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.

Yard Ramps and Structural Integrity

Two Different Meanings, Same Results

In our business model, we speak of “integrity” in at least two ways.

The first involves the integrity of our business—how we approach potential customers, existing customers, vendors, members of the team, and manufacturers.

The second involves the integrity of the yard ramps and stationary dock ramps that we sell and rent.

In our eyes, both involve structural integrity. How we structure our business model is just as important as how a yard ramp itself is structured. Both are essential to our never-ending campaign to earn your trust and your business.

This came to mind when we happened across this map of global shipping routes. You’ll see the continents in black, with commercial shipping density lined in red. What strikes us about this map is the origin and destination points. Naturally, as we’re looking at ocean freight, these points all begin and end at a coastline.

The Intersection of Yard Ramp and Inventory
The Yard Ramp Guy: Connections and Integrity

Zone in on, say, the United States, and one thing becomes clear: our major ports sit in the most volatile places. The West Coast, prone to earthquakes. The Gulf, prone to hurricanes. The East Coast, prone to hurricanes.

While these ports by no means represent the final destination, they’re essential to the supply chain. And they’re seemingly in the most vulnerable locations.

Just as those crews secure their ships to the port prior to loading or offloading, your yard ramp’s security—whether a stationary ramp bolted to the bay or a portable ramp positioned at the back of a delivery vehicle, wheels up—is essential to the safety of the crew and inventory and to the streamlined flow of operations.

That’s why The Yard Ramp Guy team will spend a lot of time discussing your requirements. Mike will ask you many questions about the specific dimensions of your forklift, your loading dock, your inventory prior to sale or rental. And that’s why Jim will explore the width of your company’s driveway and operations staging, toward offloading a purchase or rental and any turnkey services you may require. And part of that turnkey service is bolting and welding, toward providing a safe, secure ramp.

Your yard ramp’s most vulnerable points echo that shipping route map above. It’s where your inventory disembarks from the ramp that most concerns us. We want you to keep your crew safe. Your customers want to receive undamaged inventory. Everybody needs and deserves structural integrity.

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Graphic: B.S. Halpern (T. Hengl; D. Groll) / Wikimedia Commons, via Wikimedia Commons

This week, our man McCoy Fields gets sick…of how we misunderstand the symptoms of getting sick.

Take the temperature of his insight HERE.

Ramping Up Our Wheelhouse

The Yard Ramp Guy Goes Above and Beyond…Again

The Yard Ramp Guy Chain
Keeping a Proud Wheelhouse

We’ve written before about a particular situation: fielding a request, knowing our inventory doesn’t match requirements, and helping anyway. What is it about our willingness to help companies when we know it won’t result in an invoice?

In our eyes, there’s a difference between an invoice and a transaction. Yes, “transaction” can mean buying or selling. We prefer the alternate meaning: The action of conducting business; an exchange or interaction between people.

The easiest thing to do—in business, in meetings, in life—is nothing. The Yard Ramp Guy team most definitely doesn’t like doing nothing.

So, here’s something: A few weeks ago, we took a call from someone at a company whose wheel on a yard ramp had cracked in two. She was looking for a replacement. In an otherwise relatively simple scenario, the wheel had splintered from an off-brand of yard ramp that we don’t usually encounter. And yet, we’re in the industrial neighborhood (“the wheelhouse,” as it were), and we promised to try.

She sent us photos and a brief description, which we forwarded to our contact at Bluff Manufacturing—trusted, trustworthy, well-versed in such parts. Our Bluff connection responded an hour later: Looks like a 12x3 resin wheel with a 1” roller bearing; suggest replacement with a polyurethane tread with a cast iron core roller bearing; get away from the plastic resin wheel. See caster guy info below. Let me know if this helps.

There’s a great benefit in having deep, professional relationships of mutual trust. As in: Bluff wouldn’t issue an invoice for this, either, though it did engage in the transaction.

We forwarded the information, recommending she replace both wheels for that ramp unit, and simply requested that she keep us in mind down the road for any yard ramp rental or purchase situation. She wrote back:

Jeff, 
I guess your name says it all...you are in fact the MANN!! Thank you for all of your assistance and I will gladly give the contact a call and see what we can work out. I have truly enjoyed speaking to you. Thank you again for all of your assistance.

We reached out to her a couple days ago to see if and how things have progressed. They’re in the process of ordering, finalizing the shipping part. The seller—that contact Bluff forwarded to us—had already walked the warehouse manager through the fairly simple installation procedure.

Why did she contact us? “It just so happened that in my Google search, The Yard Ramp Guy popped up,” she said. “Jeff answered the phone, and he was very polite. The Yard Ramp Guy did everything, if not more, within their means to help me get a new wheel.”

