Ageneral sense of optimism prevailed at the ConExpo construction equipment exhibition in Las Vegas last month. Of course, the first impression created by so much shiny new equipment spread over 1.85 million square feet of exhibit space contributed considerably to the upbeat mood.

Anyone taking a closer look could see that many equipment manufacturers have made impressive strides in quality as a result of their investment in research and development. Consider, for example, recent advances in the design of cabs both for cranes and trucks.

Overall, the cabs have become more comfortable since the last ConExpo three years ago. At a time when our industry struggles to overcome a shortage of operators and drivers, the comfort factor takes on even greater importance. By reducing operator fatigue and discomfort, ergonomically designed equipment can help companies attract and retain these crucial employees, who otherwise might turn to other livelihoods. Some of the improvements in the redesigned cabs give employees better control of the equipment. This allows them to work more safely and efficiently.

Although other major developments are not so readily apparent, the manufacturers enumerated them in literature distributed at ConExpo. Notably, crane and specialized transportation equipment manufacturers have been exploring methods of improving responsiveness to buyers after the sale.

Manufacturers know that even the most sophisticated equipment in the world is useless when it breaks down. They continue to make great strides in improving the durability and reliability of equipment, but our industry's tremendous demands make repairs inevitable.

Realizing customers’ distaste for downtime, manufacturers have developed innovative techniques to give users ready access to parts and service. When equipment can be returned to service the next day instead of the next week-or later-operating efficiencies improve dramatically.

It became obvious at ConExpo that many of the manufacturers that are most responsive to the changing needs of their customers belong to SC&RA's Allied Industries Group. That should come as no surprise. After all, SC&RA provides plenty of opportunities for these manufacturers and their customers to interact in meaningful ways. They often serve on the same SC&RA committees. Together, they tackle our industry's toughest challenges while building mutual respect.

Manufacturers that belong to SC&RA do not have to guess what the users of their equipment need. They know because they hear it directly from these customers at SC&RA meetings. Even a casual conversation during a social event at the SC&RA Annual Conference can lead to developments that ultimately enhance profits for both the manufacturer and the customer.

Like our member manufacturers, we at SC&RA will continue to make constant incremental improvements to meet the changing needs of the Association's customers-our members.

We will keep members informed about developments involving today's major challenges such as steep prices for steel and fuel, well-intentioned but counterproductive regulations, the threat of terrorism, the availability of affordable insurance, and more. As always, we will remain ready to take action to defend the interests of our members in 41 nations.

It is often said that there is no sure thing in Las Vegas. After attending ConExpo, we disagree. We say you cannot lose by betting on the specialized carriers and rigging industry. You can count on SC&RA to work hard to keep the odds in favour of the industry.

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