Girl Power

4 March 2022


Thanks to an overwhelming response to our International Women’s Day feature in Hoist last year, we have chosen to celebrate those working in the industry again to honour this special event.

Of all the people working in construction, women comprise only 10.9%. Even less is the number of women on the front lines of a job site - one for every 100 employees in the field. Considering that women make up 47% of all employed individuals, this means the construction industry is only benefitting from about 1.25% of women in the workforce, claims BigRentz, based in Irvine, CA.

According to the online equipment rental company, there are several factors that explain this gender gap, from unconscious gender bias, to a lack of adequate training and negative perceptions of women working in construction.

Yet, despite these barriers, women continue to build a path in the industry and a report by Randstad claims women in construction management roles increased by 9% in the UK between 2018 and 2020.

As new construction industry jobs are expected to rise by almost 2 million in 2022, companies are looking to recruit more women than ever before to bring their skill sets into the field and many organizations are making efforts to promote more women into leadership positions, and women working in the industry are inspiring younger generations to follow in their footsteps. Here at Hoist, we highlight some of the inspirational women making a difference in the workforce today.


SCOUT’S HONOR - ENCOURAGING NEXT-GENERATION APPRENTICESHIPS

Molly Wood (pictured) has been working for Ace Industries as an engineering manager and senior mechanical engineer for 17 years.

“I was working for a DOD contractor in VA when my husband proposed. I was in VA, he was in GA. The stars aligned and I was lucky enough to snag an interview with Ace Industries. Working for a DOD contractor sounds glamorous, but it was really a lot of bolt calculations and reports. I’m pretty sure the things I designed were going to be built three years after I left. I enjoy the faster paced world of cranes, which allow me to work on many projects at the same time,” she said.

“At Ace Industries, I designed the first hoist unit for our company. But I feel like my largest contribution to the crane industry was overseeing the new sections of CMAA (the Crane Manufacturers Association of America, part of MHI, the US Material Handling Industry). Specifications 74 and 70-2020 edition. I was the CMAA Mechanical Engineering subcommittee secretary for the first two years of the five-year cycle and the CMAA Mechanical Engineering subcommittee chairperson for the last three years, culminating in the addition of several new sections. I was instrumental in finding compromises to get the ballots passed.

“My biggest challenge was when Ace Industries acquired Gaffey Crane, in 2012 doubling in size. We went from 12 branches to 24, and one fabrication shop to two. It’s amazing how two companies that build the same product could have so many different processes and ways of doing things. It took almost two years to make changes in the engineering and fabrication processes so that both shops utilized the same process.

The current supply chain issues has had us on our toes. It has given us opportunities for flexibility and to overcome obstacles. But I can't say I won’t mind when it settles back down. 

"In my spare time, I’m a volunteer STEM Trainer with Girl Scouts. It even has a Crane Engineering Badge at Junior Level. I'm now working to become a Merit Badge Counselor with Scouts BSA. I would love to lend my voice to encouraging students to consider skilled trades such as welder/fitter, electrician, machinist, drafter, etc. There are many career paths that do not flow through a traditional four-year college. The fabricators, electricians, and service technicians at Ace Industries are some of the best people I know. Their work ethic, skills, and the products they produce is unparalleled. They are a valuable commodity and were looking for the next-generation to apprentice."

NEVER GIVE UP IN WHAT YOU BELIEVE IN

Stacey Gray has over 25 years’ experience in the Material Handling Industry and is currently regional sales manager, at TC/American Crane Company, where she has been for four years. After working for a previous company for 18 years, Gray thought ‘she wanted out of the overhead crane business’: “Boy, was I wrong. I love this industry and its people. Being able to apply the right crane with the right solution for the customer. My biggest achievement to date is managing a large monorail project from quote to installation on a new automotive plant.

“Being a woman in a male-dominated industry means some people think that you don’t know what you’re talking about. I have been quizzed, and had people ask if they can speak to a man. I have been tested repeatedly to see if I will give up, but I always prove them wrong.

“In terms of change, the supply chain problems and staff shortages over these past two years have been the worst I have ever seen. I have had to learn how to do business during this time of change and keep going. Being adaptable and flexible is the key.

“My drive is to help TC/American Crane Company become the best overhead material solutions company. The owners and management here are remarkable people, and they empower their employees to do what is right. During this time, I will keep learning, either through schooling or on the job.”

MHI CHAIR SOFTWARE SOLUTIONS COMMITTEE

Ashley Rhodes is a software project engineer for Grenzebach, which specializes in customized automated solutions.

