Here we speak to former Straightpoint owner, David Ayling, now president of online material handling firm FAD Equipment Store, who gives us an insight to his thoughts on the industry.

‘”Most people in the overhead crane and hoist market know me as the previous owner of load monitoring equipment manufacturer Straightpoint, which we sold to The Crosby Group in January 2019, bringing to an end 17 years of ownership. More recently, I announced that I’m president of an online material handling equipment store FAD Equipment Store, with lifting and rigging gear at the centre of our product offering,” said Ayling.

“My biggest triumph to date is taking Straightpoint to the point where it was the primary target of a company the size of Crosby. We won some awards along the way too, from LEEA and other organisations. Praise from peers and recognition from the point of use are endorsements that really count. But I take greater pride in helping and growing a team of people.

“Not everyone stayed with us for the duration of the journey but those that did (most of them), I’d like to think are in a more favourable position in their careers having joined Straightpoint at whichever point in time they took that opportunity.

“Technology and automation will only become more prevalent in our industry, and Crosby|Straightpoint continues to lead that trend. The company’s Insight software allows users to monitor up to 126 load cells from up to 700m (2,300 ft.) away. That wouldn’t have even been considered when LiftEx was still a tiny UK show in a roadside hotel. Wireless technology in all sectors will continue to change the rules of the game. These days, you can remotely wake-up load cells that are already rigged in an application, get the signal, and start monitoring to keep equipment, loads, and people safe.

“But I wear a different hat now and, of course, any new business gets the blood pumping; I’m an entrepreneur. We think we’ve launched, in FAD Equipment Store, the most innovative material handling ecommerce concept to hit the market. We’re about simplicity, quality, value, and service. I don’t want to dwell on the pandemic but inescapably it has put businesses in the ecommerce and drop-shipping sectors in a potentially favourable position. Hopefully we can capitalise on that.

Innovation and technology make me tick. I’m not a details guy. One of the reasons I’ve had some success in my career is that I’ve been able to put people into positions that allow them to leverage strengths and skillsets that are different to mine. Look at FAD Equipment Store’s Jeff Miller, the business’s general manager, for example. While I might be guilty of being too big-picture in my thinking sometimes, Jeff eats the details for breakfast.

“That doesn’t mean I don’t like planning—I love a plan. Even my plans have plans within them. Every business should find its optimal cadence—the perfect rhythm at which it should trade.

“Fortunately, as an ecommerce business, we can see who buys what, when, and how often. We study metrics and look at analytics to gather intelligence with which we tailor the business and plot our growth. It might be that a customer says, ‘You offer X, Y and Z, but what about the widgets we always buy with them?’ But that’s only a problem if you ignore it. If you embrace the data and feedback, that’s the fun part.

Perhaps ecommerce and drop-shipping are products of sustainability. What more sustainable way is there to supply product than to allow end users to source product direct from the manufacturer? The store offers a breadth of products but every item is provided by premium suppliers with stock held in the U.S. for quick delivery. We’re not importing from the Far East; we wanted to have a broad offering with premium, well recognised manufacturers in the States, that’s available for quick delivery and ready to use, out of the box. We want to target the corporate buyer with a credit card on their desk who’s been given a list of products to purchase when an immediate material handling-related requirement for them has arisen. They’ll likely know the stock keeping unit, or SKU, and want to find the item quickly. Our manufacturing partners are always looking at shipping weights and dimensioning is a buzzword now.

“In the future, wireless technology and automation will continue to grow in cranes, hoists, rigging, and everything in between. Crosby|Straightpoint equipment tells you when it is approaching renewal of its 12-month calibration certificate, for example. Every month, another piece of kit will be launched that’ll do something similar. Whether you like it or not, we’ll be using smart devices and technology even more in future than we have done up until now.

All that said, gravity is what it was when the pyramids were built and the beauty of the overhead crane and hoist sector is that the principles remain exactly the same. The industry goes to work every day to fight against gravity that wants to bring loads crashing back down to earth. Technology, like load cells, makes that work safer.

“Personally, I’m focused on executing the five-year plan for the business. We’ve got a one-page plan too and we know what we must do today and tomorrow to increase the value of our growing firm. We recognise our priorities, know the value of data, and will deliver.”’

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