The Future of Industry

Creativity is a Human Thing 

Technology's Human Touch
Technology's Human Touch

We’ve had many revolutions throughout human history. Along with all those Revolutionary wars, we’ve experienced many instances of “drastic or social change that usually occurs relatively quickly.” Think of the first two Industrial Revolutions, the result of technological innovations that brought us, among other things, enhanced development of clothing and iron, glass and mining, transportation and agriculture.

Now we have the Digital Revolution, also called the Third Industrial Revolution and the Fourth Industrial Revolution or—wait for it—Industry 4.0. (Absent really cool names, we tend to add numbers. For example, our latest version of Google Chrome web browser is Version 75.0.3770.142.)

Industry 4.0 seems to cover the existing and developing technologies that have seeped into and overtaken the ways we interact and conduct business: cellphones, the Internet of Things, GPS devices, 3D printing, virtual reality, self-driving vehicles.

Can automation replace people? We see it happening in certain sectors. Chances are good that your last Amazon delivery was picked and packed with at least the assistance of robotics.

With all these innovations have come studies and perspective and reflection and recommendations. If robots aren’t (yet) taking over the world, the nature of work is changing.

Last year, McKinsey & Company issued “Skill Shift: Automation and the future of the workforce,” a study that examines the disruptions of technology on business culture. It’s a good read.

What strikes us most prominently is what it calls organizational agility: “the ability to quickly reconfigure strategy, structure, processes, people, and technology toward value-creating and value-protecting opportunities.”

Wrapped inside that study is this:

“Our research also finds a shift from activities that require only basic cognitive skills to those that use higher cognitive skills. Demand for higher cognitive skills, such as creativity, critical thinking, decision making, and complex information processing, will grow through 2030, by 19 percent in the United States and by 14 percent in Europe, from sizable bases today.”

(We don’t even want to speculate why McKinsey & Company thinks the United States will need five percent more in higher cognitive skills than Europe.)

All of this relates, we think, in a very direct way to the business we’re in. Whether stationary or mobile, a yard ramp is a tool, utilized by humans, to affect change—and movement—toward optimal streamlining of a company’s operations.

How we approach getting the right yard ramp to you and how your team utilizes the yard ramp are informed by creativity, by agility, and by a very human connection that simply cannot be replaced by an algorithm.

We’re fans of good technology. That said, in these times of Industry 4.0, the human touch is revolutionary.

This week, our man McCoy Fields finds a really old wooden ship in Egypt. And then he connects it directly to IKEA.

Go figure. Click HERE.

Back to Yard Ramp Basics

The Brilliance of Simplicity

3-D Printing: One Hand Clapping?

We keep thinking of our man McCoy Fields, a Yard Ramp Guy licensee, and his list of Great Things:

  • The Lever
  • The Pulley
  • The Wheel
  • The Ramp
  • The Pile

McCoy calls them “history’s finest inventions,” and we’re inclined to agree. What connects them is the relative simplicity of their design. Each has few components, and each has served to improved civilization in countless ways. (Yes, we’re still trying to figure out The Pile in his list, though there’s no doubt that tossing laundry in one spot is better than scattering it all over the place.)

With that in mind, we came across a recent article on the Phys.org website: “Advancing additive manufacturing by slashing support.” Seems that 3-D printing technology’s requirement—and limitation—is that each component of a complex structure is built on top of the one immediately preceding it. If one layer is compromised or damaged, it’s extremely difficult to replace that one layer.

Think of a seven-layer cake, and your layer of chocolate has collapsed under the weight of the sponge cake layer above it. In the 3-D printing technology world, you’d have to bake another cake. (In our world, we’d just eat the cake.)

The article then describes one researcher’s attempts to minimize the number of required components “without risking damage to the finished part.” His approach?

“Qian developed a method for calculating the amount of surface area on a component that needs support—without knowing the part's final geometry ahead of time. He says the key was defining a new measurement called the projected undercut perimeter.”

Which makes our eyes glaze over a bit. And so, we return to our man McCoy Fields and his appreciation for the brilliant simplicity of those revolutionary inventions.

McCoy eloquently addresses the simple machine notion on his blog. (Simple machine: a device used to change the direction or power of a force applied to something in the simplest manner possible.) “Ramps,” he writes, “make up half of the classical simple machines.

We love new technology and the potential to streamline operations for the industries we serve. We also love the simplicity and the powerful effectiveness of the yard ramp.

This week, our man McCoy Fields hears parrots speaking English, and he’s naturally curious about what’s going on. It’s a fascinating read:

Check out his terrific blog HERE.

Material Strength

Keeping Our Eye on Metal 

Forging Steel

Steel is the backbone and the foundation of our physical, tangible business. While there is a limited market for aluminum yard ramps, our select manufacturers craft our yard ramps mostly with steel that’s been forged to specification.

The advantages are many, including a larger weight capacity, stability, and longevity of use, all of which contribute to the singlemost important factor: safety for our customers’ team members.

What happens when engineers devise a better mousetrap? In the coming years, we might actually see improved metals that comprise our inventory.

