Green Steel

A Quieter Footprint

Girding for a Change in Process

Our industry is showing some fascinating movement in regards to adapting to change.

Steel is the backbone of our business. While we carry the occasional aluminum yard ramp, the vast majority of our inventory is composed of steel.

Processing raw iron alloy and shaping it into an element for construction comes at a heavy cost. Here we are not talking strictly about money: pollution factors in at an alarmingly high rate. Forged steel creates, among other things, greenhouse gas emissions, emissions to water, and metal dust, all of which negatively impact our environment. Some seven percent of CO2 emissions are from iron and steel production.

We have what seems like competing ideas: growth in our construction demands versus reductions in our carbon footprint. How do we balance the two?

The supply-and-demand dance has long fascinated and vexed economists, Wall Street, and manufacturers. As we've seen recently with the GameStop controversy, sometimes artificial confidence (and its opposite) can have sudden and dramatic effects.

What if, though, the end result of the demand remained the same, and it was the process that changed?

Jesse Klein's recent essay in GreenBiz spotlights a remarkable, budding challenge to major players in the steel industry. She writes:

"A new initiative called SteelZero, created by The Climate Group in partnership with ResponsibleSteel, hope to break the cycle on the demand side. The program brings together the top steel buyers across the globe — including construction companies, real estate groups and property developers — and challenges them to commit to procuring 100 percent net-zero emissions steel by 2050."

As in: picture major participants in the steel industry forging ahead with that demand for clean, 100 percent net-zero steel emissions. The 30-year window allows time for development of the technology, adjustment to reasonable price points, and saturation of the supply chain.

Impossible? A decade ago, the old guard of the fossil fuel industry might well have said (or thought) (or hoped) that hydrogen- and battery-powered vehicles was a pipe dream. Yet, late last month General Motors ⏤ the world's fourth-largest vehicle manufacturer and the largest in the United States ⏤ announced its plan to sell only zero-emission vehicles by 2035.

In that context, zero-emission steel by 2050 is not so much a pipe dream as it is a realistic girder for the industry.

As Jesse Klein quotes Jim Norris, senior project manager for SteelZero: "We’re really wanting to show a commitment directly to steel producers that the buyers are ready. It’s up to steel producers and policymakers to step up to market and really accelerate the decarbonization of steel production."

We'll explore different aspects of cleaner steel throughout the year. In the meantime, steel yourself for such a promising change.

This week, our man McCoy Fields describes an army that serves...a corporation. And it's all mostly good.

Click HERE to read McCoy's rules of engagement.

Material Handling Statistics

On The Confidence Index

The Yard Ramp Guy: Confidence
An Intersection of Confidence and Necessity

Last week, Material Handling Network published an article, calling the Monthly Confidence Index for Equipment Finance Industry Steady in July. Pulling data from the Equipment Leasing & Finance Foundation, it highlighted a number of insights. Among those:

  • Equipment finance is a $900 billion/year sector.
  • Overall confidence in the equipment finance market is steady.
  • 95% of equipment finance companies have offered payment deferrals.
  • A majority of companies (83%) have not furloughed or laid off employees.
  • Half of those surveyed believe business conditions will remain the same over the next four months.
  • 75% of executives expect no change in headcount over the next four months.

Said one executive, "We are starting to see some spending, possibly pent-up demand, with businesses that had put acquisitions on hold at the onset of COVID-19. Stronger borrowers are looking to take advantage of the situation and tuck in, or otherwise acquire weaker competitors."

Two of our colleagues⏤one a current vendor, one a former vendor⏤echoed The Yard Ramp Guy's experience with recent business trends: a strong first quarter, followed by a dive in early April, followed by a strong uptick in business from mid-April through July.

In any given year, there is a curious dance of trending activity. The late-winter/early spring dip. The spikes and plateaus and steady inclines through the end of the year. Those are generalities. Sometimes we see peaks and valleys that make little sense in our material handling industry or in our associate vendor industries (i.e., freight logistics and equipment finance).

