Innovation name of the game at Saltex

Celebrating her 25th trip to the IoG Saltex exhibition last week, HW technical editor Sally Drury recalled the halcyon days when parks departments would turn up by the coach load - three of them in Birmingham's case - for a "day out" at the show, held at Windsor Racecourse.

At that time, numbers attending peaked at around 35,000 - some two to three times the numbers that make it to the show today. The twin ravages of Compulsory Competitive Tendering and a decade of Japanese-style lean management techniques, leaving us all with the jobs of half a dozen other folk, have put a stop to such large groups attending.

But despite the lower visitor levels, over the past 25 years some things, says Drury, have just kept getting better. And at the top of the list comes the level of genuine innovation on display.

This year was no exception. Despite the absence of the "big six" manufacturers which now alternate their presence at BTME and Saltex, there was plenty of product development news for visitors to get excited about.

Take, for instance, kit manufacturer Dennis, which used last week's show to highlight the introduction of computer-aided design into its product development processes. The move promises customers more and better new products, developed more quickly without the need for so many prototypes. Dennis is not the first to make this leap. Nevertheless, its move highlights an exciting shift taking place in the sector that can only be good for customers.

Meanwhile, in an industry where it is estimated that 10 per cent of staff compensation claims are caused by hand/arm vibration syndrome, it was great to see new kit coming through that takes resolution of this huge problem a big step forward. Stihl was showing a new class of blower which has minimised vibration. Similarly, Kersten was showing a flail mower with much-reduced vibration and noise levels.

There were, of course, many more examples. And as always, HW readers can look forward to the very best equipment launched at the show being put through its paces by Drury and her team of testers in coming months at one of our unique machinery testing days. Watch this space.

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