First, a brief primer on how the industry measures strength. There are four categories here:

  • Compressive Strength—how the metal holds up to being condensed.
  • Tensile Strength—the opposite of compression; how the metal withstands being pulled or stretched.
  • Yield Strength—reaction to bending or other “unnatural” external shaping.
  • Impact Strength—just as you’d expect: how the metal reacts to being hit.

The strongest metal known is vibranium, though it exists only in the Marvel superhero universe (i.e., Captain America’s shield), and The Yard Ramp Guy doesn’t buy, rent, or sell fictional inventory.

Which leaves us with steel alloy as the de facto metal in our industry.

And that’s where the better mousetrap might one day step into the picture.

The University of Warwick’s website has an entire section devoted to “Steels Processing Group Projects.” It is, to us, head-spinning in complexity. What we glean from it, though, is steel being manipulated at the molecular level.

Summarizing for us in a graspable manner, MetalMiner states, “The research center at The University of Warwick has managed to create advanced, low-density steels that are stronger, lighter and more flexible than conventional steels.”

Stronger. Lighter. More flexible. Each of these informs the current ceilings of compressive, tensile, yield, and impact strength.

In practical terms, one day in the near future our customers could benefit from an easier movement of their yard ramps into position. For turnkey services, our crews could have a smoother load and off-load. For transportation, a lighter yard ramp translates into reduced use of fuel for the delivery vehicle.

We’re keeping a cautiously optimistic eye on the future of steel.

This week, our man McCoy Fields armchair-travels to The Netherlands and discovers a remarkable repurposing of (wet) security—from a war footing to, well, just footing:

Read his fascinating blog HERE.

GeoBusiness Plate Tectonics

Spheres (and Ramps) of Influence

YRG: Link in the Chain
Linking Steel

In politics, as in trade and the economy, there’s a term known as geopolitical plate tectonics: if one superpower gains an advantage with a nation or region, another superpower will establish an advantage with a neighboring nation or region.

Think of NATO and the old Warsaw Pact. Or Arnold Schwarzenegger’s movies, timed to compete with Sylvester Stallone’s movies.

Alliances are rarely static. And so, the use of “plate tectonics.” Alliances shift. Things change.

We’re not political scientists. We buy, sell, and rent quality new and used yard ramps. Still, we feel the effects of geopolitical plate tectonics, especially when steel is caught up in trade and tariffs issues.

The industry has experienced something of an earthquake this year with tariff news. From manufacturing to logistics, prices bumped up—the result of real and projected costs.

That pricing on the actual, tangible foundation of our enterprise—namely: the steel components of our yard ramps—has a house-that-Jack-built effect on most every aspect of our business model.

So, it’s a bit of a surprise when we discover that “the United States was the world’s fifteenth-largest steel exporter in 2017.

We don’t know the nuances of the import-export steel scenario, such as the quality of steel on our exports vs. the quality of our imports.

What we do know, courtesy the U.S. International Trade Administration, is that the two largest importers of our U.S.-manufactured steel are Canada and Mexico. 

These are the spheres of influence and geopolitical/geobusiness plate tectonics at work. All informed by our real and projected pricing structures.

Thanks to The Yard Ramp Guy’s reputation and deep, mutual, professional trust between us and our manufacturers, we’re able to keep our prices competitive.

Through all the rumblings—of tariffs and trade wars in geobusiness plate tectonics—what doesn’t change is our commitment to quality, attention to detail, and transparency.

Our man McCoy Fields digs to China, then digs in China, and he finds a startling number of people sleeping in old bunkers.

Click HERE to dig into it.

Yard Ramps Across the Industrial Spectrum

Serving the National Interest

The Yard Ramp Guy: Serving Industries Nationwide

Our mobile yard ramps and stationary dock ramps are designed to deploy as solid workhorses, without complaint or glitch. Used properly, they reqire minimal maintenance and can provide years of excellent service.

Part of the beauty of them (and yes, we readily find aesthetic value) is in their strength and what seems like simplicity—simple lines, simple angles. And yet, our manufacturers are always looking to design and engineer enhancements to further increase the value of this inventory. More on those enhancements in the coming weeks.

The number of businesses and industries that utilize The Yard Ramp Guy’s product lines continues to amaze and impress us. And we again want to spotlight the various industries that regularly put our mobile yard ramps and stationary dock ramps into service.

Agribusiness – including farm-to-table through processing plants and distribution hubs.

Automotive Industry – including car and truck parts, tires, and oil and gas companies.

Building Materials – commercial and residential and anything used to build or renovate a structure: these are among the essential elements of the national economy.

Distribution & Shipping – whether ground-to-dock or ground-to-truck, in good times and in times of disaster recovery, these sorting facilities and warehouse stations strategically serve as fuel for the workforce and lifelines in time of need.

Food Processing – The US food processing industry creates revenue of some $750 billion each year for more than 21,000 companies and some 1.5 million people. The food industry is elemental to our states, cities, communities, schools, and dinner tables.

Recycling – factor in the notion that recycling is a nearly $100 billion per year industry, employs nearly 140,000 people, and helps the environment.

And so much more. Add Hollywood movie productions and professional sports teams…and literally thousands of businesses that depend on our yard ramps and loading docks, all toward streamlining their operations, growing their businesses, and keeping their workers safe.

As always, we’re proud to contribute to the forward progress of the national economy.