Crane & Rigging Workshop continues to shape the industry
By Hannah Sundermeyer12 September 2023
On September 23rd and 24th, 1977, the Crane & Rigging Association of the Heavy Specialized Carriers Conference (predecessor to SC&RA) held its first Crane & Rigging Workshop in downtown New Orleans, LA.
At the time, it was billed as the “most comprehensive workshop ever scheduled” by the Association. Subjects of concern to crane and rigging companies ranged from the use of computers to accounting, from safety to labor relations, from contract negotiation to equipment scheduling – and notable speakers included Larry Roy, Earl Johnson, Jr., William A. Hoffman, Jr., George Bragg and many more.
Keep changes happening
Both organizers and participants saw the Workshop as a “grand” way to keep current on the changes happening in the construction industry, and to provide training and education for company personnel. And with that in mind, the programs offered at the event were geared to practically all people involved in the industry.
As SC&RA celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, the Crane & Rigging Workshop will mark its 46th occasion when it lands in Oklahoma City, OK, later this month – September 26–28. Nearly half a century beyond its debut, the Workshop is every bit the grand offering it was advertised as in its earliest iterations, and yet so much more.
Attendees at this year’s Workshop will find themselves taking part in one of the industry’s foremost crane and rigging events – set to bring together more than 600 of the industry’s top owners, managers, safety directors, legal experts, operations personnel and crane operators. Additionally, all participants will enjoy access to an Exhibit Center boasting 82 booths, 12 education sessions featuring over 35 industry experts, eight official networking events, a First Timers’ reception and plenty of extra time to meet, greet and explore opportunities with each other.
Face to face interaction
To that end, perhaps one of the most rewarding benefits of the Workshop, as well as each of SC&RA’s four annual meetings, is the opportunity to interface with fellow industry professionals – many of whom have enjoyed a rich history with both the Workshop and the Association.
Steve Freckmann knows a little something about that history. General Manager at Milwaukee, Wis.-based Dawes Rigging & Crane Rental, Inc. (a subsidiary of the ALL Family of Companies), Freckmann has a connection all the way back to SC&RA’s earliest years. His father positioned Dawes to purchase the Shea-Matson Trucking Company – one of the original founding members of SC&RA – in the early 1970s, and as a result, the chain of membership remained, as Dawes was also a member.
While he didn’t attend that first Workshop in 1977, Freckmann’s experience does go back to at least 2008. He was also Chair of the 2011 Workshop in Philadelphia, PA. “It was such an honor and I’ll never forget it,” he remembered. “You’re the highest official for that one event, and you’re doing all the introductions and attending award shows. The event goes very quickly, you’re on the move the entire time, but it’s a great experience for any future leaders.”
Whereas he’s seen a wealth of change in the industry over his 45-year career (this year will be his last Workshop), Freckmann believes that technology and the regulatory environment continue to lead the way.
“Those two areas seem to have really accelerated over the years,” he said. “You have to stay focused all the time, or you risk getting left behind. But one thing that hasn’t changed, at least for this event and the Association, is the character, the respect. It’s even gotten better as we’ve grown as a group. People hold this association in high esteem, and I’m honored to have been a part of it all these years.”
Looking back on his history with the Workshop, in particular, Freckmann recalls the 2008 event, one of just three that have taken place in Canada. “Toronto in 2008 was probably the most memorable for me,” he confirmed. “It was an awesome event, and we met so many great people. Matcom had given us a tour of the city and then took us up into the roof of the SkyDome for a private tour. It was really something. But every Workshop I’ve ever attended has been memorable, and there’s always something new – always a takeaway that helps your business.”
Tours and more
Bill Stramer, Senior Vice President – Marketing, Sales and Customer Support at Link-Belt Cranes, started attending the Workshop in 1990, and has attended every one since. A unique part of Stramer’s participation in the event is that Link-Belt has also hosted Workshop attendees via tours to their Lexington, KY facility on four different occasions (1993, 2001, 2012 and 2018).
Sidenote: Kito Crosby will be hosting an exclusive tour of its Tulsa plant for SC&RA members during this year’s Workshop, set for Tuesday, September 26.
“We’ve always appreciated that opportunity,” he indicated. “As a person that formally helped to plan the Workshops as I was going through the chairs, the Association has done a great job in trying to have tours with a crane manufacturer as a consistent part of the event because it’s a great driver of value and interest.”
One such Link-Belt tour took place during a pivotal moment in history for both SC&RA and the country – September 11, 2001. “We were set to host a tour in Lexington that year in conjunction with the Workshop, and I recall the conversations between SC&RA leadership and the executive board,” he explained. “They were trying to determine whether or not to go forward with the event in the days following the attack. As we got closer to decision time on the Workshop, it became evident that we were going to move forward – get back in the saddle and get on with our business. And so the decision was made to go ahead with the Workshop.”
Randy Sever, Executive Vice President at PSC Crane & Rigging (Piqua, Ohio) was chair of the Workshop more recently, but also during a challenging moment in history, September 2020, as SC&RA had to modify the event’s format due to COVID – ultimately deciding on a remote experience utilizing virtual reality.
“As we were trying to figure out how to move forward without being in-person, due to the pandemic,” he said, “it was apparent that SC&RA was making a valiant effort to do everything it could to still bring value to its members, and provide an event that was as real and personal as possible, even if remote.”
Sever pointed out that, even amid a time of great complexity for everyone, the Association showed its commitment to its members and its willingness to think outside of the box. “They built an entire digital platform to accommodate the show that allowed members to come together and get as much value as they could given the circumstances.”
Evolve and adapt
Sever has been attending Crane & Rigging Workshops for close to 25 years, and has gone from being overwhelmed by the amount of information across the board in his early years to now taking part in numerous task forces and committees. “Everything has evolved so much in the industry in that time frame – and yet, SC&RA continues to evolve and adapt along with it,” he emphasized. “Along the way, I’ve developed lifelong friendships as well as professional relationships that have been paramount to the success of PSC, and I know it has gone that way for many of my Association peers – some of whom built this event and the Association in tandem, dating all the way back to 1977.”
That shared experience and ongoing commitment continues to drive the Workshop today – the culmination of an event that has shaped the industry for more than four decades.
For more information or to register for the 2023 Crane & Rigging Workshop, visit www.scranet.org/CRW2023.