NEW ORLEANS, LOUSIANA, U.S.  — The 2019 GEAPS Exchange kicked off on Sunday, March 9, in New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S., with the more than 400 exhibitors at the event continuing to keep an eye on global trade and tariff issues as uncertainty continues to impact the market.  

Multiple exhibitors noted the uncertainty surrounding trade policies, most notably the conflict between the U.S. and China, are impacting the agriculture industry.  

Both China and the U.S. have imposed tariffs on various products from each country, including a 25% tariff on steel and aluminum being imported from China.

“There is a lot of uncertainty in the market today, people just don’t know what direction things are going to hit politically and that has certainly impacted our business,” said Randy Marcks, material handling and sales director for Sukup Manufacturing. “Steel tariffs, we use a lot of steel in a week, so that definitely has impacted our business along with the end-users not knowing exactly what they are going to have for programs and things available.”

For others, the trade uncertainty has sparked increased business in other markets.

“I think what’s been happening in the world with different trade issues going on, we’ve seen a lot of business in Brazil and Argentina in the last 12 months,” said Johnny Wheat, president of 4B Components. “We are very fortunate because we are an international company. We have a set of subsidiaries around the world, so we are geographically diverse, so it’s not impacted us too bad.”

Another area of concern is competing in and working to expand into other markets.

Tapco Inc., a manufacturer of bucket elevators and bolts, is focused on expanding its global footprint, but there are obstacles to overcome.

 “For our industry specifically, increased competition worldwide has made it tougher to compete. There are more companies every day that are manufacturing buckets, so we need to find a way to get our product into the world market while still being competitive in every way possible,” said Jon Rux of Tapco. “We do ship internationally, but there are certain markets that are harder to get into like China and India where there are a lot of domestic manufacturers who can manufacture in such volume that it makes competing there very difficult.”

Despite the challenge, Tapco continues to ship internationally and keep an inventory of 1 million buckets and 15 million elevator bolts.

Safety was another key topic being discussed on the trade show floor.

With grain entrapment prevention and rescue being a key topic at this year’s event, many exhibitors are featuring zero-entry products or products that help prevent grain-related injuries by utilizing new technology.

Grain Systems Inc. (GSI) debuted its new GrainViz product that gives operators advanced insight into the condition of stored grain.

“It’s a completely new way to manage grain masses inside the steel storage bin at this point,” said Jeff Cravens of GSI. “It lets you get down to the individual bushel level where you will always know the moisture content for safe storage. It constantly monitors and it will alert you in many ways if there is ever a change within that grain mass. You can run a scan of the bin. Similar to an MRI, you get a physical image of what’s inside that grain mass from a moisture stand point.”

He said GrainViz is an important tool for reducing grain bin entry.

“One of the problems within bin storage is when the grain gets out of condition, that generally can cause a person to enter a bin to clean up unconditioned grain,” Cravens said. “This hopefully prevents that without the need for those people in there.”

TORNUM recently introduced a new generation of grain cooler. The Tropical Grain Cooler provides safe grain storage regardless of ambient conditions.

Per Larsson, TORNUM’s managing director, said there is a strong demand for this new product at grain facilities in warmer climates.

“It is a higher capacity and can perform in warmer climates,” he said. “If you are above 40 degrees Celsius, you will have problems, but this tropical grain cooler can go further.”

NORD Gear Corp. unveiled the MAXXDRIVE XT series of industrial gear units (IGUs) at the three-day expo.

The MAXXDRIVE XT series expands NORD’s line of IGU production. The new gear units achieve high thermal ratings as result of a new and optimized housing design. Together with the increased surface design and optimized fan design, MAXXDRIVE XT gear units are ideal for continuous industrial conveying and bulk material handling applications. In many cases, additional cooling is not required.

The new generation of IGUs supplement NORD’s application-optimized right-angle gear units, and is especially suitable for conveyor belt systems.

“The gear units are ideal for continuous bulk material handling, mining and conveying aggregates (coal, copper, lithium, quarried materials),” said Hani Almoghrabi, NORD’s Large Industrial Drives Product manager.

The optimized housing geometry achieves maximum thermal ratings and effective fan cooling through an enhanced fan design and air flow.

“NORD’s new MAXXDRIVE XT series is achieving some of the highest thermal ratings in the industry,” said Almoghrabi.