Making connections28 October 2021
Attending Vertikal Days, the first lifting equipment trade show I've been to in a year-and-a-half (since March 2020), was an enjoyable experience. I was apprehensive at first as I'd barely even left my village during the pandemic - working on my own from a home office. Yet with abundant supplies of hand sanitiser, social distancing protocols in place, and everyone behaving sensibly, any worries around Covid rapidly subsided. Being predominantly outdoors, the sunshine and warm breeze helped, too.
It was good to meet people in the flesh again and the sight of multipe gleaming cranes, booms and jibs extended and glinting in the sun was heartening. Check out our pictorial review on page 24 to see exactly what I mean.
Even more encouraging was the number of international attendees at the show, as both exhibitors and visitors. On a number of crane rental company stands there were international representatives from the manufacturers of the cranes the rental firms own and use. It was hugely interesting to learn exactly how closely the two can work and is something I explore in the tower cranes feature starting on page 43. Could this type of collaboration prove to be a barrier to Chinese manufacturers looking to increase their market share in established Western tower crane markets? I would love to hear your thoughts on this, too.
The week after Vertikal Days petrol stations in the UK started running out of fuel as motorists filled up their cars over worries that a tanker driver shortage would mean fuel becoming scarce. The panic buying spread, further escalating the situation.
At the same time China has been suffering power shortages which have affected millions of homes and businesses in the country in the form of blackouts. Underpinning this is increased demand for Chinese goods as the world starts to return to normal after Covid. To meet demand the factories that make these goods now need more power. As demand for electricity demand has risen, the price of coal has been pushed up.
Yet at the same time restictions imposed by the Chinese government in order to help the country meet carbon neutral targets by 2060 have seen coal production slow. Although the country is still heavily dependant on coal for its power, these coal-fired powerstations are massively reducing their output instead of operating at a loss.
The result? The Chinese government has asked some manufacturers, and industries including steel and cement making, to reduce energy usage during certain times or limit when they operate. This has led to a shrinking of manufacturing activity, which figures show in September 2021 has reduced to the lowest its been since 2020 when Covid 19 first hit its economy and subsequent reductions in economic growth forecasts. It will be interesting to see its effect on crane production and the rate of Chinese expansion overseas.
Although the UK petrol crisis and Chinese blackouts are not directly linked, both highlight the importance of balanced supply and demand systems and robust supply chains. And although the world is not a machine that can be simply maintained and serviced, if anything can help oil the cogs of global trade then it's in-person industry events such as Vertikal. Hope to see you all soon.
Christian Shelton, Editor