Age and gender are not an issue for Crystal Dieleman. At 33 she is president of TransWorld Manufacturing, a company she incorporated in 2015. Her idea was to capitalize on three generations of family experience in the crane business to create an organization that is a turnkey resource for boom dollies, specialty trailers, spreader bars and other lifting and hauling products. TransWorld offers in-house engineering, fabrication and machining capabilities to design and manufacture a variety of crane accessories.
Dieleman is a stunning example of how to navigate the crane industry as a young woman. She is poised and intelligent and easily holds her own in conversations about the most complicated crane and rigging endeavors. At a young age she was already an industry insider, working at a Las Vegas family crane company since she was old enough to work. She grew up at Jake’s Crane, a company started by her grandfather and later owned by her father.
“It was a natural evolution,” she said. “Growing up, I always worked at Jake’s Crane during the summer and while on breaks from school. We manufactured everything we needed for boom dollies, spreader bars, etc. because there were not many quality suppliers at the time. Jake’s had some incredibly talented engineers and forward-thinking products. As everyone started to retire, it just seemed crazy to close up shop and let all those cool ideas get dusty in a box. The timing was right to start a manufacturing company to leverage the decades of knowledge and experience from being in the heavy lift and heavy haul industry.”
After college she worked at a company that specialized in tower crane erection, jumps and dismantling. She also worked at a crane certification company.
I’ve known Crystal since 2015 when she introduced TransWorld Manufacturing at the SC&RA Specialized Transportation Symposium. Since then she has become a mainstay at industry events around the world, and TransWorld Manufacturing’s profile has benefitted from her marketing savvy, crane knowledge and the need for the products her company produces. She is known by all the major crane OEMs who work with her and the TransWorld team to produce boom dollies for specific crane designs.
Dieleman answered our questions about her career and her company with a refreshing energy and aplomb. I think you will be interested in what she has to say, and I also think the industry will be benefitting from her expertise for years to come.
What is the history of TransWorld Manufacturing?
I incorporated TransWorld Manufacturing a couple years ago. The name TransWorld actually came from TransWorld Crane, which was a company started by Jim McGhie in the late 1980s, an engineer from American Hoist & Derrick Company, and later my father got involved in that business. Together they created some revolutionary designs, including a 400-ton capacity lattice boom truck crane, the SL400. It was a machine ahead of its time because it doubled the capacity of street-legal truck cranes in America. Its serial number is “The Crystal May,” so the crane is actually named after me.
What distinguishes TransWorld’s boom dollies?
There is an incredible attention to detail in the engineering and overall design of our dollies. Not only were they designed by the end-user, but they were operationally test-proven for years with our own fleet of cranes. We have some very talented fabricators in our shop that take great pride in their work. Personally, I think our dollies are beautiful.
What is it about the job that keeps you engaged?
I enjoy being on the manufacturing side of the industry because I get to travel and meet interesting people. Boom dolly sales are generally tied to big crane purchases, so it’s always fun to keep up with the new models and configurations of these remarkable machines. Sometimes a customer will have a unique scenario where we have to design something special, so we get to learn about these neat projects before they happen.
What are the challenges?
A lot of what we do ends up being customized to a specific project or customer. It is difficult to pre-build or stock things. The state Departments of Transportation requirements get revised and updated, and manufacturers change things periodically. It can be a lot to keep up with while still maintaining consistency and short lead times.
Have you ever had issues being a woman in a male-dominated industry? If so, how did you deal with them?
I think being a woman in this industry is an advantage. People remember me because there aren’t many women. As a woman, you have to make sure you are schooled up about the industry or whatever it is you specialize in. Some people might test you to see if you know what you are talking about because they don’t expect a woman to know much about cranes.
You sort of have to get past that first hurdle of proving yourself before you can start a real conversation. I tend to ask a lot of questions, and I have found that many colleagues are happy to share their knowledge to help me expand my understanding.
You definitely do have to have thick skin though. It’s not for everyone. I don’t want to make light of potential dangers or roadblocks women may face in a male-dominated (or any) industry. Bottom line is you need to be true to yourself and trust your instincts.
There is a focus in the industry to hire more women? What is the best strategy to accomplish this?
Change comes from within. I am in this profession because of my family. Without that exposure I don’t think I would have joined this industry. Many parents wonder if their sons might become crane operators or project managers, but what about their daughters? I’ve heard people say “oh my daughter likes makeup” as a reason they don’t talk to her about cranes. Well, those things aren’t mutually exclusive. You can like makeup and cranes, you just need to discover your own personal brand and own it.
I am fortunate to have a father who encouraged me to do this. This industry is fascinating; we just need to get the word out more, and to younger children. People at every level should be proactive and inspire young people, regardless of their sex.
What is your business philosophy?
I believe in honesty and integrity. You have to build trust with your customers to have a lasting relationship with them. If you have great products and believe in what you are doing, the business will come.
What do you do when you are not working?
I love to travel! And eat. My amazing son is four now, so he’s at an age where we can really start doing some fun things together. So far this year we have trips planned to the beach and to see the St. Patrick’s Day parades in New Orleans. When I visit your city, you can be sure I will ask for local food recommendations.