The 2020 SC&RA Crane & Rigging Workshop was a memorable event featuring engaging speakers, timely topics and interesting networking opportunities. Held September 16-17, the event was supposed to be in Dallas. But due to the Covid-19 crisis, the Workshop was held “virtually everywhere,” attracting more than 239 attendees and some 42 exhibitors at the Virtual Exhibit Center. SC&RA and A1A Software teamed up to give the industry an “amazing” event.

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Using custom humanoids created by each attendee, participants could talk to each other and network like in-person meetings.

“The Crane & Rigging Workshop was definitely one to remember and an absolutely brilliant attempt to bring this industry together,” said Olga Dubinok, crane sales manager, North America, Zoomlion Heavy Industry. “Despite a few hiccups, using this innovative solution showed us, that no matter what life throws at us, there is always a chance to find a way to move forward.”

Pete Crisci, Enerpac’s product line director for heavy lifting technology said the Workshop “was a good alternative to meeting face-to-face and a better approach than trying to schedule multiple Zoom or Teams meetings.”

Tadano America President Ingo Schiller termed the Workshop “a new adventure and an excellent experiment.”

Exhibit Center

Exhibit Center booths were recreated with the same backdrops, tables, fixtures and even live video.

“While there is nothing that replaces being together and sharing time and meals, this virtual environment was the next best thing,” he said. “I applaud the SC&RA team for adapting to our Covid reality and making it possible to attend the presentations, to see customers in the exhibition hall and catch up in the lobby areas. I hope that the pandemic does not prevent us from gathering in person in 2021, but if it does I will look forward to seeing everyone in the virtual world.”

Link-Belt’s Pat Collins and Bruce Kabalen were “pleasantly surprised” at the ease of navigating a virtual location.

“The overall sensation was somewhere between video conference and a live event,” said Collins. “The education presentations were easy to follow and the exhibit hall certainly had the look of the actual event with excellent clarity of the graphic postings. Glitches were overcome, and I imagine many attendees were thinking how they might use such a format in their own business.”

That said, Collins said he is looking forward to the speedy return of the one-on-one experience.

Intro to workshop

This was Kabalen’s first SC&RA Crane & Rigging Workshop.

“From a technical experience once they found the bugs, I was very impressed with A1A’s program and haven’t seen anything similar to it in the event/convention space,” Kabalen said. “Nothing can surpass face-to-face meetings, but this was much better than any Zoom or Teams meeting we’ve come to loathe.”

A safety decision

Once it was determined that the live Workshop could not be held safely in Dallas, SC&RA surveyed the membership about the possibility of a virtual event. The SC&RA Job of the Year Awards were held in July using Zoom, but SC&RA wanted something more engaging.

“We looked at various opportunities available and then started talking to our member firm A1A Software about what could be done,” said SC&RA Senior Vice President Beth O’Quinn. “Tawnia Weiss said she was sure we could offer a platform that would look and feel like the real event and also offer a networking component.”

Weiss said that putting together the programing was a challenge, but since her company was already offering its lift planning software in a VR format, she knew they could put together a program that would be above and beyond Zoom-type meetings.

“We wanted to create something that would make you feel like you were actually at the conference,” said Weiss, president, A1A Software. “We wanted something unique that most people would not have experienced before. Knowing that, we knew the learning curve for everyone was going to be big. The ability to walk the Exhibit Center and stop and chat with exhibitors, find customers and create a random group of people talking to each other like a live event was an important experience that we wanted to capture.”

Infrastructure bill update

The Workshop kicked off with one of the hottest topics in Washington, D.C., the proposed infrastructure bill. The top advocacy initiative in SC&RA’s strategic plan, the infrastructure bill is gaining steam in Congress.

Moderated by Mike Joyce, principal, Midfield Consulting, the panel of lawmakers included Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill); Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO); Rep. Pete Stauber (R-MN); and Rep. Darin LaHood (R-Ill).

“As we approach the expiration of the current surface transportation bill, FAST (Fixing America’s Surface Transportation) Act, Congress must act in a bipartisan manner to ensure long-term and sustainable surface transportation funding,” said LaHood.

His sentiments echoed the others. Rep. Graves said, “We also need to ensure stability and solvency for the Highway Trust Fund which was hit hard by the decrease in travel created by the Covid-19 pandemic.”

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The Workshop kicked off with one of the hottest topics in Washington, D.C., the proposed infrastructure bill. The top advocacy initiative in SC&RA’s strategic plan, the infrastructure bill is gaining steam in Congress.

Scott Ketcham, director of the Directorate of Construction, OSHA, provided the latest regulatory updates impacting the crane and rigging industry.

Beyond the many workshop presentations, the Virtual Exhibit Center was a highlight. Using custom humanoids created by each attendee, participants could walk into the tradeshow that was set up much like the real thing at SC&RA’s in-person events. Booths were recreated with the same backdrops, tables, fixtures and even live video. Management teams manned their booths just as they normally would, talking to the visitors who dropped by. People were identified by their names just above their humanoids’ heads. Using their devices’ speaker, they could converse, just like they would at the actual event.

Jack Curran of Fleet Cost and Care was impressed with the booth design.

“It was just like an in-person exhibit booth minus the travel, setup and shipping,” he said. “They did a great job of recreating the experience of walking through the Exhibit Center while capturing the details of our booth to make it look and feel as real as possible. In particular, I was impressed with how we were able to display our marketing video content on our monitors. The sound and quality were the same as if in person.”

Taylor Crane & Rigging’s Jennifer Taylor Despotovic, who has not been able to attend the Workshop in recent years, was pleased to be able to participate virtually.

“For most of us, interacting with humanoids navigating (or sometimes levitating around the digital room) was a different kind of ‘new normal,’ one that took some getting used to,” she said. “I caught up with several vendors for impromptu conversations and, of course, I took away several valuable ideas from the itinerary of great speakers. I have already shared with colleagues real ways to grow business and limit risks. TCR is thankful for the opportunity to connect so closely with experts in the industry in such times.”

Turner Industries’ David Bondurant said SC&RA staff “deserves a lot of credit for hosting a VR event, bugs and all. Nothing can replace the real thing, with real friends and recognizable faces, but the VR version was certainly a creative solution to having a Workshop when no one could be there.”

“The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted our association and its membership in ways that we could not imagine just a few months ago,” said SC&RA CEO Joel Dandrea. “But as in times past, our members stepped up to support us, especially A1A Software, National Interstate Insurance and NBIS, and we were able to deliver a unique experience. We are grateful for the support and look forward to resuming in-person meetings next year.”

Crane & Rigging Workshop sponsors

A1A Software, National Interstate Insurance Company, NBIS (NationsBuildersInsurance Services), Doral Equipment Rental, Emery + Karrigan, Enerpac, Liebherr USA, Link-Belt Cranes, The Manitowoc Company, MATCOM, Tadano America, Lift Systems, Nelson Trailers, Riggers Manufacturing, Rigging Gear Sales, Deep South Crane & Rigging, Goldhofer, J&R Engineering and Python America.