Ted Williams is considered by many as the greatest hitter in baseball history. He is the last player to hit for a season average of greater than .400. He used a Louisville Slugger bat that weighed between 32 and 33 ounces. It may be impossible to determine how many other professional baseball players have used the same size bat since Williams last played. All we know is that none of them have matched his batting average.
What does Ted Williams’ bat have to do with the future of hoisting equipment? It can help to give us some perspective.
The fundamental principle for the design of any equipment, not just hoisting equipment, is that form follows function. In other words, the design (form) must enable the intended use (function). For this reason, innovations in hoisting equipment design typically occur because of specific customer requirements. Examples of form following function include the development and evolution of:
- Leg-Encircling Cranes
- Pedestal-Mounted Cranes
- Closed-Housing Cranes
Sometimes those innovations are appropriate for broader applications. Sometimes they are not.
Baseball equipment design has evolved over the decades since Ted Williams played. The interesting thing, however, is that, although many design changes have involved improving function, probably more have had to do with the safety of players, umpires, and fans. The same may be said for the past, present, and future of hoisting equipment.
A recent McKinsey report indicated that three of the top five expectations of the at-large construction industry in Europe are:
- Higher demand for customized/specialized machines for specific applications
- Revolutionary new technologies and ways of using the machines
- Increasing environmental aspirations and requirements
Note that, in addition to specialized design, the other expectation are new technologies and “environmental … requirements.” That can be translated to mean “safety.” We are witnessing technological advances at a pace heretofore unrealized in history. Safety is always a primary concern in the world of heavy equipment.
Realistic expectations for the future include:
- Enhanced telemetry and connectivity. The Internet of Things will not be limited to fitness devices and smart homes. Expect connectivity to the IoT in ways that enhance the both the efficient and safe operations of hoisting equipment
- Enhanced stability. Managing loads and shifting is a perennial issue in hoisting. There are indications that a focus on this area will continue.
- Electronic data collection and monitoring, including digital video and real-time data transfer to smartphones and tablets.
The game of baseball has changed a lot since Ted Williams played. On the other hand, it still looks, feels, and plays the same. That pretty much sums up the likely future of hoisting equipment.
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