A first timers’ guide to SC&RA Job of the Year entry

02 November 2022

At October’s SC&RA Crane & Rigging Workshop in Dallas, Texas, Mike Lins, engineering manager at Vic’s Crane & Heavy Haul Inc., presented the company’s 2021 Rigging Job of the Year (Under $150,000 category) winning submission to a packed room of industry colleagues.

As is customary during such presentations, Lins gave attendees a look at the particulars of the winning job – which involved removing and replacing two feedwater heaters (located in a near-impossible space) in the Sherburne County Generating Station in Becker, Minn., in April 2020.

The project that earned Vic’s Crane & Heavy Haul a JOY award involved replacing two feedwater heaters in a near-impossible space.

And while the project itself presented enough challenges to eventually win it an SC&RA Job of the Year (JOY), the submission process for the project presented an additional set of challenges for Lins – prompting him to document the experience, which in turn became the basis for the “First Timers’ Guide to SC&RA Job of the Year Entry.”

First-timer perspective

The document – intended to give a first timers’ perspective for new entrants – will live on the SC&RA website, with the idea that companies looking to review the application process can use it as a resource to familiarize themselves with the process of competing for a JOY.

But before they ever get to that point, they have to select a project they think might qualify – which in and of itself isn’t always easy.

“I think, one of the big things we learned about the submitting process was not to wait on a job – but rather, plan ahead,” said Lins. “We didn’t do that in this instance, and instead, looked back at what projects we’d recently completed that were unique and outstanding in some way. The one we ended up choosing had some distinctive characteristics to it that we felt made it a potential contender.”

Lins added that this is also what motivated him to write the guide. “I learned that you should really think about this ahead of time. We were lucky that we took a lot of photos and documented that project, which isn’t always the case on every job. For example, had we known we were going to submit, we’d have taken a better timelapse video, additional critical-step pictures and more.

“But at the end of the day, it’s more effective to get out in front and plan ahead. And you see that with a lot of projects that win – the time and effort put into documenting it. Again, hindsight, but we had a unique project, and we happened to do enough on-the-job documentation to set us up for the JOY.”

Mike Lins (center) receiving the SC&RA Job of the Year Trophy for Vic’s Crane & Heavy Haul Inc. at the SC&RA Annual Conference. Joining Lins is Kevin Johnston (left) and Randy Sever (right).

What are the unique challenges?

That said, Lins agreed that, while documentation and planning can go a long way towards winning an SC&RA JOY, bad timing shouldn’t deter members from submitting. “I say all of that, and we still won with a project that we circled back to, so it’s certainly possible,” he noted. “But at this point, everyone’s got a camera on their phone, probably video. Documentation is key. Maybe even get a drone up in the air if you can. There are also some really innovative time-lapse technology options out there these days, simple to set up and use. So, looking ahead at projects that present unusual challenges and solutions – you can really start to plan something special.”

As for the submission process, Lins pointed out, “… this job had some unique challenges in terms of space, elevation, and if you look at the criteria for the award, we were able to say, well here are the five or six things we had to overcome to even figure out how to do this project. So that was one of the things that felt good, as far as submitting. SC&RA is looking for something out of the ordinary – perhaps using methods that haven’t been used before, tools, circumstances that haven’t been presented before.”

Along the way, through any project, added Lins, his team encourages staff to send in pictures and related documentation for use on LinkedIn as well as social media.

Phenomenal opportunity

Once Lins and his staff had chosen their project for submission, the first thing he did was research other winners and presentations, while also analyzing SC&RA’s criteria to make sure his images, videos, even engineering drawings, lined up. “So, it’s kind of a top-to-bottom process, where the judges check off each item in the criteria as they go – and we’re just trying to anticipate what judges will be looking for and make sure we address it.”

Mike Lins addresses the committee at the SC&RA Crane & Rigging Group Labor Committee Meeting last month in Dallas.

He also acknowledged that presenting itself can be a hang-up for some people, so that’s another thing to plan for. “You get fifteen minutes to present – and there is no set format. I did a narrated PowerPoint – some folks just played a professional video. Or you can do a mix. But when the clock stops, you’re done. Unfortunately, we saw some contestants get cut off. They weren’t quite prepared to meet the time limit, which also became the motivation for some of the public-speaking tips I provided in the guide.”

To that end, after winning on the first try (challenges notwithstanding), Lins recognized that the JOY process represents a phenomenal opportunity for a lot of companies, perhaps even especially smaller Association members. “I can see where it might be slightly intimidating for smaller companies to think they can’t hang with the bigger ones, and then this submission process can feel a bit overwhelming too,” he explained. “So I decided to write down everything I learned, and bounced it back to SC&RA Senior Vice President of Crane & Rigging Beth O’Quinn and said, if you can use this to help other members to either participate, get more engaged or even submit, then it’s obviously better for everybody.”

Encouraging members of all sizes 

At the end of the day, Lins maintained, it was simply an honor to be among the groups on stage at the Annual Conference closing night ceremony. “Many of these folks are industry titans, so there’s certainly pride in the fact that we’re just a regional Midwest rigging company up in Minnesota, and we’re competing with some of the biggest and brightest in the industry, and holding our own. But it’s also both humbling and rewarding.”

And as is often the case, an SC&RA JOY carries quite a bit of street-cred. “A lot of members will market the JOY on their website and within promotional materials,” said Lins. “We certainly have ‘award-winning’ in our language now. And for our industry peers, it says a lot about us. Besides that, it’s something I think most members look forward to every year. When the awards come out, you can’t wait to see who did what, and dig into how they did it. It ultimately helps the industry as a whole to solve certain problems, and even stirs imagination.”

Knowing what he knows now, and in addition to the first timers’ guide he developed, Lins encourages members of all sizes to simply plan ahead and start building their JOY stories as they go. “Look for what is unique, different, innovative, certain modifications,” he emphasized. “Do some research on other similar winners, and then start developing your intent and execution.

“But mainly, don’t count yourself out. So many SC&RA members are out there doing incredible things – you just never know. At the minimum, you’re going to meet peers and other industry professionals within these great networking events. And even if you don’t win, your peers are seeing what you’re doing, and maybe they need a partner in the region. If nothing else, you can now list yourself as a ‘contender’ – and then keep on trying.” n

To view more information on the Jobs of the Year, including the First Timers’ Guide and frequently asked questions, visit www.scranet.org/awards.

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