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.

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 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.