Most interesting about the Confidence Index is the relative steadiness and growth across equipment finance⏤and, by association, material handling⏤is that percentage of confidence. It's reflected in the volume of business we're experiencing, here and now in the midst of a pandemic that remains invisible, dangerous, otherwise disruptive, and ever-troubling.

We have seen a growth in sales and rentals of new and used yard ramps to businesses deemed essential services. Numbers don't lie. And while hope is an unquantifiable entity, we suspect (with reasonable doses of both optimism and practicality) that business in our world remains strong⏤in large part because it must.

This week, our man McCoy Fields, goes all Ripley on us and, believe it or not, puts together a list of amazing inventions.

Click HERE to see proof that the ancients were not primitive.

The Power of Powder

Believe it or Not: Steel from Powder

Titanium parts printed from powder and a laser provide researchers with high-strength, heat-resistant examples of the future of additive manufacturing. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army)

As we've highlighted before, a number of our quality yard ramps⏤with common variations⏤have industry-standard specs: 20,000-pound capacity, 84-inch width, and 36-foot length, with a weight of some 6,000 pounds.

(While we're at it, special orders don't upset us. We're always happy to discuss your requirements for a Custom Solution.)

Six thousand pounds. When someone tells you our inventory weighs a ton, well, just triple that.

Along comes technology to provide industry disruption. This is from the U.S. Army Research Laboratory Public Affairs office:

"Army researchers are looking at new technologies to create steel alloy parts from powder using a laser...The researchers are using an alloy originally developed by the U.S. Air Force. The Army adapted the metal, called AF96, to powder form. Using a method called Powder Bed Fusion, the 3-D printer's laser selectively melts the powder in a pattern. The printer then coats the build plate with another layer of powder and the process is repeated until the part is complete."

First applications appeared designed to repair or replace, say, a tank part. No waiting for inventory to arrive from some distant distribution center. Here we can picture a section of the base set aside for a 3-D printing of the required replacement part, which is the swapped into the tank.

3D Insider tells us that, in 2014, a quality 3D printer cost more than $2,000. Today, that price is under $1,000. The average cost: $700. The cheapest: about $200. We mention this to show that, as consumers take to a product, the price often tends to drop. (Seen the prices of flatscreen televisions recently? They've dropped dramatically in recent years.)

At the same time, the technology improves. The machines grow more streamlined, easier to operate, and faster in completing production of the item.

Dr. Brandon McWilliams, in the Army's manufacturing science and technology lab, said, "Additive manufacturing is going to have a huge impact on sustainment...You can really reduce your logistics footprint. Instead of worrying about carrying a whole truckload...of spares, as long as you have raw materials and a printer, you can potentially make anything you need."

No doubt there are companies in the civilian sector looking for ways to take advantage of this new technology. And with that comes its possible effect on our industry and a multitude of others.

If a company were able to in-house manufacture a large piece of machinery, then the steel industry, the broker industry, the transportation industry, and the wholesale industry would all be negatively impacted. We know the possibilities and the eventual realities by looking at other business sectors. For example, 2017 saw more people take rides in an Uber than in yellow cabs in New York City.

All of which is to say that if a company can "print" its own yard ramp some day...well, we can't predict the future.

Though we're certainly prepared to adapt to it. Sort of.

This week, our man McCoy Fields shares his stepped appreciation for the Incan terraces: Not just architecture, he says. A way of life.

Click HERE to live part of McCoy's life.

Planned Industrial Longevity

The Greta Garbo-Yard Ramp Connection

YRG: Built to Last
The Yard Ramp Guy Longevity Factor

When you see someone using a smartphone with a cracked screen, consider it as a possible protest against planned obsolescence. That’s the practice of creating consumer goods designed for replacement—sooner than later.

The smartphone is a prime example. We’re often told that the cost of repair just isn’t cost effective and that buying a new phone is the better way. And the list is long. Light bulbs, flimsy plastic products like drink bottles and food containers, batteries, printer ink. Some of that involves a social factor: your friend bought the latest, greatest car or phone or tv set. The result, though, is a lot of inventory going to the dump.

