15 April 2008
Based in Columbus, MS, Burkhalter Lifting, Rigging and Transport has a three-generation heritage in providing engineered rigging, heavy lifting and specialized transport services. Since it was founded in 1973, the company's vision has been to become the “premier” and “first choice” provider of technical rigging, lifting, and multimodal transport solutions for super-heavy and oversize cargoes, says Delynn Burkhalter, president of the company.
By combining time-proven methods with the latest in computer modeling and expert craftsmen, the company can exceed the expectations of its customers, Burkhalter says.
Safety is a top concern for Burkhalter and, therefore, at the company he runs. The company's safety culture has helped it earn a global reputation for excellence. “We have won the highest national honor for safety by the Associated Builders and Contractors for the past six years (2001-2006),” he says. “Safety and accountability is what we have become known for by customers from around the globe.”
Having a global reputation and responding to calls from around the world, Burkhalter the company and Burkhalter the man are always on the go. A tough task for American Cranes and Transport was to actually catch up with Burkhalter, the man, for our Interview column. At last we were able to do so, and we are pleased to share his insight on a range of industry subjects.
What are the company's key markets?
We have the equipment and experience to take super-sized and heavy projects from the fabrication point to their anchor bolts. Burkhalter specializes in boundless moves in any direction wiThengineered heavy lifting, rigging, and specialized transport as a single-sourced solution to heavy fabricators, chemical plants, nuclear and conventional power generation plants, windmill power generation, refineries, and manufacturers.
Do you envision expansion beyond your current scope of operation?
I envision Burkhalter remaining adaptable in its determination to remain competitive and proftable. Where our experience and innovation will take us is anyone's guess. However, we are confident that Burkhalter's reputation for performing work “One-Time Right” and maintaining our pristine safety record will continue to attract super-sized and heavy lifting, rigging, and transport business.
What is it about the business of lifting and transport that keeps you engaged?
One thing that comes to mind, perhaps, is the adventurous boy in me or the something-new-everyday aspect of our business. The most complex projects often begin as a riddle of how to best achieve the objective with the craftsmen, equipment, and technology interlaced with the possible need for innovation and our being solely responsible for valuable and occasionally irreplaceable cargoes.
The other thought I have when asked this question is I really enjoy seeing the excitement of our people while working together to solve problems.
At the start of the new year, how do you characterize the US economy as it relates to the construction sector in general and the lifting, rigging and heavy haul sector specifically?
Overall, we expect fewer construction projects to start in 2007, however, there is renewed interest in nuclear power generation in the US and Europe. There is also recent construction of nuclear reactors in Asia to meet rapidly rising energy demands. Within this vertical market segment alone, construction revenues are expected to grow at near double-digit rates over the next decade. We understand this to be true after participating in a Nuclear Energy 2006 report published by Touch Briefings of the United Kingdom. Burkhalter produced a white paper for the report on the advantages of single-sourcing on super-sized and heavy multimodal transport projects.
The need for energy and a rise in energy prices will continue to be the catalyst for projects that will require the need for our services in the power industries, refineries and petrochemical business. Accordingly, the windmill business will continue to proliferate in areas that will support these projects.
What changes do you envision for the heavy and specialized transport business over the next decade?
It is dificult - if not impossible - to predict the future. However, as in all our lives, computers and space-age materials will continue to drive innovation in super-sized and heavy lifting, rigging, and transport. We expect products, services and technology that deliver better fuel economy, alternative fuels, and stronger and lighter materials used in the construction of cranes, hardware, trailers, and trucks. These will become bottom-line enhancing advantages to Burkhalter as the relationship between cost and savings becomes more defined.
How does Burkhalter distinguish itself from its competitors?
Burkhalter is well known for its experience, innovation, and safety record when responsible for lifting, rigging, and transporting super-sized and heavy cargoes. Every project is difierent, but customers repeatedly put more weight on safety when considering vendors.
Aside from the cost of delays caused by accidents, there is also future insurability, environmental, and brand damage issues that drive interest in a vendor's ability to perform without incident. Burkhalter prides itself on keeping its craftsmen and cargoes safe because it is also a valuable determining factor in gaining new business.
When the risks are high and the consequences for failure severe and costly, hire an experienced team that has a pristine safety record. Safety is a time-honored philosophy that must extend from the top down to be successful. This is due to its substantial up front costs and the hiring of safety professionals that are responsible for its adherence. Crews must be fully outfitted with the latest safety equipment and knowledgeable in its operation. Safety is fundamental to the success of any super-sized or heavy project and needs to be integrated into all planning, lifting, rigging, and transport.
