The forklift truck industry is a huge market that we are slowly taking a bite out of," says Bill Schneider Jr., who has joined his peers to sink his teeth into one of the most dynamic marketing campaigns the U.S. material handling industry has seen.

Eroding market share of the lift truck industry would once have been deemed a task too tough to chew but Schneider, vice president, SISSCO Material Handling, is part of a group that is relishing the challenge-and making headway.

The Overhead Alliance is a marketing vehicle representing the collective interests of trade association MHI’s overhead lifting product groups, namely Crane Manufacturers Association of America (CMAA), Hoist Manufacturers Institute (HMI) and Monorail

Manufacturers Association (MMA). Its mission is to educate end users so they apply the correct piece of equipment for their specific lifting or moving applications.

"As many users know, there are certain applications for which overhead lifting can’t be used," Schneider says.

"So we are focusing on industries that default to forklift trucks that should be considering overhead lifting. Even if we take a small chunk of market share from forklifts, it would be a huge gain for overhead lifting."

Industrial end users are the primary target for these campaigns. As Schneider explains: "Data tells us that this is where overhead lifting can make the biggest difference.

With the technology getting smarter, it is also up to us overhead lifting companies to continue to advance our products to be in a position to reach out to users that are using other means of material handling."

He continues: "Overhead lifting can be accomplished in so many different ways but people tend to think about the obvious, which is floor-mounted or floortraveling equipment.

There are many quality manufacturers and distributors of overhead lifting equipment out there and we want to increase the awareness to the end users and specific industries to engage with these types of companies to see if they can provide a safer and more efficient solution."

MHI and its product groups do not exist to promote individual manufacturers but the Overhead Alliance has the backing of the CMAA, HMI and MMA to use all the tools in its armory, which includes presenting key individuals within the groups as thought leaders and preachers of educational material handling messages.

"What’s great about the Overhead Alliance," Schneider says, "Is that since the creation of this group, they have always gone after each goal as a team. Everyone has one common goal and it is to promote the use of overhead lifting to end users and to educate the industry or the future generations about overhead lifting as a means of material handling."


SISSCO is approaching its 15th year as a member of CMAA. Schneider himself has been involved with MHI since 2006 when he started attending meetings as part of general membership and the mechanical engineering committee.

Three years later, he joined the Overhead Alliance-the group was about two years old at the time-as part of the steering committee for CMAA. He is now vice president of the crane group alongside Chris Becker of G.W. Becker, who is president.

He says: "We evolved what was a very heavy engineering organization that was purely focused on the upkeep and writing of the specifications into one that is balanced in terms of engineering and business management.

"This allows us to focus not only on creating the industry’s best specifications, but to promote the brand of CMAA so that member companies get more value from membership.

"We are proud to call the Overhead Alliance the marketing arm for CMAA," he adds. "Not only does the alliance create its own content for marketing and educating, but they also support CMAA in getting their messages to market." CMAA has always generated a variety of content but it was widely perceived that these messages didn’t penetrate the user community and they were in essence preaching to the choir.

As Schneider alludes to, the catalyst for change has been the Overhead Alliance and the marketing professionals that combine forces to direct these messages at the target audience.

Arguably, it has only been a realization of the continued evolution of CMAA that a rising tide lifts all boats, thus, it only strengthens the growth further that industry leaders like Schneider know SISSCO Material Handling itself benefits from the progress the Overhead Alliance makes.

Although it took some time, fellow member companies are finally seeing the value that the Overhead Alliance can bring to the table.

Many members have witnessed a similar culture change at their own companies. For example, Schneider says of SISSCO, which is now a third generation business:

"We have found a way to harness the work ethic of the generations before us and combine that with the collaboration and teamwork mentality of our current generation. This philosophy has taken us to the next level in every aspect of our business."


It isn’t always plain sailing, as Schneider says: "There are always challenges when you put multiple manufacturers of the same or similar equipment in one room and discuss promoting overhead lifting. From the beginning the focus was always directed to the specific product sections-cranes, hoists and monorails. We all put our own specific brands aside and came together as a team to collaborate about promoting overhead lifting."

