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Don’t be swayed by the hype

There was a time when we used our phones to simply make calls. 

Not any more. A smartphone is, quite literally, a supercomputer that we carry with us pretty much everywhere we go.

We use this device instead of a camera, map, shopping trolley, cash and, sometimes, instead of saying a good old-fashioned ‘hello’. It has changed the way we interact socially and how we work, and the innovation shows no sign of slowing.

In fact, individuals’ desires for increasingly intelligent and intuitive technology mean that all areas of business are experiencing a constant demand for more. But is this always possible? And to what extent is the pattern distorting the perception of value?

If we think specifically about waste balers, this type of equipment has rarely been considered ground-breaking. I would go so far as to say that, because the waste and recycling industry is continually a source of engineering breakthroughs, balers probably seem fairly ‘old hat’.

So should baler manufacturers be capitalising on companies’ yearning for more? Should we introduce never-before-seen features in our machines, to capture customers’ excitement and gain our share of the spotlight?

I know of some fantastic examples of waste balers that do not just bale. One of our solutions, for example, offers clients a turnkey shredder-baler system, supplied as one unit. It is perfect for organisations that need to handle their confidential waste paper securely on-site, even if they have space constraints.

But this is quite a specific example. On the whole, I think the best technology, particularly in the environmental sector, comes from providers that stick to what they are good at. Of course new skill sets can be brought in and partnerships formed to aid diversification. But my fear is that, if baling experts introduce new features within their balers, they will no longer be producing specialist machines that they unequivocally know can add value.

That’s not to say there is not an appreciation for customers’ desire to achieve a greater return on investment. That is why multi-chamber baling technology exists, for example, to enable businesses to handle more than one waste stream at a time, with only one capital asset.

The initial investment outlay is minimised, as are ongoing maintenance costs, operator handling costs and the time needed to bale the total volume of waste. The result is a slick, affordable and hassle-free recycling operation.

The suppliers of such multi-chamber balers have addressed a challenge that organisations face and developed technology to solve the problem.

For me, this is an example of innovation at its finest – as is the ability to engineer machinery that is easy to use, straightforward to maintain, safe and cost-effective to run. This is no mean feat.

To get truly maximum value from a new waste baler investment, I would encourage organisations to think about exactly what functionality and capacity they require. It could be argued that, for instance, machine versatility sometimes results in a business spending more than it needs to.

Of course baling flexibility is great, if one piece of equipment can handle an array of dry recyclable packaging wastes such as paper, cardboard and plastic film. But if it is unlikely that the organisation will ever need to bale tyres, paint tins or steel, then a heavyduty multi-purpose machine will be an unnecessary expense.

Businesses should approach the baler market having specified their criteria for the immediate and near future, and stick to that. It is easy to be swayed by upselling techniques, ‘attention grabbers’ and bonus add-ons that simply are not relevant or required.

I think simplicity is incredibly under-praised because technically complex equipment can be costly to run and repair. That’s not innovatory. And gimmicks do not equal innovation either.

Jonathan Oldfield is managing director of Riverside Waste Machinery

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