“Growing up, I felt like technology was the direction of the future, and I wanted to make sure I was an essential part of that movement. I have a Bachelors’ degree in Computer Information Systems and a Masters’ degree in Project Management. I started my career working as a software engineer and later transitioned into a Continuous Improvement project manager. In that role, I implemented cost saving solutions that impacted waste, production, and cost at a rapid rate in various countries. With this, I decided to challenge myself by using the same techniques used in manufacturing and applied them to the construction and payment services industries by focusing on implementing automated solutions for manual processes. After successfully implementing software bot solutions, I decided to go back to my roots of manufacturing, which led me to Grenzebach. Grenzebach specializes in offering Goods to Person and Automated Goods Transport solutions to maximize efficiency and eliminate non-value-added processes. There is a saying that if you enjoy what you do, you’ll never work again. I can truly say that I am passionate about the services that I provide to our customers but also the relationships I have built with our channel partners.

“Working for Grenzebach has allowed me to be the chair for the Software Solutions Committee and on the DEI Advisory Committee at MHI. I enjoy collaborating with forward thinking organizations to exchange knowledge to resolve software-related issues and challenging organizations to diversify rather than settling for the status quo. It excites me to be a prototype for aspiring women to show that our voices and perspectives matter.

"One of the biggest hurdles I overcame was trusting my gut instincts to stand firmly in my decisions when uncertainty presented itself. I learned to provide a safe space to not be afraid of failure. Sometimes we win, sometimes we learn. I have learned to trust the process.

“Now is a prime time for software engineers and warehouse automation due to supply chain issues. Diversifying strategies are the primary focus. Organizations realize that to be successful, you need to have voices from different perspectives. Many organizations are dedicated to incorporating more women and minorities in engineering and leadership roles. My passion is to uplift and empower women to be more confident.

“Next, I am dedicated to reassuring future leaders of the success they can achieve regardless of where they come from. Break down the stereotypical barriers to create your own path. Never give up, regardless as to what “box” society places you in.”

THE LIFTING INDUSTRY HAS CHANGED FROM BEING VERY CONSERVATIVE TO MORE OPEN-MINDED

Angela Chen was recently promoted to regional sales director. Europe, at Yoke Industrial Corp. she is also temporarily in charge of the Latin American market before a permanent team is put in place there. Her role is to grow the distribution channels of lifting products, expand business activities, offer training and technical support, and build stronger relations between customers in Europe and the headquarters in Taiwan.

“I entered this job eight years ago knowing nothing about the lifting industry, with a passion to learn new things, conquer new challenges, and travel for business. It's great that I have come so far, and more importantly, I still enjoy my job. The diversities of this traditional but crucial-to-life industry are beyond our imagination.

Women have the same determination and ambition as men in business, but women tend to be better listeners and show greater empathy towards customers, which is one of the strengths to developing a successful strong customer relationship, despite different cultures and perspectives.

"Occasionally you feel that women are not being respected in our professional field while traveling to other countries in the world. As frustrating as it sounds, the more knowledge and experience we gain, professionalism can still break the barrier and build even more trust. I feel appreciated to be a woman who is progressing well in a male-dominated area of industry.

"The lifting industry has changed from being very conservative to more open-minded and ready to embrace new technology, that makes the job easier. I believe in the future, many of the regulations/standards will move forward to follow the global trend - to reduce paper, plastic and become more reliant on digitalized information as we now need to learn after Covid."

HUMAN FLIGHT SAFETY & MISSION SUCCESS

Sherice Sampson is a Bonded Storage technician and team lead for HX5 Sierra, a contractor for NASA Glenn Research Center. She has worked as a contractor for 36 years.

“I started here as a Word Processing specialist. I developed an interest in computers while in High School majoring in Data Processing. While I loved working with computers, I also had a desire for operating heavy equipment that I noticed while traveling to different states. After my computer training jobs ended, I was introduced to operating Tow Motors and Cranes. I received hands-on training for both. I have completed lifts for multiple ISS Projects over the last 20 years.

“During my career, I have had the opportunity to work on several projects involving the International Space Station. I would say that my biggest accomplishments have been the receipt of the Army Achievement Medal for distinguished military service, Distinguished Honor Grad at the Basic Leadership Course and the Silver Snoopy Award presented to me in 2008. This award is given to select people who have been instrumental in ensuring Human Flight Safety and Mission success.

“Learning to navigate through the Covid pandemic has been a challenge. However, I work with an amazing group of innovative people who have learned to adapt. We have found using audio-visual technology is a great way to support our efforts in maintaining an efficient lab.

