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Hydropower

Interest in one particular product highlighted the importance of addressing the audience of the day, says Camron Ghanemi, vice president, Ace World Companies.

I’ve blogged before about targeting an audience with a product announcement, conference presentation, advertisement or even a blog. A message’s power is in its ability to communicate with the target market. This is certainly true of end user sectors, where only a solution to the challenges faced by that niche is going to be taken seriously.

It’s why Tad Dunville, our director of corporate development, and I had to choose our tactics wisely when we made our first visit to the HydroVision International show, which took place at the Minneapolis Convention Center, Minnesota at the end of last month (July). In other words, what would hydro professionals want to know from us?

We are a multifaceted crane manufacturing business. We supply American-made, custom designed material handling solutions, including overhead cranes, hoists, controls, trucks, drives and more. Our equipment is used in a myriad of industries, such as steel, aerospace, marine, automotive, mining, shipyards and oil and gas, for example, but what is of interest to a purchaser in a steel mill, vehicle production factory or oil firm, isn’t going to be the same as a Specialist Hydro Mechanical Engineer or Project Manager Hydro—just two of the job titles we encountered in Minneapolis.

The standout products for the audience gathered at HydroVision International were our gate hoists. In simple terms, these hoists raise and lower gates to control the flow of water on a dam or other waterpower application. They are nearly always custom projects because of the varying types of hydro facilities and repeat orders are not really part of the business model as it is rarely a high duty industry and units remain in use for decades. Of course, there is a service requirement.

Go with the flow

With hydro hats on, we knew the type of professional we wanted to network with—engineering companies that develop specifications for energy providers or government agencies, municipalities and general contractors. As such, we looked out for co-located seminars, workshops and other networking sessions that may have drawn this audience. We also earmarked a number of exhibiting companies, which included large fabricators in addition to potential customers.

Demonstrating credentials to end user markets is very important. I always make a note of applications relevant to a sector before I go to a trade show or meeting. It’s a powerful tool to use during networking sessions to be able to reference success stories that purchasing decision makers can relate to. We are currently processing our largest ever gate hoist order for eight units; a group of four will be used in each pit. The capacity of each unit is 30 tons and all were required to offer over 50 feet of lift. Imagine how reassuring it is during a sales conversation if one can apply a solution to a challenge with a real-life example.

“We’re looking for six 25 ton hoists with 40 feet of lift.”
“We’ve got you covered—here’s another recent order we processed.”

Talking to employees and peers who are at the coalface helps too. Trish Chapman, sales support at Ace World Companies, is managing production of the order referenced above so it was opportune to catch up with her in the weeks leading up to the hydro show to find out what the customer is saying about the state of the market or if any upcoming trends have been referenced that will lead to knock-on opportunities or threats as they pertain to our business.

Trish gave a fascinating overview of the gate hoist market, noting first and foremost that the number of units required always varies, often dictated to by refurbishment schedules following routine inspections. It’s common for each pit to require four hoists but orders for single units are also frequent, as Trish explained. This is important in understanding demand and the manufacturing capacity an industry might require of our busy production lines.

Test the water

We have an experienced team of engineers, capable of manufacturing high end lifting equipment. That’s not a commercial comment, but it does serve as an advisory note to any businesses looking to take up a presence in the hydro, or any other demanding sector. Specialist industries can only be served with a specialist service and an in-depth understanding of the mechanics of that sector. If a manufacturing business provides product for one-time, indoor use, how might its production line cope with a product designed for use outdoors over a long period of time?

Gate hoists are typically installed outdoors and exposed to extreme weather conditions. They must be manufactured with as many levels of protection as possible, such as stainless steel wire rope, blocks and hooks in addition to NEMA 4 and NEMA 4X controls and electrical switches. Special paint, bearings, rain covers and more are also commonplace on job specifications. Even a recent order we received for a fresh water application (salt is more corrosive) required a level of manufacturing to prevent contaminants from harming marine life or water quality.

End user markets like working with suppliers who’ve been chosen by high profile representatives of their sectors. We recently completed a project at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sam Rayburn Dam and Reservoir in Texas, authorized and constructed for the purpose of flood control, hydroelectric power generation, and to conserve and supply water for municipal, industrial, agricultural, and recreational uses. Ace modernized, refurbished and upgraded the capacity of the gate hoists to 160 tons, which included the design, installation and startup.

What high profile companies or organizations could you reference during your next sales call?

Take the plunge

Ongoing success in a sector like hydro can only be achieved by gathering excellent market intelligence, from people like Trish, trade shows such as HydroVision International and networking with existing and prospective customers. It’s going to be interesting to monitor developments in the hydro industry over the coming months and years.

Many waterways have met their life cycle (some last upwards of 50 years) and opportunities will be aplenty as funding becomes available. As Trish says, working through specifications, coordinating the myriad of layers with engineering firms, energy providers, mechanical and electrical engineers, contractors and installers can be daunting, but it’s a very rewarding sector as long as one is prepared to immerse themselves in it.

Follow us on Twitter at @AceWorldCompany

Camron Ghanemi
Vice President, Ace World Companies
President, Pullift Corporation