once again, the value of events that combine conference-style content with a small exhibition are fresh in the mind. I’ve said before that I find the visitors to such events hungry for information and prepared for serious conversations. I’ll set the scene again so you can look for similar concepts to add to your own event diaries in 2016.

LEEA, the trade association that underscores itself with the tagline Lifting Standards Worldwide, mirrored the format of the conference it staged in Singapore earlier in the year where we also had a positive experience. Here in Dubai, LEEA hired two ballrooms on the ninth floor of the hotel. A left at the registration table took one into a room named Al Bader, while a right turn took one in the direction of the equally grand Al Nojoom.

The event was, importantly, branded as a conference, which I think is key to attracting a certain audience. In Al Nojoom, two days of high level presentations took place from, say, 9am to 5pm, punctuated by breaks where attendees were ushered back into Al Bader. There, LEEA served a light breakfast on both mornings, lunches and short coffee breaks. During these sessions they were encouraged to peruse exhibits around the edges of the room and network.

Straightpoint had a stand opposite the door at the back in between our friends at Rigmarine and Modulift. It was a great feeling at breaks when traffic headed straight towards us. Each exhibitor had a tabletop for products and literature in addition to a small space to put up a couple of banners. As conference attendees filtered back from Al Nojoom, they were keen to interact and apply the products on show to some of the lessons they had learned across the corridor.

Community spirit

Quality took priority over quantity throughout the event. There was a community of, say, 100 engaged, switched-on people who absorbed world-class, educational content, cultivated contacts and met new professionals to add to their networks. Neither Al Nojoom or Al Bader were crammed to the rafters. Nor was there a queue around the corner when the doors opened. Instead, there was comfortable networking, interaction and constant sharing of information for continued improvement of best practice.

This is in stark contrast to many events where quantity almost takes precedence. Read the promotional materials for most trade events and they’ll make reference to miles of aisles, thousands of visitors, multiple days and even the need to book hotels early because of resultant chaos as the trade show rolls into town.

I often wonder who gains the most from this. Exhibitors can’t possibly engage with that level of footfall, visitors are hoarded into bottlenecks so organisers can take photos to make aisles look even more popular and similarly congested entrances, exits, hotels and restaurants become the norm. Imagine the freebees and brochures that are consumed by these hordes as they roam around booting tyres.

Trade shows should be measured only by how effectively they facilitate the connection between problems and solutions; suppliers and audiences; improvement and the tools required to achieve it. Ok, load cells and below-the-hook equipment are niche markets within a vertical industry where this is particularly true but every conversation is only as effective as it is advantageous for both parties.

Congratulations, LEEA. I look forward to unpacking the flight case at your first event of the New Year, wherever in the world that might be.

Lines of latitude

Before travelling to the Middle East and then the Far East, the topic of conversation at headquarters was North America as Straightpoint Inc. general manager John Molidor was in town for a week. It was important to review the year in person and go through our plans for Q1 2016 and beyond, while John also enjoyed a session with Gary Mullins, of Action Coach, a leading business coaching company that we have been using for a while. Of course, there was also time for a team dinner.

Straightpoint Inc. general manager John Molidor (centre of right row) enjoys a meal with the UK team during his recent visit.

Straightpoint Inc. general manager John Molidor (centre of right row) enjoys a meal with the UK team during his recent visit.

It was a busy start to the month that epitomised our global status with the visit of existing distributor, RUD Lifting Japan Co. Ltd., before we added a new partner to the family, Lenger d.o.o.

I last spent quality time with Osamu Hiramatsu, president of RUD Lifting Japan, and his team when we launched our new wireless load shackle at the Live Entertainment & Event Expo, which took place at the Makuhari Messe in Japan. They actually displayed our equipment at a number of trade events this year.

I led a tour of our building before we enjoyed an evening meal together. As is often the case with visitors, their highlight was our 350t vertical test machine, which is one of the most imposing pieces of equipment at our Havant, Hampshire facility.

It was an honour to welcome RUD Lifting Japan Co. Ltd. to headquarters this month.

It was an honour to welcome RUD Lifting Japan Co. Ltd. to headquarters this month.

Zagreb-based Lenger d.o.o., meanwhile, joined us as a distributor for Croatia. Boris Sadiku, its managing director, is cut from the cloth that suits the business to the Straightpoint family and I am very excited about working with him and the Lenger team. As always with all new and long-standing distributors, we will give Mr. Sadiku the product guidance and literature he needs to promote product to his marketplace.

I’ve shared advice before about growing through a distributor network. It is an effective way to provide a local service globally but one has to select their partners carefully. Lenger is established in the region—it was founded in 1992—and already distributes lifting equipment from leading manufacturers such as Germany’s Carl Stahl and Crosby, a North America-headquartered supplier of components. Lenger clearly ticks the history, pedigree, traceability and other boxes that we look for in a prospective new partner. Be clear about your own criteria.

Older and wiser

It’s been an interesting and challenging year in equal measure. When we approached the corner 12 months ago the lifting equipment industry was probably naively optimistic. Few foresaw the real consequences of the low oil price, euro rate against the pound or the knock-on effect of the waning Chinese economy, among other influences on the global economy.

We have been speaking about diversification at Straightpoint for a long time and 2015 has reiterated the importance of applying a product to a variety of industries, especially when the potential is as great as it is for load cells and force measurement technology. Constant improvement is important too, which is another fundamental part of our annual plan.

For example, we’ve improved safety and productivity when monitoring loads during heavy, critical and multi-point lifting applications by extending our range of wireless products to 700m (nearly 2,300ft) as standard from the New Year. The new range covers wireless products including the Radiolink Plus, Wireless Shackle Load Cell, Wireless Compression Load Cell and the wireless version of the new Running Line Dynamometer (or TIMH).

Thank you for reading my blog this year, which has approached nearly 15,000 words from January to December. I wish you every success in the early exchanges of another calendar year and remember to look out for a very significant personnel announcement next month.

Unfortunately, I missed Christmas jumper day at the office this year. Otherwise, I would have outdressed this lot and donned my red trousers.

Unfortunately, I missed Christmas jumper day at the office this year. Otherwise, I would have outdressed this lot and donned my red trousers.

Follow us on Twitter—@LoadCell—and use the hashtags #loadcell and #belowthehook.

Mr Loadlink