Safety, synergies and supply chain: an interview with Sims HD CEO
By D.Ann Shiffler01 June 2023
As CEO of Sims HD, a spin-off of Sims Crane & Equipment, she and her team are full speed ahead in the realm of heavy haul in the Sunshine State.
Erika Sims is making waves in Florida. As CEO of Sims HD, a spin-off of Sims Crane & Equipment, she and her team are full speed ahead in the realm of heavy haul in the Sunshine State.
“Sims HD was a perfect opportunity to take all I have learned in the crane business and apply it to transportation and specialized rigging, which I find is always on both sides of the crane rental process,” she said.
As with most children born into a family business, Erika was exposed to the crane industry at an early age, completing odd jobs around the office during summer breaks. In January 2004 she officially became a full-time employee of the company started by her grandfather in 1959.
“I spent a few weeks in human resources, and then due to a change in leadership, was given the opportunity to lead the safety department, which in 2004, as you can imagine was not exactly on the list of top jobs,” she said.
Embracing safety at Sims
Safety was something she could wholeheartedly embrace. She rewrote Sims’ safety manual from a 16-page document to a comprehensive 325-page guide. She produced a series of safety videos that received industry acclaim. In time, she would move into a leadership role on the sales team. As vice president of sales, she learned the inner workings of the company. She became vice president of operations in September 2019.
In early 2021 she realized that with the evolution in equipment and the massive increase in crane sizes and capabilities, there was a huge opportunity to build out a Sims transportation company. Today Sims HD is a thriving entity, specializing in the installation, transportation and removal of industrial machinery.
Through the years, Erika has earned respect and admiration from the Sims team and the industry at large. She has served on panels at SC&RA events, and recently was named to the Crane & Rigging Governing Committee.
I met Erika years ago, shortly after becoming editor of ACT. Although she was young and learning the business, I remember thinking that she had a compelling energy.
“She’s going to be a real player in this industry someday,” I thought to myself. I was right.
Erika is genuine, positive and intuitive. She is a good listener and speaks when she has wisdom to share. She’s also as smart as they come. I look forward to getting to know her better.
What led to your deciding that the crane and specialized transportation path was the right one for you?
Simple. Everything we pick with cranes either comes or goes on a truck and sometimes that includes more specialized moving services. We are in the logistics business of moving items, and that is not just specific to using cranes.
Tell me more about Sims HD?
Sims HD began in 2014 out of our Orlando office as an additional service to our customer base. More people were asking for a one-stop solution, and we realized that by bundling services we could create more efficiency for our customers and help drive their businesses.
There are plenty of trucking companies and smaller rigging companies all over the U.S. What HD focuses on specifically is more of a niche market. We aren’t dry-vans hauling commodities. We are focused on specific equipment moving and more challenging rigging requirements.
Instead of being everything to everybody, we focus on offering expert services to customers, and together with our partners at Sims Crane, we can offer bundled services. Sims HD is also a women and minority owned business in the state of Florida as well as the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council.
Our projects range from moving simple crawler houses across the state to more complicated long-term projects providing specialized rigging and lifting services for industrial contractors.
So there are synergies between Sims Crane and Sims HD?
Absolutely. Most everything that a crane is involved with has arrived or is taken away on a flatbed or lowboy. Our team picks up the ball both before the crane is needed and after by helping review the logistics and finding ways to increase efficiency and provide a total solution.
What are your goals for Sims HD over the short term? Long term?
My number one goal for Sims HD is to be the best at what we do. No more, no less. And to be a place where my teams take pride in what we do and grow through that. Long term, I do plan to continue adding to my fleet and continue to grow our business within the Southeast. I would like to triple the size we are today in the next three to five years.
What about procuring new equipment? Are there still supply chain issues?
More and more, the equipment is becoming more readily available. The biggest issue I see, however, is the massive increase in pricing on new equipment. Sims HD, as a much smaller company, must be very strategic in our acquisitions and continue to evaluate options for growth.
You were an expert in the realm of safety for Sims, producing videos and training your crews on the best practices. How do you approach safety at Sims HD?
What I learned running our safety teams years ago gives me a great handle on safety. It also reminds me how diligent we must be to prevent injuries and accidents. Sims HD is very lucky in that we have access to the Sims Crane Safety team, led by Derek Sather, who is second to none. He and his team are extremely important in continuing to help Sims HD grow and manage safety as a number one priority.
You’ve been going to SC&RA meetings since you were a kid, but recently you have become more involved. What changed?
Yes, I went very sporadically for many years. Last year, I was invited to join a Women’s Roundtable in Virginia. That changed something for me. I feel like SC&RA has evolved, and I find it helpful to engage with other leaders in our industry and share our common experiences. This industry, in my opinion, was very “cloak and dagger,” and I am a believer that when you share and connect with others you can collectively do great things. I am very much looking forward to my time on the Crane and Rigging Governing Committee.
What is your business philosophy?
People do business with people. I believe that, and it was the foundation of my time as vice president of sales. We are here to build relationships, and to do that we focus on solving problems. My role has been and continues to be supporting my team in building those relationships, and to grow through that both professionally, and also personally. That has been a very successful approach.
What do you like to do for fun, when you aren’t working?
This might sound silly to some, but working is fun for me. Like I said, this is a part of who I am and my identity. I love helping others and supporting people in their lives and careers. But if you need a simpler [answer], I live in Florida, so I do love the water.