“In the future, I see Lift Operation evolving into a more diverse and technologically driven profession. As people from various backgrounds and schools of thought develop and implement new ideas, lift operating can only get better. Recently I became a Team Leader and have the privilege of mentoring interns. Though challenging, these roles have allowed me to grow as a leader and to provide guidance to the next generation of employees.”

12 YEARS WITH CMCO

Nicole Stickney, business development manager, Wire Rope Hoists & Crane Components, Columbus McKinnon Corporation (CMCO), studied marketing in school, but made a career pivot in 2008 that proved to be a great success. “I actually ended up liking sales and applications better,” she says.

Her initial involvement in CMCO’s team began with rigging and chain hoist product sales. As the company grew and diversified. Stickney helped to develop and expand the sales team, later moving into crane solutions sales. “Working with crane and hoist customers means there is something new every day. I figure out how to solve people's problems with all the different solutions we offer and how they best fit together,” she said.

During her 12-year CMCO career, Stickney was presented with the “Above and Beyond” award for her commitment to excellence and willingness to go the extra mile to better serve the company and its customers. She says it’s because she sees this as more than just a job. “It’s about getting to know your customers and helping them every chance you get. You have to really understand what people need, why they need it, and how you can provide the best solutions for them, whether that’s an answer to a question, product recommendations, or completely customized systems that help move the world forward and improve lives.”

Stickney has noticed an increasing interest in “smart” technology that allows users to predict and prevent problems like equipment breakdowns or necessary replacements before they occur and integrating communication technology into their systems. This could include variable frequency drives, radio remote controls, or feedback capabilities with mobile phones or tablets. Automation, plus analytics and diagnostic systems, are becoming more popular as facilities look for more ways to increase their productivity and improve safety in their operations.

“Operating during the Covid-19 pandemic has meant we’ve had to think differently about how we conduct business,” she says. “To make sure we're staying ahead of issues, like, for example, global supply chain delays, we’ve become more organized than ever, almost to the micro level, keeping track of all aspects of the project so we’re able to provide the best solutions and services to our customers.”

LEEA CHAIR KAT MOSS

Kat Moss, is business development and quality assurance manager at Catena Inspection & Engineering Services since 2010, as well as current chair of the Lifting Equipment Engineers’ Association (LEEA) from January this year.

“It’s a running joke that I only came via an Agency for a one-week holiday and never left,” said Moss on her role at Catena. “I had previously worked in other engineering environments and found the work at Catena interesting due to the range of activities they do, from fabrication and load testing to LOLER examinations and more. I started in an admin role but quickly gained a thirst for more knowledge about what we do and subsequently migrated into more of a technical role. Unexpectedly, I won the Stuart Everitt Award from LEEA (for contributions to the association) and the Lifting Equipment Trailblazer group Sustainable Solution of the Year Award in 2019 for its work on the apprenticeship standard.

“Contrary to what people might think about me, I’m quite an anxious and socially awkward person so it’s definitely out of my comfort zone to put myself into the spotlight as much as I seem to have in recent years. So, I would say chairing the Trailblazer group and writing the Lifting Equipment Technician apprenticeship standard, which was an intense three-year project, was a big personal challenge.

“I remember when I first applied to join the LEEA Board and one of my reasons for doing so was because I thought there was a distinct lack of career progression into the Lifting Industry, and indeed it is actually a very overlooked industry fullstop. I wanted an apprenticeship scheme that was a better fit than the available, more generic engineering courses, and as of 2021 that is something we have achieved. My hope is that one day when you click on one of those drop down boxes on an online form to select the ‘Industry’ you work in, you can select ‘Lifting’ and this now seems possible.

“I am at the start of my tenure as chair of LEEA and next up is for both the Association and Catena to embrace technologies that have been made the ‘norm’ throughout the pandemic and utilising these to streamline the way we work, to be more efficient and environmentally conscious.”

CENTENARY CELEBRATIONS FOR IRIZAR FORGE

Maria Lasa Irizar is the fourth-generation family member and managing director of Irizar Forge based in Gipuzkoa, Spain, which celebrates its 99th anniversary this year. The Basque company is an industrial powerhouse for Rigging & Mooring appliances such as its heavy duty crane hooks and blocks commonly used in the Offshore and Subsea sector, and became part of Van Beest in 2017.

“My role to become the successor and take leadership of the company was instilled in me since childhood and my education was a key driver towards this goal, completing a degree in Business Economics and a Masters in International Business Management. I started working for the company when I was 23, after gaining some work experience abroad and working across different departments to understand all the disciplines in the industry. Sales is my passion and I love languages and diverse cultures. I realized immediately I needed a great team, built on trust to drive the company,” she said.

