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A Postcard from Amsterdam

In her latest blog, Sarah Spivey, the managing director of Modulift, writes from Amsterdam about how to stage the perfect product launch.

At the time of writing, it’s Tuesday afternoon here in Amsterdam. Anthony Culshaw, our senior design engineer, and I have just set up our exhibition stand at the Hotel Krasnapolsky ahead of tomorrow’s World Crane and Transport Summit, which finishes on Thursday afternoon. The venue is on Amsterdam’s main square with views across to the Royal Palace. It’s a picturesque backdrop to the launch of our latest product—the Trunnion Modular Spreader Beam.

Over the next two days, there will be a ballroom and co-located conference facility full of fellow exhibitors and lifting industry professionals at a venue that has been welcoming guests since 1855. Here’s how we’ve planned to execute the launch so everyone goes home talking about us and the historic, industry-wide launch of a spreader beam of this kind. Much of our strategy could be applied to any product launch, however.

It is important to choose the right audience. The World Crane and Transport Summit has established itself as a key meeting place for users and buyers of cranes and transport equipment as well as manufacturers and distributors. The event regularly attracts audiences in excess of 250 people, from all over the world, including many of the largest crane and transport equipment owning companies.

As always on the eve of a major product launch, there is a temptation to get carried away with the marketing message, but it’s important to talk about the problem being solved not the products and services being sold. It doesn’t matter if it’s a spreader beam or a screw. What does it do? How does it help? How is it better than what’s already being used for the job?

An effective way to prepare for a launch is to remind oneself of the journey a product has taken to this point and the reason the concept was put to designers and engineers in the first place. Therein often lies the selling point.

Light-bulb moment

On a similar autumn day to this, about a year ago, Anthony and our technical director, Sue Spencer, were on a job site in Ireland. A team of riggers was struggling to get a pin into the heavy shackles they were using. Hours were wasted with multiple lifting devices hauled onto the site. It got Anthony in particular thinking that there was an opportunity to design a new product that improved safety; saved time and money; and carried the Modulift hallmark of modular design.

As World Crane and Transport Summit attendees will learn upon approaching our exhibit, the end result is a product that, put simply, eases the attachment of slings when rigging heavy lifts. Once a delegate is intrigued, it’s time to go into more detail.

The spreader has been modified and a drop link removed to make way for the trunnion pin and cross pins. This allows for direct connection of slings to the spreader beam. The shackle-less solution is in essence a standard modular spreader, using the same struts and bolting configurations and is, thus, fully compatible with current and legacy equipment. As I’ve said in our press release that was embargoed until November printed issues, the difference is apparent when looking at the end unit, the focal point of the product that will enable us to appeal to customers who are primarily interested in ease of assembly and currently use drop link and shackle configurations.

See how we’re presenting it as a below-the-hook solution, not just as a product we sell. There’s a reason for every product feature that leads to a direct application advantage.

Keep your cards close to your chest

Just as when approaching the launchpad it’s important to reflect on the conceptualisation of the product, it’s equally crucial to envisage the eventual launch when you enter the early stages of design. In other words, avoid the temptation to shout too loudly about your ideas. The Hotel Krasnapolsky represents the end of a long journey that started when Anthony identified the opportunity at that job site in Ireland last year.

That journey involved only a select group of employees, dealers and end users, with the launch strategy centred on tomorrow’s event. Initially, Anthony and his engineering team brainstormed the problem he witnessed and refined the product until they arrived at the game-changing Trunnion Modular Spreader Beam. Only at that stage were key customers and distributors introduced to the concept, in the strictest of confidence. We worked with their feedback and produced a prototype, which we fully tested with a behind-closed-doors lift in the UK. Well, as behind-closed-doors as you can get when testing equipment covering a range of capacities from 250t to 1,000t!

A subsequent pre-launch event followed with distributors and dealers that allowed us to gauge the likely interest in the product once the industry is abuzz here in Amsterdam and further afield this week. Many lauded the fact that the end attachments are compatible with existing struts, indicating that initial uptake would be strong among existing customers. It was also reaffirmed that heavy lifts are typically planned in advance so we will have time to prepare equipment and work to at least a two-week lead time in most cases.

This meticulous planning means we’re unlikely to be surprised by questions or requests at this week’s summit. We’ve made sure there will be widespread interest in our exhibit with new graphics and a model of the Trunnion that will also be on show. As always, we won’t have seats on our stand so Anthony and I will remain at eye-level with attendees as they approach us. As I’ve advised before, don’t cower at the back of your trade show stands on chairs.

Continued momentum

The World Crane and Transport Summit will come and go in a flash but we will continue to build momentum at the following week’s LiftEx show, hosted by LEEA, which takes place at the Liverpool Exhibition Centre on 11-12 November.

The audience will be different but the event team will be equally well rehearsed in presenting the Trunnion spreader as a below-the-hook solution, not just as a product we sell, albeit to a different audience on home turf. Crane operators and large crane companies have descended on Amsterdam but LiftEx will attract a more equipment- and component-centric crowd to northwest England.

I welcome the return of LiftEx to its standalone two-day format and embrace the concept of a co-located conference, which LEEA are staging on the second day. This will attract a new audience, hungry for information and education. We’re expecting a record turnout. Modulift is on Stand 45 for those marking their floor plans.

LiftEx represents the continuation of trade show season, which saw another busy month bookended by the Seatrade Offshore Marine & Workboats show and Break Bulk Middle East; each took place at either end of October in Abu Dhabi. Seatrade was quieter than in previous years but the quality of visitor—the most important thing—was up. Much of the talk was of encouraging signs in the Middle Eastern offshore market for 2016 and beyond.

I can’t wait for tomorrow. Keep an eye on the Twitter account—@ModuliftUK—for all the reaction from the World Crane and Transport Summit. Use the hashtag #belowthehook to engage with us.

You can see the blog archive at

Sarah Spivey
Managing Director
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Singing in the Rain
Modulift Launches Trunnion Modular Spreader Beam f...
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