All that glitters isn't gold, warns Sarah Spivey, the managing director of below-the-hook equipment manufacturer Modulift.
Teachers say it a lot. They write it on students' reports and repeat it at parents' evenings… "Easily distracted". It probably doesn't make a lot of sense to pupils as their privileges are withdrawn, they're grounded and infuriated parents issue all manner of threats until there are signs of improvement. But it might be time to heed the warning from childhood.
After all, there is much to distract a below-the-hook equipment manufacturer as the first quarter of the year gathers pace, with the two obvious head-turners being more positivity from the sleeping giant that is the oil and gas industry and a notable increase in orders for equipment from the middle of the capacity range from, say, 70t to 250t. The recent plight of oil and gas has been well documented, while I've blogged before about how demand for high and low capacity equipment has been far greater than that for spreader beams and other rigging equipment in between.
These trends have evolved appreciably already this year. However, while we have to monitor this activity and position ourselves accordingly, it's important that we don't lose sight of our goals. There were good reasons why diversification, custom engineering, sector specific trade shows and new products, for example, were in big letters on the whiteboard in the conference room during 2017 planning meetings.
Diversification wasn't a temporary initiative while we waited for oil and gas to recover. It wasn't a courtesy car to drive while the Mercedes was in for repairs. It was a strategy to enhance the company to be less reliant on a few key sectors. I can't go into detail about the new markets Modulift is looking at, but I'll put it another way. Think of a nuts and bolts company that originally supplied only to the automotive sector and discovered a need for similar securing tools in factories that made boats, planes and jet skis.
It's slightly fanciful but I guess the perfect scenario would be as one market falls, another rises, keeping the nuts and bolts company working at full capacity and in line with its long-term growth strategy. As influencers and purchasing decision makers in the boats, planes and snow vehicles sectors engage in deeper dialogue with their new nuts and bolts supplier, the range of products expands and soon dedicated nautical, aviation and winter departments are setup.
There is a strong business case to diversify and it remains as robust despite more favourable conditions in traditional core markets. Oil and gas will dip once more and the whole cycle will start again. The offshore sector is a major consumer of below-the-hook equipment, granted, but we've got to hold our nerve and not rush off on a tangent.
It's particularly crucial that we have a clear plan going into Q2 having recently completed a recruitment campaign that will see four new members of staff join us before the end of March. I'm also travelling to Singapore to recruit a non-executive director to add more heavy lifting pedigree to our top table. Imagine how crucial it is that we're all on the same page when it comes to delivering on the aforementioned strategies, whilst serving returning offshore customers and getting 70t, 80t, 90t, etc. spreaders out the door.
As they report for duty on their first day, we're not going to say, "Scrap that, we're an oil and gas company again." We're not; we're a diversified below-the-hook equipment manufacturer. We're innovative and dynamic. We're ambitious, responsive and pioneering. It's just like we planned and how we described ourselves in the interviews.
It's important to match a recruitment campaign to the state of the market. In this case, we tried to recruit from within the industry and we've been successful in adding talent to the company that will need no introduction to many of the contacts they'll be dealing with. This wasn't a short cut—we will invest heavily in their training—but we didn't want inductions to focus on where a spreader beam fits between a hook and a load. We don't have time for that. Everyone will be quickly up to speed and contributing.
Among the new recruits is industry stalwart John Baker, who brings over 25 years of experience from the lifting and specialist engineering sector. I'm also looking forward to working with our new senior design engineer (who we'll introduce soon) on product development. As readers would have seen in trade and social media, we recently launched Active Link, an innovative new end unit system with an integrated load cell, compatible with the existing range of Modulift spreader beams. The overwhelming response has only whet our appetite to further explore the potential of our product.
Meanwhile, we're finalising our exhibit designs for the Specialized Carriers & Rigging Association's (SC&RA) Annual Conference, which takes place in Scottsdale, Arizona from 18-22 April; and the US Offshore Wind 2017 Conference & Expo that will be staged at the Hyatt Regency Long Island from 8-9 May.
Thank you for reading and use the #belowthehook hashtag to engage with us on social media.
Managing Director Modulift