To summarize: a woman called us about an off-brand broken wheel. We reached out to Bluff. Bluff sent us probable specs and a contact who sells those wheels. And even before the transaction, that contact had already walked the manager through self-installation.

All of which we find remarkable and refreshing.

This week, our man McCoy Fields implores us not to behave like lemmings because, well, not even lemmings behave like lemmings.

Check out his terrific insight HERE.

The Industrial Supply Chain

The Yard Ramp Guy’s Place in the Flow

YRG Supply Chain
Yard Ramp Guy: Helping the Flow

The term “supply chain” gets tossed around frequently in the business world.

Sometimes we muddle the meaning, with companies using it as a marketing meme to promote an in-the-know posturing.

More frequently, companies and publications utilize “supply chain” for its (more or less) actual definition: how products make their way from the origin point to end-user destination.

For example: a widget company orders raw material from, say, Fargo, to its factory in Chicago. The finished widget is then packaged in bulk and sent to an order fulfillment center in Kansas City, from which we receive our widget in Honolulu. That’s the supply chain—Fargo to Honolulu, via Chicago and Kansas City.

Each “link” in that chain involves factors of logistics, cost, and time, all of which contribute to the cost of our widget.

The Yard Ramp Guy is especially interested in those individual links in the supply chain. And here, we put the process under the microscope.

We often write in the blog about our yard ramps and dock ramps working seamlessly in the background to help optimize and streamline our customers’ business operations. Specifically, we take pride in our inventory—with minimal required maintenance—helping get your inventory from one elevation to another at the locations needing a lift, or a lowering, on your company property.

What does that involve? Most of the time it’s either of two things: a portable yard ramp, easily placed into position or out of the way; or a stationary dock ramp, fixed into position, with no required movement.

Both scenarios place our Yard Ramp Guy inventory as integral parts of your supply chain. If nothing else, our business is about movement and flow.

For your business, that means reduced time to and from the delivery truck, for production, or to and from your warehouse, for shipment to—eventually—the end user.

As always in the manufacturing and industrial world, time is money. We’re honored to help businesses throughout the nation reduce time and save money.

This week, our man McCoy Fields roams Europe and the United States...and finds the outer limits of his freedom to roam.

Take a walk with McCoy HERE.

Seeking Benevolent Butterfly Effects

Small Changes Turn into Bigger Things

Flying...Though not Winging It

In 1972, MIT meteorology professor Edward Lorenz asked, “Does the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?” His intention was to show that sometimes complex systems (think of weather patterns) can behave unpredictably, with small changes sometimes resulting in many different outcomes.

Lorenz’s question sparked “chaos theory” in the mathematics world. (More recently, in the Avengers movie world, Dr. Strange spun some chaos theory: after a wild mental reconnaissance mission, he told Iron Man that he’d just looked at 14,000,605 futures and only one of them looked good for the future of humanity.)

The butterfly effect stretches its wings to include our industrial world. For example, in 2011 Japan experienced a 9.1-magnitude earthquake, followed 30 minutes later by a tsunami. Three days later, that tsunami caused a nuclear core meltdown at reactors in the city of Fukushima. Alongside the tragic loss of life, business, and shelter, Japan—and a good portion of the world—experienced a disruption in the supply chain.

Here’s how Kimberly Amadeo, writing in The Balance, describes the effect:

“If a disaster is bad enough, it can slow global growth. In 2011, Japan's earthquake and resultant tsunami damaged enough ports and airports to halt 20% of the world's supply of semiconductor equipment and materials. The wings, landing gears, and other major airline parts are also made in Japan, so the quake disrupted the production of Boeing's 787 Dreamliner. U.S. gross domestic product slowed in 2011 as 22 Japanese auto part plants suspended production.”

(Oddly enough, the nuclear disaster also created a mutation of butterflies.)

Though these are extreme scenarios, it’s not all doom and gloom. Throughout our years in business, we’ve been fortunate to establish, nurture, and strengthen a number of professional relationships—with customers, manufacturers, and vendors alike—that prove the benevolent side of the butterfly effect.

We’ve seen it time and again: one phone call, one transaction, or one handshake can set a positive trajectory in motion.

New steel tariffs sent alarm bells throughout the industry a year ago. We didn’t panic. We networked. Through those conversations, we’ve been able to keep prices competitive and—more often than not—leading.

Like the yard ramp inventory we rent and sell, one foundation of our business model is to work, efficiently and honestly, in the background for our customer base, often with great focus on the small things. The Yard Ramp Guy team emphasizes attention to detail, whether it’s Mike confirming and reconfirming your loading dock dimensions or Jim asking how wide that turn is from the road to your warehouse.

As George Eliot wrote, “Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.”

This week, our man McCoy Fields experiences things following him around. It's not paranoia. It's the frequency illusion. And it's fascinating.

Check out his terrific blog HERE.