“My biggest achievement to date is getting to know my strengths and weaknesses and using those to my advantage and learning from previous generations of employees, gaining knowledge from their experience. My biggest challenge is non-stop customer care and working to become an inspirational leader for the current and next generation of employees.

“The next generation will change the industry for sure and awareness about safety and sustainability has increased exponentially. The market is demanding smarter products in terms of safety and comfort, but also efficiency from competitiveness and from an eco perspective. Last years’ products are developed with these drivers in mind to achieve a competitive result with smarter solutions with a longer lifespan, not forgetting about digitalization and product connectivity.

“Now as part of the Van Beest Group, my personal milestone is to have an active role in the upcoming strategical decisions of the group and to be a part of the next success of one of the most trustable and attractive companies I have ever seen. To be a part of Van Beest group is a honour for me.”

‘PUSHING THE ENVELOPE’ WITH R&M’S DIGITAL SERVICES & OFFERINGS

Erin Drake is associate director – Customer Service and Marketing at R&M Materials Handling. She has been at the company for 11 years, in a variety of roles. “My educational background is in architecture and business. I originally started in our New Equipment team as a sales engineer, which allowed me to use both my technical design background and my business degree. I have grown through our company and have been afforded many opportunities over the years to try new projects, ideas, and positions. I think each of these opportunities has helped to prepare me for the next and to gain a holistic view of our company, products, and the industry. Working to improve our digital footprint from a marketing and product perspective has been my biggest achievement to date. I have learned so many new things and been able to work with some amazing and creative people through this process. It has been great to see the results from some of these projects come to fruition.

“Getting through the initial learning curve is a real challenge for everyone in the crane industry. There is a lot of industry-specific technology and terminology. I have adjusted my mindset to meet this challenge. I no longer think of learning as a challenge to overcome, but as a life-long process of enrichening myself. It helps me to feel more comfortable with the things I do not know, and to stay actively engaged in learning new things in our ever-changing business.

“In the future, we will see a greater integration of digital technology with equipment, and this will have a bigger impact on the operator and equipment owner’s experience. “Smart” cranes already exist at some level, but I think what will change is the way in which this information is conveyed to the user, moving to a more user-friendly, intuitive, feedback-focused experience. Changes in our labor force will lead to an overall increase in the acceptance and demand for these technologies.

“The pandemic has brought about a whole new way of thinking about the way that we live and conduct business. Going forward, I want to continue pushing the envelope with R&M's digital services and offerings. I am excited to see how our industry changes over the next few years.”

A DECADE AT HARRINGTON HOISTS

Jennifer Ferguson is a product manager at Harrington Hoists. She started in Harrington’s Engineering Department 10 years ago and has worked in its Business Development Department for the last four years.

“I got the job when I was relocating to Pennsylvania, looking in the engineering sector. I saw Harrington’s ad for a Spanish-speaking engineer to provide technical support for their sales in Mexico, Central America, and South America, in addition to supporting new product development. It was a great fit and I've been at Harrington ever since,” said Ferguson.

“My biggest achievement to date is overseeing the launch of Harrington's RY wire rope hoist. This is the first wire rope hoist made within the Kito Group and I had the joy of working with so many talented people with vastly different skills to ensure the product launch was a success.

“Breaking the intimidation of speaking in front of people and training customers on products has been a challenge. “Practice makes perfect” and the more I’ve done it, the easier it has become. I always study my topics beforehand and try to understand the audience to whom I am speaking.

“The increase in telecommuting has provided many employees with the flexibility to work remotely. This may become an expected benefit for office positions and finding ways to connect people, as a team with little physical interaction may be a new challenge for managers.”

TIGER LIFTING UK

Alice Inglis is the director of Tiger Lifting UK and was part of the team which set up the company over 10 years' ago.

"I started in IT after doing a maths degree, then moved into customer service, training and development and business management. When the opportunity arose to set up a UK company for Tiger, I brought the business management skills to the table," said Inglis.

"I'm proud of the technical knowledge I've developed. It was important to me from the start to learn what was a new industry to me, and to understand the technical aspects of our products that set them apart from others in the market. I've developed industry-leading technical manuals for our products by making sure I understand how they work and their applications.

The development of our new, much larger purpose-built premises in Amble was a big achievement. We moved in 2020 and it's a great base for us to continue to expand."

Inglis added that the Covid-19 pandemic has brought the biggest challenges. Along with local issues ensuring staff could continue to work safely, the pandemic caused problems with supply chains globally and led to a significant drop in demand for the oil and gas industry.

"Massive increases in shipping costs and escalating steel prices have added to the challenges – we can’t pass on such high price increases to our customers, so whilst we have increased prices, we’re whilst we have increased prices, we’re still absorbing the majority of increases," she said.

