AWRF Looks Ahead, Looks Back as Members Discuss Company Histories

The 45th anniversary of AWRF this year is a good time to speak to some of its members. Many of these individuals are those who have both helped to start and build up this ground-breaking organization as well as benefit from its helpful advice through programs, meetings and large twice-yearly gatherings. Here are some longtime members with a rich history, and something about what they’ve gained from AWRF. It is hoped as the year progresses we can add more voices and stories to these individuals.

Harry Truitt founded Western Sling back in 1971 “It’s an interesting story,” explains Bob Truitt. “My father had worked for John A. Roebling Sons and Company for 20 plus years. Eventually Roebling was bought out by a steel company. But before that happened, my dad was regional manager for the historic firm.”

The family had moved west from Atlanta in the early 1970s. But just like Washington Roebling, chief engineer on the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge, when his father John Roebling assumed his son would welcome the idea of a move to Trenton to take over the nascent company’s operations, Truitt had other ideas.

Since the first president of AWRF had to bow out, Harry in turn stepped in, according to Bob Truitt. “The Roebling company wanted to move us to Trenton, New Jersey, with Dad accepting the vice presidency. But he went on to say ‘I quit,’ instead.

“Our company’s story could easily take up an entire book. But here I will try to keep things more to more of a synopsis-length instead. My father had worked for the Roebling Company for some 20 years. That firm was soon bought out by another company. Just prior to that, the Roebling Company wanted Harry Truitt to move east from Colorado to Trenton where he would take on the position of vice president.”

In the beginning Western Sling (Manufacturers Warehouse Service Company) started out as a wire rope warehouse. At the start they strictly did warehousing of wire rope, this included the storage, cutting, and preparation of wire rope. Two years later, in 1973, they started making slings.

Shortly after, they changed their name to Western Sling Company. “We started making slings primarily because of the local railroad. And we made wire rope slings before branching off into doing chain slings as well. Then, he had all his old buddies from Roebling and all these other wire rope companies around the country discuss with him the idea for an association to essentially represent their interests with the manufacturers.”

This included an attempt to set up standards – as there were very few existing at that time, according to Truitt. “That is pretty much how they came up with the Associated Wire Rope Fabricators (AWRF). At that time this consisted of nine companies, and they all happened to be good friends in addition to being from small companies. The mission of AWRF was to improve the Industry and strengthen the relationship between the Manufacturers and Distributors.

During this time Stan and Bob Truitt were in college and high school. After graduating from college, Stan started working for the company as a salesman. Five years later Bob joined the firm after graduating from college.

Stan started attending AWRF meetings in place of Harry and became very active serving on committees and eventually becoming president. Bob was busy traveling and developing a new division of the company and did not attend many AWRF meetings.

“As sometimes happens, Stan became burned out on AWRF,” adds Bob Truitt. “Subsequently Western Sling became less active in AWRF. Looking back on this I can admit that was a mistake.”

Stan Truitt was planning on retiring in 2019, therefore Bob Truitt started becoming more active in dealing with vendors and operations three or four years ago. He needed to deal with these vendors and manufacturers. This also proved to be a great way to get involved with AWRF, to develop their relationships.

“In those connections we did get to know each other quite well. We learned a tremendous amount from each other’s ideas. It is really the manufacturers and vendors making each other better.”

In September 2019 they sold the company to Bishop Lifting Products. Bob has continued as the VP/GM of Western Sling Company

The recent change to online classes and interaction is all right, according to Truitt. “But it still does not replace one on one learning and the relationships going along with that. But everyone – even the old guys – like coming together, sharing their wisdom or learning from the older members.

“This industry has been very good to me and my family. I remember when I first attended AWRF back in 1982, some of the ‘old’ guys took me under their wing and made sure I was introduced around. When I retire next year, I want to remain active in AWRF, making sure as well, that new attendees feel welcomed and that young people can see and feel that this is a real industry doing fantastic things, certainly more real than Google.”

