From off-the-peg to personal: the demands of retail

21 June 2017

At the ProMat show in Chicago in April, one of the key themes that became apparent as I spoke to manufacturers of lifting equipment was the increased demand for ergonomic designs and assisted lifting systems.

In this issue you’ll be able to read an in-depth look at what has been driving the change. Increased focus on safety is one reason, both to appease regulators and for the obvious business benefits. Improved efficiency and lifting accuracy, which reduces the potential for damage to products, are other reasons.

That ties in with another feature in this issue, looking at the systems being used for manual handling and lifting in distribution centres. At ProMat I attended the presentation launching the MHI’s US Roadmap for Material Handling & Logistics Version 2.0, which looks at, amongst other topics, the changes we have seen in recent years to how customers such as you and I purchase products.

Think about how you would have gone about buying the latest Steely Dan vinyl in the 1970s, or even the early 2000s—almost certainly from your local high street record shop, or perhaps via mail order. Today? If you wanted a physical copy, rather than just downloading the music electronically, you’d most likely log on to an online retailer—either from your house or even on the go, through your smartphone—and your CD would be picked, packed and posted, and through your letterbox within a day or two.

Some of the latest services will even courier deliveries to wherever you are—there was talk in the presentation of using location software and drones to bring you your order directly to wherever you are.

Back at the warehouse—which is, for many retailers, their only premises and covers a hgue number of SKUs compared to traditional businesses—this has brought about all manner of changes to how products are stored, catalogued, and handled.

Through a combination of changing retail trends and demand for improved safety and comfort for workers, warehouse handling and lifting equipment has had to evolve to keep up —and is ready to do it again. In next month’s issue of Hoist, we plan to introduce a regular round-up of the latest equipment and consumables available to hoist operators.

Each month will have a theme, so if you’re in the market for new software for your hoist’s PLC, for example, or if you need new shackles, links or controls for your crane, then you can refer to the section as a guide to some of the more recently-launched products available.

At Hoist, we receive a fair number of press releases alerting us to the latest technology and products for our industry. However, we want to ensure our coverage is as comprehensive as possible, and that all suppliers get a fair chance to be involved.

With that in mind, I would encourage suppliers to get in touch—either by email, or by giving me a call—to let us know of any new or recently-launched products. Equally, updates on how existing products are performing— including customer testimonials where possible—are also very welcome. I’ll look forward to hearing from you.