“One of the reasons for our success over the last 10 years has been holding high stocks. The shortage of steel and backlogged supply chains have meant delays in restocking, so balancing inventory is much tougher than usual so we continue to meet customer requirements.

“An established manufacturing base in Taiwan and great relationships with key suppliers help us weather the storms. As do strong connections with our global customer base who continue to want high quality, safe, reliable products.

"It’s unlikely we'll see reductions in freight prices and whilst steel prices are likely to stabilize, I don't see them coming down. I think we'll continue to see shortages in materials and delays in getting stock, so there will still be a balancing act to ensure we can meet our customers' demands. We've built a flexible team, including many strong females, focused on driving the business forward through the next 10 years and all the challenges they might present.

"Sustainability is increasingly important. Quality, reliability and serviceability of products, increasing product lifecycles, is essential. Making use of digitalisation technologies like RFID/NFC to digitalise inspection management systems and efficiently manage inventory will become important. Having instructions, certification, inspection information and checklists available digitally helps companies manage their environmental impact and reduces time for equipment to be put into service making for more efficient operations.

“We have exciting plans to take the business forward. We’ll continue to grow our product range and stay at the forefront of development for the product areas we supply."

DESHAZO 30-YEAR CAREER

Cindy Jones has worked at DeShazo for 31 years and is the production coordinator, having previously worked with a family member of the company’s founder, Lee DeShazo, at another company when he asked her to join the firm.

"I had never been in the manufacturing sector before and was interested in the variety the job offered. It was a new challenge and I found myself in a position at the time where I could take on a new challenge.

"I have worked in several departments through the years from accounting to purchasing, sales, HR, installation, trucking and production and have a great appreciation for all sectors. It takes a team to complete the product and to get it to the customer. We have an outstanding product and it has been very rewarding seeing it change, adapt and improve over the years to meet the needs of the industry. In each of these positions, the most rewarding task was the challenge of learning a new skillset and area of the overall operation then applying that knowledge to successfully coordinate and organize projects and see them all the way through to shipment and installation.

“It has definitely been challenging to keep up with new trends and technology. I found that getting current information to the customer in a timely manner throughout the pandemic added new and unexpected challenges. Thank goodness for Teams and Zoom Meetings.

“Technology has completely changed many areas of the industry and my role. When I started, we kept paper records and did reports by hand. Technology has greatly improved many processes on the shop floor, as well as in the office. Without the piles of paper we can spend more time on reporting/feedback. Computers and cell phones have had a huge impact on the hiring process and inventory control as well as communicating with customers and distribution of information. Next for me is retirement and passing on the torch. I want to challenge the next generation to prepare for the future by adapting fabrication skills from the past to meet current technologies through education, technology, and simply getting your hands dirty."

IRUGASA POWER SOLUTIONS

Sian Hetherington is a sales administrator for Irugasa Power Solutions, in County Durham. The company (part of Danfoss Group) has been providing remote control systems to the UK market for over 25 years and Hetherington helped oversee the completion of its new offices, converting an old Methodist Church into an office and factory.

“My biggest challenge was helping to organise the move into the new offices, involving many late nights and weekends, however I couldn't be prouder of the final outcome. I have noticed customers are much more interested in how their equipment works and how that affects the lifespan of a product, they are more safety conscious and more aware of the RED (Radio Equipment Directive) Regulations, which all companies have to comply with. (Last year, the European Commission adopted a Delegated Regulation supplementing Directive 2014/53/ EU regarding the application of essential requirements for radio equipment. The purpose of the legislation is to strengthen the respect of personal data protection and privacy and to ensure an adequate level of intenet connected radio equipment and wearables placed on the EU market. The Delegated Regulation is currently under scrutiny and should enter into force in early 2022. It will then become applicable to economic operators 30 months later).

“Radio Control Systems are becoming more popular within the industry, giving users the freedom to move around and get a better view of their surroundings, as well as looking for any obstacles that could be a hazard.

“We are currently expanding our product range (the company recently diversified its ‘Safety and Load Management’ products since partnering with PaR Systems in the US, to further drive success for its ExpertOperator (EO) customers in the UK and Ireland), which I am looking forward to learning more about, as well as becoming more involved in the marketing side of the business. I'm excited to see what 2022 brings."

Ashley Rhodes
Maria Lasa Irizar
Alice Inglis
Sherice Sampson
Stacey Gray
Erin Drake
Jennifer Ferguson
Sian Hetherington
Nicole Stickney
Kat Moss
Angela Chen
Cindy Jones