Zooming Out of 2022
As I look back at the past year, the thing I am most eager to say goodbye to is our Zoom calls. In fact, moving away from Zoom and to more personal contact is one of four trends I am looking at for 2023. The others are increased product development, more interest in reshoring and an economy that warrants cautious optimism. You can read more about our 2023 outlook here.
I don’t know about you but I‘m just about done with our Zoom calls. In 2023, we’re Zooming out and getting back on the road. In the past couple of months, I‘ve been meeting with distributors and OEMs and it has been a fantastic experience. We’ve been able to trade ideas and make sure that we’re providing the best possible solutions. The results could never have been achieved on a Zoom call. There’s something about being in the same room with people that supercharges the interaction. Beyond the pure business benefits, there’s a social aspect to in-person meetings that people have been craving. People are happy to be engaging again. We even see more people visiting our showroom. Not only am I putting more meetings on my calendar, our sales reps will be hitting the road in 2023. We’re looking forward to being face-to-face with our customers again.
Back in Development
Through Covid and the first part of last year, our product development efforts were largely stymied. Business was very reactive, simply responding to short-term customers’ needs. In the past few months, our engineering and design team has finally been able to turn its attention to product development.
We will have several new product announcements in the first half of 2023. We’ll be introducing everything from low-profile casters to a brand new medium-duty entry to dual-wheel kingpinless heavy-duty casters.
Our catalogue, which is already the most extensive in the industry, continues to grow with new configurations being added regularly. Our online catalogues are continuously updated. We know there’s something unique about holding a printed catalogue and will continue to provide print-on-demand options to our distributors.
Even a printed catalogue is no substitute for having a caster in your hand. We deliver samples on a daily basis and are happy to entertain your sample requests. We will unveil a new website in 2023 with online 3D CAD modelling available for much of our product line.
Our capital investment continues. We added a de-coiler and straightener to improve the efficiency of our stamping operation and a new 300-ton press will be on the plant floor in the first quarter. We’re expanding the use of robotics in our assembly unit. All of that will improve lead times and enhance our ability to produce high-quality products, made to your specifications and delivered to meet your timelines. We already have a 99% on-time record and our continuous surveys demonstrate that our customers are extremely satisfied with the casters we deliver.
This month I took a call from a customer who was fed up with offshore products. And, he’s not alone. More and more customers are tired of receiving a product that is inferior because corners have been cut. The reality is that inflationary pressures increase the likelihood of producers being lax about specs.
In addition, long lead times mean that buyers have to tie up cash (which is more expensive) for months as they wait to receive goods. Beyond the time it takes to get casters produced and on the water, North American ports are clogged and trains are over-booked. It can easily take two to three weeks longer than expected to get product from port to warehouse.
All of that will add to the appeal of fully North American made casters and wheels. With our integrated manufacturing facility in Toronto, we are ready to accommodate the increasing number of customers who see the advantages of goods produced on this continent.
The Economy: Cautious Optimism
Feedback from our customers indicates they are upbeat about the prospects for 2023. We are cautiously optimistic about the economy. While costs are still high, supply seems to be steadying and inflation is easing. Increasing interest rates will be a necessity until the economy stabilizes and that will be a drag on increased purchasing. In fact, The U.S. Fed announced a half-point increase as I wrote this post. There is a very delicate balance between inflation and interest rates with a significant margin of error. The economy will remain vulnerable but if trends continue, conditions should improve. We actually believe that the second half of 2023 looks promising and are looking forward to a more robust economic environment.
Our Customers Come First
The one thing that does not change from year to year is our commitment to our customers. Our customers are at the centre of everything we do. It’s been that way for the past 53 years and will continue in 2023. We look forward to continuing to meet your needs.
Wishing all of our customers, distributor partners, suppliers, colleagues and friends all the best for the holiday season and a very Happy New Year.
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