Proudly, The Yard Ramp Guy rents and sells inventory that bucks the trend of planned obsolescence. Our trusted manufacturers create solid forklift ramps and stationary loading docks that are designed for, if you will, planned longevity. With proper care and minimal yet consistent maintenance, our equipment will provide many years of solid service.

(And: our business model provides this industry-leading service: from the very first conversations, we’ll present options for buying that ramp back from you if and when you want to permanently offload your original purchase.)

That is, whether it’s a yard ramp, a favorite restaurant, or an athlete who stays with one team throughout his or her career, we admire planned longevity.

The oldest company in the United States is Caswell-Massey. Begun as an apothecary in Newport, Rhode Island, in 1752, It continues to sell body & bath supplies and fragrances.

From the Caswell-Massey website:

“In our legendary New York City Store, Ralph Taylor made it a practice to become deeply acquainted with the person he was making the scent for. For example, the perfume he created for Greta Garbo, who was known as a woman of mystery, featured nutmeg - thought to be a narcotic ‘mood enhancer’.”

And there’s our Greta Garbo connection. If our inventory’s standard specifications don’t meet your requirements, we also thrive on custom solutions for our customers. We’ll gladly discuss your specific needs in order have the right yard ramp crafted for your business. (With one caveat: unlike Garbo’s perfume, we’re fairly certain that nutmeg is not a component of quality loading docks.)

We’re not in the recycling business. We are, though, honored to be in an industry that utilizes some of the strongest and longest-lasting elements on earth. In this way, we’re part of a planned industrial longevity.

This week, our man McCoy Fields returns to his roots and begins his fascinating From the Archives series of old favorites. First up: Pyramids and Ramps.

It's a great read. Click HERE.

Appreciating U.S. Industry

The Yard Ramp Guy Contributes 

The Yard Ramp Guy: Cog in the Wheel
The Yard Ramp Guy: Cog in the Wheel

When Jeff Mann founded The Yard Ramp Guy in 2011, he brought nearly three decades of experience to champion the value propositions of his new business. Throughout this time, the priorities of his endeavors have remained steady: proactive communication, asking the right questions, exceeding expectations.

As he says, if there’s bad news to share (like, say, a rare delivery delay due to weather), it’s always the better approach to share that news, not hide it. And offer suggestions and resolutions along with that news.

The approach continues to work. The Yard Ramp Guy continues to grow—in reputation, in connections, in revenue—year over year.

Among the many complexities that continue to impress is the variety of industries, as seen through the prism of yard ramp utilization. Whether it’s a stationary dock ramp secured to the loading bay or a mobile forklift ramp easily moved in and out of position, collectively these industries paint a virtual picture of the US economy.

Here, then, is a snapshot of industries The Yard Ramp Guy proudly serves:

Agribusiness. Farm to table and way points between, agriculture is a pillar of the nation and contributes more than a trillion dollars to the US GDP each year. Easy to project yard ramps easing pallets of foodstuff from raw form to processing and from packaged to distribution centers.

Construction. The industry contributed nearly $650 billion to our GDP—in the first quarter of 2019 alone. That’s some 4% of the entire annual GDP. It covers federal, state, county, city, and personal (i.e., housing) projects. Where do we come in? Truck-to-dock delivery of raw material. On-loading of finished products. Access to warehousing and distribution.

Manufacturing. Yes, there’s talk of a recession descending on the economy next year. With or without, U.S. manufacturing—of physical or chemical, of commodity or component—is impressive. We produce more than 18% of the world’s goods. That was $2.33 trillion, accounting for 11.6% of the nation’s economy.

Whether with portable yard ramps or stationary dock ramps, we’re honored to provide inventory that helps keep the economy moving forward.

This week, our man McCoy Fields returns to space (yes, he’s been there before) and finds a bunch a junk. And then he helps us navigate safely through it, back to Earth.

It's his world. We just live in it. Click HERE.