Responsible for ensuring everyone continues to leave their guns at the door is MHI staffer Matthew Smurr, senior director, solution and product groups, who recently took over as managing director of CMAA, HMI and MMA.

"Matt had some pretty big shoes to fill," says Schneider, referring to those of Hal Vandiver, the recently retired managing executive who to a large extent was at the helm of the ship as it slowly turned. Vandiver led the very first Overhead Alliance meeting and even now provides valuable consultation and economic support to MHI.

"I have personally enjoyed his [Smurr’s] fresh outlook on the CMAA product section," says Schneider. "He has come up to speed very quickly and has brought very good ideas to the table that continue to advance CMAA and the Overhead Alliance.

Matt’s dedication to his work helps drive individuals like myself to stay engaged with CMAA and the Overhead Alliance."

In reality, Schneider’s enthusiasm isn’t about to waver. He has been in the industry since 2003, with the two earlier generations referenced above paving the way since 1972. SISSCO’s core products revolve around the overhead material handling industry.

From designing and manufacturing of overhead cranes and hoists, distribution sales of industrial products and parts, to the inspection and service of overhead lifting equipment, the lifeblood of the business is protected by the initiatives of the Overhead Alliance.

That’s not to say it is reliant upon it; SISSCO is a healthy business, as Schneider says: "Over the last 10 years, we have complemented our core business with a controls and automation, modernization, and mechanical contracting divisions.

Each of these divisions tie back to the material handling core but also has continued to grow individually in their own right."

Permadur Industries Inc., of which Schneider is also vice president, is the parent company and runs as a separate division but under the same roof as SISSCO.

Permadur is a custom manufacturer of permanent magnet lifting systems and individual permanent lifting magnets. These below-the-hook lifters are sold mainly into plate burning applications where customers are looking to reduce their material handling time and increase what Schneider calls, "Torch on time," thus, leading to higher productivity and lower costs for steel fabricators and steel service centers, for example.

Schneider has a vested interest in these dealings, which Smurr will be keen to harness.


"My father," Schneider says, "Is the reason our company is where it is today. His hard work and dedication set the sturdy base.

His open mind and patience allowed me to take time to learn the business and then set it on a track for sustained growth.

My grandparents started the business and to this day my grandmother still is active daily, working in the company’s accounting department."

Schneider reminds us, "It is the employees of SISSCO and Permadur that have always produced outstanding work and established great relationships with our customers.

Our employees continue to adapt to the industry as well as the generational changes that we face. This is a key component to our success year after year. "Our short term goal is always to be in a position to provide the best customer service and industry best engineered application knowledge to our customer base.

This applies across the board for all of our divisions. Educating our staff as well as educating our customers plays a huge role in our success.

Long term, we are focused on expanding our manufacturing facility which will allow us to design and build larger overhead cranes and custom engineered material handling equipment.

A larger facility will also help facilitate the growth of our field service and mechanical contracting divisions.

"Permadur is fortunate to have SISSCO as the member of MHI and CMAA," Schneider continues.

"With the increased branding work and diverse membership that CMAA is currently promoting, there is a good chance that Permadur will also get value from becoming a MHI and CMAA member company in the coming years."

Schneider is optimistic about the future. "I feel that the material handling industry will continue to be strong over the next couple of decades," he says.

"As equipment manufacturers, we will have to continue to focus on advancing our products to not only meet the needs of the applications, but also the expectations of the users.

With the continued advancements in technology and communication, everybody wants answers, data, product and services faster.

Overhead material handling manufacturers will have to continue to adapt to the needs of the customer from both of these aspects without compromising the design of equipment."

About SISSCO: A family owned company started in 1972 , it operates out of our Central NJ location in Hillsborough, NJ. Servicing all of the Northeast, we continue to expand our services across the country. Consisting of several divisions, we primarily focus on the design, fabrication, installation and servicing of material handling equipment.

As an Executive Member of the Crane Manufacturers Association of America (CMAA), we provide equipment that is designed by qualified engineering personnel, manufactured with strict quality control processes, and installed by trained experienced technicians.