Prepare for challenges – associations

Local News
- 12 Jan 2023 ( #1110 )
4 min read
Economic uncertainty prevails PHOTO: NYSE
Economic uncertainty prevails PHOTO: NYSE

The materials handling sector entered 2023 with uncertainty surrounding the state of the global economy, the availability of labour (especially skilled labour) and concerns over rising energy costs.

David Goss, technical director of industry association UKMHA, says the high cost of energy combined with accelerating sustainability awareness is likely to drive business investment in 2023. “More energy-efficient equipment, combined with smarter controls, better utilisation and improved processes can deliver productivity gains and improve safety while simultaneously meeting delivery sustainability and energy efficiency goals,” he says.

Goss expects Europe to adopt a number of new regulations in 2023 which could have significant impacts on the industry when they come into force. “The first of these is likely to be the publication of a new Machinery Safety Regulation to replace the Machinery Directive. It is widely anticipated that new safety requirements will be introduced, including the protection of control systems against corruption.

“For end-users, the differences in the machines may not be immediately obvious, but for manufacturers, significant investment will be required. This is probably going to be the point where UK and European product safety requirements start to diverge, and we might finally learn whether Brexit is a millstone or an opportunity.”

MHEDA chairman John L. Gelsimino anticipates a slowing economy and has concerns about “a massive inventory build-up in many sectors”.  

He attributes the bulging inventories to over-ordering and to slowing sales of consumer goods.

John Paxton
John Paxton

These concerns are echoed by John Paxton, CEO of the US-based industry group MHI, who notes that the stock build-up has put pressure on the available warehouse capacity.

This is just one of a number of challenges facing MHI members who also need to be aware of looming increases in capital equipment costs. 

“Increasing tensions with China and the ongoing Ukraine-Russia conflict are making international business increasingly difficult,” he adds. “Additionally, extreme weather and ongoing drought conditions will continue to impact major shipping supply routes across the globe.”

Industry associations also warn that labour will remain a challenge in 2023.

Paxton anticipates ongoing labour shortages, further stimulating the “need for technology investment to offset the shortfall in available talent and a need to train the workforce in these new technologies”.

On the training front, Liam Knight, managing director of UK-based AITT, expects the high demand seen last year to continue in 2023.

“However, the uncertainty around the economy could result in businesses being tempted to reduce the amount of money they spend on training,” he warns. “We would urge employers not to venture down this route. Operator training is a legal requirement and should be provided before staff use any workplace transport equipment. If they are not trained sufficiently, they are at high risk of an accident, and can endanger themselves as well as those working around them. With costs going up everywhere, we would urge companies not to prioritise cost over quality. Always choose an accredited training provider who can deliver high quality, comprehensive training for employees. Using an accredited training provider also ensures consistency and continuity by delivering the same standard of training over time and across different sites,” he advises.

Training is high on the agenda for the Lifting Equipment Engineers Association (LEEA), according to CEO Ross Moloney.

Moloney
Moloney

“We feel this is a particularly important time to be introducing the new Academy 2.0 along with new courses because having persevered through the difficulties caused by COVID, along came war in Ukraine and the ensuing energy crisis, which has created financial challenges for many LEEA members. The Association is supporting members during these difficult times – for example, reducing training prices. We are confident that training plays an essential role in improving the excellence, productivity and safe practices of our members and makes a wise investment to place a company in pole position to reap the benefits in … a more favourable economic climate.

As costs rise, so too will the price of training. Employers will need to be aware of this, and factor this into budgets. It will also be important to plan ahead, and factor in potentially long wait times into your training schedule, prioritising basic training.”

Looking to the challenges ahead, the advice of MHEDA’s Gelsimino is to proceed with caution and focus on key employee retention plans.  

“Many employees are worried about the effects of a possible slowdown and this causes people to ‘look around’ to get ahead of any possible situation. 

“Identify the employees that move the ball forward as their value increases even more in a slower business period,” he advises.

Paxton is advising MHI members to partner with customers “to implement solutions that will increase speed, sustainability, security and accuracy, while handling uncertain demands”. 

“Help them by providing solutions that will alleviate their workforce challenges.

“Continue to invest in new innovative technologies and data analytics tools to capture real-time and shareable data.  

“These solutions should include the data that provides the transparency to handle the uncertain demand fluctuations as well as mounting sustainability and cybersecurity concerns,” he recommends.

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Previously about:
Labour challenges loom in 2024 News Story - 28 Dec 2023 - 10 min read
Record years for safety bodies News Story - 12 Jan 2023 - United Kingdom - 1 min read
Untrained staff at high risk warns AITT News Story - 1 Sep 2022 - Hugglescote, United Kingdom - 2 min read
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