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Trade networks crucial to beating the recession

by Mike Lynch President, Storage and Handling Equipment Distributors' Association

SHEDA, the leading trade association for designers, suppliers and installers in the storage and materials handling industry, is now in its 28th year and never has there been a more important time for the organisation.

Worldwide steel prices have rocketed by 50 per cent since last year, with more increases in the pipeline. Demand from China and India is sapping an ever-diminishing supply.

As companies across the industry batten the hatches for the impending economic storm, Sheda members are discovering that being part of a strong trade network is becoming a crucial part of their recession-beating strategy.

The world of racking, shelving and mezzanine floors is not rocket science, but the SHEDA membership is very aware of an ever-increasing body of legislation governing our industry – particularly when it comes to health and safety.

With, as yet, no affordable imports on tap from Asia and China, many end users might be tempted to combat the pain of the credit crunch by buying second-hand storage and racking equipment. But those who buy or install second hand risk compromising health and safety standards – and the cost of that could spell disaster for a business.

Safety is a major priority for SHEDA members – the association works closely with the Health and Safety Executive to monitor standards on issues and keep members up to date.

Our members are reluctant to – and discouraged from – promoting used equipment unless we're fully informed about its history. A client who is determined to buy used racking or shelving can be assured of an objective response when they deal with a SHEDA member, who will explain the potential pitfalls and provide a relevant cost comparison.

Clients are provided with impartial opinions and guidance that will enable them to make an informed decision. A substantial number of SHEDA members gained their industry experience by working for the manufacturers of the equipment we promote, sell and install today, and had a deep knowledge of any advantages offered by other manufacturers' products. This knowledge, experience and awareness enables SHEDA members to offer end-user clients the best advice and most suitable products for their needs.

And because a SHEDA member is not limited to one particular product or range, they can source products from the whole gamut of available storage equipment and pinpoint the most suitable and cost-effective product for a client's needs.

One of the key criteria of membership is a pledge to never knowingly mislead, by fact or implication, about the performance of products or systems our members supply. We can show how new equipment, which undergoes rigorous testing and quality control procedures during manufacture, is the safest and therefore most cost-effective option.

SHEDA's commitment to the highest standards is so strong that, if a client decides not to follow their advice and insists on buying used, our member is encouraged to decline both supply and installation of that equipment.

It's a demonstration of our commitment to safety and client satisfaction – if we cannot do it properly, it's better not to do it at all.

Our members recognise that it's when trading conditions are at their toughest that quality and excellence matter most – and the SHEDA creed of “striving for excellence” provides a beacon for the industry.

That's reflected in the growing number of major logistics providers, retailers and utility suppliers who are now specifying SHEDA membership as a pre-tender qualification.

SHEDA has established standards of professionalism which it intends to maintain for the benefit of members and customers alike. All members abide by a strict Code of Conduct in all aspects of our work and are supported in this by the association in a variety of ways, including technical support, regular industry information and training opportunities.

Our success in raising industry standards is reflected in our continued growth. Membership is up again by seven per cent on 2007, consolidating SHEDA's position as the leading trade association in the UK and Ireland for companies that provide a design, product supply and installation service in the storage and materials handling industry.

SHEDA provides an essential focal point for expert advice on key industry issues and contributes to debate on industry standards, striving to influence technical standards and improved working practices. Every SHEDA member is committed to upholding these standards across the UK and Ireland.

Just as specifying SHEDA makes sense for companies looking for long-term results and value for money from their storage and racking systems, SHEDA membership makes sound business sense for companies looking to survive the pressures of global recession.

SHEDA membership is a badge of quality – and members are required to meet the strictest standards. All members are recommended to put their installers through the Storage Equipment Installers Registration Scheme (SEIRS) training.

SHEDA members are actively encouraged to welcome competitors into the association's ranks. The more representative we are of our industry, the greater our power in driving up standards and SHEDA members are able to bring together a wealth of experience, know-how and advice to share best practice a commitment to following industry guidelines.

As a further sign of its commitment to raising standards, this year, Sheda is providing match funding for members to undertake their latest health and safety audit. It wants all of its distributor members to take up on the grant opportunity as soon as possible.

As number one trade association, we also provide a clear voice for the industry with the power to make our views heard by partner organisations and governing bodies. As individual companies it's difficult to disturb the surface of the water but, collectively, SHEDA members can be a force to be reckoned with.

Log on to www.sheda.org.uk for more information about SHEDA and its members

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