“As I have always said, this industry is in our blood. Our business was built on basically three things, artifacts of a world no longer in existence: railroads, coal mining, and copper mining. Knowing that fact makes it easy to imagine the amount of mining rope we used to sell – a mind boggling amount until sometime in the 1990s.”

When the machines started getting bigger and the role of the distributor disappeared because they could not handle that size rope. When they were doing it originally the size was 1.5 inch, 1.75 inch and then with the shoveling equipment it rose to 2.25 inch, then 2.75 inches. “At that size we did not have the equipment to cut and handle the monster reels. This was simply too big for us.

“Our business in turn changed. We got into fabricating web slings in 1984. The firm was also one of the first to get involved in the wind power business since 2005, as well as in nuclear cleanup operations. As for solar we are still waiting to see where the world is going direction-wise.”

Overall, their business has changed tremendously. They still do a staggering amount of small diameter rope for these assemblies they make.

“The company remains extremely active with the high strength synthetic ropes, doing some very large slings made of this material,” adds Truitt. “As the business has changed, we’ve seen the materials change as well. This, as the weight of the items being lifted has increased.”

“Rigging gear in turn has changed as there have been phenomenal advances in the technological world. We’ve involved ourselves with e-commerce for several years, something that’s a necessity in today’s business world, changes that needed to come. It has been an amazing journey ever since Harry Truitt first got things started back in the early 1970s.”

All-Lifts has worked hard to stick to their mission of providing contractors and manufacturers with the knowledge and expertise to purchase the highest quality rigging equipment from the most knowledgeable staff and highest quality suppliers available, according to All-Lifts’ Steve Dewey. All-Lifts, Inc. has also grown from a regional manufacturer with customers in New York and New England to now serving some of the largest projects all over the country.

All-Lifts, Inc. has been in the rigging supply industry since its inception in 1966, explains Dewey. Over the years the company has evolved to adapt to new changes in the industry. Recently the company has allocated more time to tuning in to the needs of customers as well as going through a great deal of change

“Mr. Olds hired Frederick Dewey – my father – as a salesman in 1975 to help grow the business by penetrating new markets. An agreement was made between Mr. Dewey and Mr. Olds that provided Mr. Dewey had the opportunity to purchase the company from Marshall when he decided to retire.”

Frederick Dewey was responsible for taking many of the product lines that Marshall had started with and elevating them. In 1978 Mr. Dewey purchased All-Lifts, Inc. from Mr. Olds. During the 80’s and 90’s the company had success and continued to grow during some very turbulent times. A sewing machine was purchased in 1985 to increase its capability to the fabrication of nylon slings.

“The ability to provide large lifting arrangements to the Power and Energy industry was created in 1990,” adds Dewey. “This provided a new market potential for AllLifts, Inc. When suppliers were unable to meet delivery dates established by our client, All-Lifts, Inc. decided to start the fabrication of the steel lifting beams in their own shop. Fabrication of steel lifting beams business is currently the fastest-growing segment.”

Between 1977 and 1980, Steven Dewey and Patrick Dewey were hired to help grow the business. Both sons of Frederick Dewey started in the shop fabricating wire rope slings and chain slings.

“The two of us quickly moved up from the shop to the office and performed many duties including but not limited to inside sales, purchasing, overseeing the sling shop, and like the old saying says ‘other duties as assigned.’ We, in turn, purchased the business from our parents in 1998.”

Patrick’s son Brian joined the team upon graduating from Springfield College in Massachusetts. “While working in the manufacturing shop throughout his childhood, taking on a role to promote and grow our business seemed like a natural fit. Currently AllLifts is set to transition from Steve and Pat to the third generation and Brian will take the reins.”

Adding all of this background up brings things to today and the company continues to grow, according to Steve Dewey. “Today, at our 40,000 sq. ft. building and 2.5-acre site, All-Lifts, Inc. is a full-service rigging manufacturer divided into 5 segments. We have our sling manufacturing, with All-Lifts, Inc. being a maker of wire rope, chain, flat web slings, round sling and high-performance round slings.”

