ACT Exclusive: Incoming SC&RA President Bill Stramer talks to Terry White
By Terry White22 April 2010
Incoming SC&RA President Bill Stramer has spent his career focusing on success and the SC&RA has been a part of his focus. Terry White reports
"Link-Belt is poised for the future," announces the headline of a news release issued last month by Link-Belt Construction Equipment, Lexington, KY. The same can be said about the Specialized Carriers & Rigging Association.
In his dual role as SC&RA president and Link-Belt's vice president of marketing, sales and customer support, Bill Stramer fully intends to contribute to the further success of both organizations-just as he has been doing for many years.
Stramer has devoted his entire career to Link-Belt, joining the company in the 1970s as a draftsman in the engineering department. His affable nature, combined with his thorough comprehension of the mechanics and capacities of crane design, attracted the attention of the company's sales department.
In the early 1980s, he graduated from Link-Belt's highly heralded sales and marketing training program and moved to Denver to become a district sales manager. After eight years, he was called back to the headquarters in Lexington to take on additional responsibilities.
The company has been a strong supporter of SC&RA since 1967 when Rex Smith, then sales manager for Link-Belt Speeder Corp., joined the association. In1990, Stramer began his uninterrupted involvement with the association.
"We belong to a lot of organizations as a company, and no other association comes close to encouraging the direct involvement of members. The level of volunteerism is what makes this association work," says Stramer. "Simply stated, we're a group of industry professionals who compete with each other every day, but have the capability to 'park their guns at the door,' roll up their sleeves and work together for the common good of our industry."
Stramer is proud that his company has always encouraged service to SC&RA. Braxton Snyder, Link-Belt worldwide sales manager, and Stramer's wife, Sue, currently serve on several committees. Ted Hinchmen held numerous positions in the Allied Industries Group, including several terms as chairman. John Claflin held the position of chairman of the SC&R Foundation. Both Sandy Claflin and Marsha Snyder have served as chairperson of the Ladies' Group.
However, it would be difficult to find anyone at any company that has shown a longer, stronger commitment to SC&RA than Bill Stramer. He broke ground as the first crane manufacturer's representative to chair SC&RA's Crane & Rigging Group. Stramer was involved from the very beginning with SC&RA efforts to develop the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO). The establishment of NCCCO in 1995 was the culmination of nearly 10 years of continuous work by representatives of all industries that use and manufacture cranes. He served as a commissioner until two years ago, and his company still is involved with the organization.
As he heads into his SC&RA presidency, Stramer serves on the association's Board of Directors and Executive Committee as vice president, the Crane & Rigging Group Governing Committee, the Crane & Rigging Group Nominating Committee, the Editorial Advisory Committee, and the Investment Committee. He also continues to be an active member of the Crane & Rigging Group EN13000 Task Force, which was formed to research, discuss and respond to modifications to the European standard for the design of mobile cranes.
"This association is open-minded enough to let everyone participate," says Stramer. "I'm proud that I'm considered a crane & rigging guy and not stuck on the sidelines as a 'manufacturer.' Other associations lose a wealth of talent because they do not encourage manufacturers to participate in the management of their association."
He also pointed out that SC&RA benefits from the blend of larger companies and smaller, family-owned businesses. "Everyone has the same sway at SC&RA," he says. "That's a really nice aspect of the association."
Outside of SC&RA, Stramer has participated in the Crane Rental Association of Canada (CRAC) since its inception in 1997. At CRAC, he was the first U.S. citizen and first crane manufacturer's representative to sit on the Board of Directors.
His involvement with CRAC and SC&RA's EN 13000 Task Force are indicative of Stramer's willingness and ability to lead SC&RA's efforts to become more proactive outside the U.S., one of the goal areas of the association's strategic plan for 2009-2012. Both SC&RA and CRAC became charter members of the World Crane & Transport Alliance signed during the first World Crane & Transport Summit in Amsterdam last October.
"We made great progress through the summit, and we need to continue to work with other associations around the world," he said. "We can learn from each other, share best practices and work toward harmonization of standards."
Stramer's experience at Link-Belt has made him comfortable with international relationships. Although Link-Belt's roots in the US date back 135 years, the company has had a relationship with Tokyo, Japan-based Sumitomo Heavy Industries, Ltd. (SHI) since 1962. Today, Link-Belt Construction Equipment Company is a wholly owned subsidiary of SHI.
"It really is the best of both worlds," says Stramer. "SHI introduced a culture of constant improvement and respect for employees and customers. They expect us to manage and plan our business for the long term rather than for a quarterly financial period. We're also fortunate to have a strong team of experienced and talented managers who know and love the industry and recognize its special qualities."
In the midst of a global recession, Link-Belt remains confident and looks to seize more global market share.
The company is exhibiting four cranes at Bauma, April 19-25, in Munich, Germany, its largest presence ever at the show. Display models include the TCC-750 75-ton telescopic crawler, the RTC-80130 Series II 130-ton rough terrain crane, the HTT-8675 Series II 75-ton telescopic terrain crane, and the RTC-8065 Series II 65-ton rough terrain crane.
Since 2008, Link-Belt has embarked on significant expansion and upgrading of its manufacturing capabilities. It has invested in excess of $25 million in formed boom production capabilities and is one of the very few crane builders in the world manufacturing its own formed boom. In 2009, Link-Belt began a second, $10 million expansion. These expansions will be completed in mid-2010.
Through this economic downturn, Link-Belt has also invested in its core employee base. Whereas many manufacturers have used wholesale layoffs to slow production and control inventory, Link-Belt has used only temporary, partial plant shutdowns. This strategy is significantly more expensive than simply laying off workers but it allows Link-Belt to maintain its core, highly skilled workforce.
"We want customers to know that we will be ready when they are," Stramer says. "Because of our financial strength, we have not only weathered this storm, we have invested in our future and our people. We look forward to coming out of this economic slump stronger than ever and producing better cranes than ever. Our customers can count on it."
Although Stramer is optimistic about the global marketplace and his company's ability to meet customers' needs everywhere, he is well aware that significant challenges remain for the industry as he becomes SC&RA president.
"The biggest challenge is availability of credit for projects," he says. "Lending institutions had become way too loose in their lending practices, and now they've gone too far in the other direction.
Despite prevailing economic uncertainty, he feels prepared to help keep SC&RA on an even keel financially. "This is a well-managed association that keeps growing," he says.
"You get more out of this association than you put in, regardless of the amount of time and effort you invest," he says. "Through SC&RA, I've learned over the years that networking is not just about building business, it's also about building friendships."