Barrell stopped down as FMCEC Director General at
the 2000 AGM, after long and distinguished service.
helping out on the FMCEC stand at Intermat earlier
this year, a number of readers commented that they
found my article in the May issue interesting. None
have complained to the Editor, or challenged the comments
I made. With that background, here are some further
observations. More could be said as there are many
issues on which 1 have not touched and there are some
fundamental subjects which many of you may feel deserve
serious thought - next issue perhaps?
- to continue .....
During the 1970's and 80's the Federation organised
a wide range of inward and outward trade missions
enabling British manufacturers to publicise their
products in countries which were less easy to enter
or obtain business from on an individual company basis.
Many countries in the Far East, Middle East, Phoenix
Rapid" and Africa had 1947 tariff, quota, or
political backgrounds which created difficulties often
by the use of an official trade mission. Some problems
have now disappeared but nobody would pretend that
trade with those areas now is much easier, even though
the reasons may be different!
first mission to China was set up in 1979. In 1981
the Federation took British manufacturers to Iraq,
Kuwait and Iran, even though the atmosphere between
them was distinctly hostile! However, they all welcomed
Federation missions. The USSR was also a target as
far back as 1988. Angola, where we talked to the then
Government in the early 1980's, is still full of unrest
and what has happened in some other African states
still presents major difficulties.
Skill shortages seem to be an ongoing problem
and it is interesting to note that in 1976 the National
Economic Development Office (a Government quango whose
meetings were frequently attended by Federation representatives)
issued a report emphasising the problems of our industry
in finding, and keeping, skilled workers. They also
reported that the average age within the industry
was becoming uncomfortably high with younger workers
moving to better paid jobs in other industries - who
said nothing changes!
In 1981 the UK plant hire business had fallen
so badly that hire companies said they couldn't afford
to replace equipment - sounds familiar? Happily there
are still many hire companies buying equipment and
1988 saw major problems developing for manufacturers
and users as the European Commission started drafting
the Machinery Safety Directive. Its finalisation,
and the resultant national regulations, created a
great deal of work for the Federation as it battled
with the Commission and Government departments for
the creation of suitable legislation which would help
both users and manufacturers. Like most things which
come out of European legislation the industry still
has problems with the implementation of the regulations
and the activities of those who try to get around
them. If only all the EU Member States monitored compliance
with regulations in the same way. The DTI is responsible
for compliance, but large numbers of "grey imports"
during the past two years, including some "noncompliant"
equipment, has emphasised the problems of adequate
monitoring arrangements which, in my opinion, we still
do not have in the UK.
Plant theft had already reached serious proportions
in 1989 so the Federation, together with the Construction
Plant-hire Association, opened up discussions with
the police, the insurance industry and HM Customs
to see what they could do to help the lawful owners
of equipment keep their kit! Federation members were
willing to help but without these other parties we
could not pretend to solve the problems faced by the
equipment owners. After ten years the Home Office
has finally agreed to issue recommendations which
could help security arrangements. Through CECE the
Federation has proposed total European cooperation
on plant theft prevention - I wonder how long that
will take to become effective?
Works visits - From the very early days Federation
members agreed on the values to be achieved from visiting
each others plants. Lessons can be learned from one's
competitors and this practice continues today. Probably
the most spectacular visit was the year when Danfoss
flew over forty OEM representatives to their plant
in Denmark to show them what their total capabilities
were as distinct from their more easily recognised
pump specialities. Nowadays one wonders whether it
would be regarded as quite such a good idea to have
the MDs of nearly half the UK manufacturing companies
all in one aircraft!
In 1991 as more and more overseas manufacturers entered
the world marketplace many considered Federation membership
an important facility even though some were already
members of their own national associations. However,
they lacked some of the facilities the Federation
could offer and today we have a flourishing importer
membership of UK-based subsidiary companies of overseas
manufacturers. At the AGM in February Dan Willis (MD
of Gomaco International) became Vice President of
the Federation, representing importer members. In
1992 the decision was taken to create a new affiliate
membership facility to enable the Federation and the
major UK technical journals and research companies
to work closer together on matters of common interest.
Environmental issues have drawn increasing attention
over the last ten years and Federation members have
played a major role in the control of emissions of
all types and noise. The Federation has taken a lead
role in the study of the effects of machine vibration
on equipment operators and ways in which manufacturers
can help reduce the potential for injury claims.
Newsline was introduced ten years ago to help transfer
information of all types between the Federation and
its members, plus some non-members who are interested
in what we all do! It seems to have worked as Newsline
circulation is ever increasing.
comments on this article will be taken up in the next
issue, together with a look at the representation
of crane OEMs over the years.