Additionally, they do custom below the hook lifting devices and overhead cranes. All-Lifts, Inc. has the experience and expertise to not only build lifting beams and bridge cranes but with their vast knowledge in engineering and design gives them the ability to be extremely competitive while producing a quality product. Lifting beams are being produced as large as 1,000-ton capacity.

Within their inspection and service department, the firm performs inspections and repairs on overhead cranes, manual hoists, and lever pullers. The Albany, New York company has developed, as well, a state-of-the-art trailer with a mobile proof test machine on board. With this trailer it has expanded its hoist and crane service, performing 2000+ inspections of manual chain falls and lever puller’s. As part of these inspections, it will also inspect all slings in a customer’s facility.

“We are proud of the development of our Training AllLifts, Inc., a sought-after training program attended by companies and individuals from all over the country,” explains Dewey. “This consists of a one-hour Toolbox Talk, four-hour Refresher Class, eight hour Competent Rigger Training, and a 16-hour Comprehensive Rigger Development Program.”

All-Lifts, Inc. has proof testing which the firm has always taken pride in, according to Dewey. Including an 800,000 lbs. horizontal test bed, 350,000 lbs. horizontal test bed, 1,600,000 lbs below-the-hook lifting device test bed, and two mobile proof test machines for manual hoists.

“I will attribute our 55 years in business to three major factors,” says Dewey. These consist of our employees, our customers, and our competition.

“All-Lifts’ Employees are some of the most loyal staff that we have ever had, many of our staff have been employed for more than 10 years. Janis Scott, who has been named General Manager, has been with All-Lifts nearly 30 years & whose devotion and ability to hold multiple roles has made her a key component to our team.”

“Jason Weils, head of all manufacturing, was brought on upon completion of his not only a degree in machining but an engineering degree from University of Buffalo as well, not to mention his time spent splicing wire rope during his summers off which has given his ability to design and set manufacturing plans.”

“And without our loyal customers, our 55 years in business would not be possible. We try our hardest to maintain long lasting relationships that our customers can depend on. Competition has kept us on our toes – does not allow us to get complacent. Such friendly rivalry is the key to any success but constantly driving, as well, the need to improve processes and be innovative to our approach.”

Lately they’ve been less involved in AWRF than they were in the past. “Back in the day my father would attend meetings and go to conventions – at one point even serving on the AWRF Board.”

“We do stay involved with them, as we have for a long time, involved in their insurance programs. Nowadays they use AWRF as a good source of information in order to keep us up-to-date on what is going on.”

Since Brian Dewey is coming on with the firm to a greater extent, participation in conventions will increase. “I am moving toward retirement,” adds Steve Dewey. “It will be good to have Brian start going to conventions, although his challenge right now is that he has two young children.”

All-Lifts has found AWRF a tremendous help, especially with some of the members, friends they made over the years, and simply with people who have been very helpful. “Years ago, we had pins on our press break,” says Dewey. “But we were able to call some of the members that were geographically closest to us. Everybody helps each other – including helping you to get you out of trouble.”

In the case of the broken pin, since they couldn’t get some slings pressed, those who they contacted let them know they could press the slings for them if they brought them over to their operations. While another company told them they had a pin that they could use. “We could use it if we replaced that pin, just had to go over and get it.

“That’s what they told us and that’s the part of the industry that I really like. You can have friendly competition, but also help each other out when you truly need to. At the same time, you become really good friends with them. You know they will help you out when you need it – and we would do the same for them.”

The company has some videos on a YouTube channel called “Building and Breaking Things. They have posted some Zoom meetings on there as well as training videos. “This morning I just completed a four-hour training video. This is one way to reach people dispersed all over New York State and help them meet their training requirements for the spring.

“Also, just this past spring we went to a cloud server instead of our prior individual server. We’ve no servers at our facility anymore. I can work from my home – just as if I am in my office at work.”

Therefore All-Lifts, Inc. continues to adapt to changes in the technology in their midst, as well as changes in the lifting industry itself – going back as far as 1966.

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