I contend that the best way to ensure success and limit liabilities is to adopt a “OneTime Right” philosophy to create balance, synchronization, and flow over every lifting, logistical, rigging, and transport detail. Doing something right the first time must be the company's attitude toward quality and excellence.
To assure a high quality and safe solution, every maneuver must be procedurally designed, planned, and executed by a team of highly trained engineers, superintendents, and project managers in accordance with a company's quality system. This must include all aspects of heavy lifting, rigging, and multimodal transport.
What is the biggest challenge for Burkhalter doing business in today's business environment?
Maintaining its brand and reputation for excellence and safety is a never-ending focus of Burkhalter's business acumen. What makes its business environment most challenging is the complexity and scope of its projects that's further compounded by a shortage of quality craftsmen. We do our best to attract and employ the best craftsmen. They are the foundation of our business with or without technology and specialized equipment.
One of our customers recently wrote about their value in a note titled “Pride of the American Spirit.” It described seven of our craftsmen who were given the task of installing three 280,000 pound GSU transformers onto bolts. They finished their objective without the use of a heavy lift crane that would have made the job easier. They were forced to use the time-tested means of hard physical labor and good, old fashioned ingenuity to get the job done. The heat and humidity were at times unbearable, but that did not seem to matter. The customer wrote that he had the pleasure and honor to watch these men go about the task of moving these huge pieces of equipment into place. Not once did he hear a complaint, an argument, a swear word, a “this will never work.” He just watched as each man completed his particular task automatically and the entire team seemed to work fiuidly together. It reminded him of the “Pride of the American Spirit” to get the job done well and on time. He finished with a personal “thank you” for reminding him of what it is like to be an American.
Located in Mississippi, you sawfirsthand the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina and other hurricanes that hit the Gulf Coast in 2005. Has Burkhalter been involved in projects related to hurricane rebuilding?
Burkhalter offers very technical and specialized services that are not normally used for salvage. The best way to describe its core projects are those that involve critical and valuable, super-sized and heavy components that need lifting, rigging, and transport without incident.
In 2006, Burkhalter transported huge pontoons slated for the world's largest ocean drilling platform of its kind. It was transported by tug boats to a dry-dock in Southern Mississippi for repairs after Katrina. The oil drilling platform was being retroftted to make it more buoyant, seaworthy, and to increase the carrying weight of its superstructure.
Another storm-related project in 2006 involved a barge roll-on of a super-sized and heavy refinery module. The module was for a storm damaged oil refinery on the Gulf Coast.
However, the bulk of commercial and residential rebuilding is yet to come.
Based in the SouThin Columbus, MS, Burkhalter has developed a globalreputation. Are there particular challenges to being based in a small town in Mississippi?
Our overhead is lower in Columbus and that afiords us to grow a little faster and react to changing industry conditions. Actually, our corporateofce in Columbus is centrally located to much of our work. More importantly, our customers fully understand that we go where the business is and remain competitive when we do. Besides Columbus, Burkhalter has salesofces in Birmingham, AL, Houston, TX, Mobile, AL and Nashville, TN. And we plan to establish yards in strategic areas in the near future. Having this fiexibility to reach out and have local representation in high-growth areas has proved an excellent revenue generator and reputation builder.
What emerging industries do you envision for the crane, rigging and heavy haul sector?
“The need for energy and a rise in energy prices will continue to be the catalyst for projects that will require the need for our services in the power industries, refineries and petrochemical business.
As oil rose to more than $70 per barrel, we learned of new projects in the nuclear, wind farm, and refinery industries that traditionally require super-sized and heavy lifting, rigging, and transport. In 2006, these projects came online and the need for our services became substantial and continues to grow. Burkhalter also is in the enviable position to be located in an economic development area that shows signs of continued growth and investment for some time to come. Burkhalter is actively engaged in transporting super-sized and heavy cargoes and using its large crane fieet to erect a modern steel mill less than 10 miles of its corporate headquarters.
Having a Burkhalter in your backyard has proven to ofer its own economic impact when businesses consider relocation and building something so massive. Besides becoming the super-sized and heavy lifting, rigging, and transport vendor of choice, we have also solved several local logistical issues that save time and produce economical results for heavy industry. These breakthroughs are so important that it is likely that other companies will relocate and rely heavily upon Burkhalter capabilities and experience.
Let's talk about machines (cranes) and vehicles (trucks and trailers) owned by Burkhalter? Which, of the machines in your fieet, are most impressive to you?
We rely heavily on our Goldhofer fieet. This past weekend we used Goldhofer self-propelled hydraulic platform trailers to transport a super-sized and heavy cold box that measured approximately 170 feet long and weighing more than 550,000 pounds. Our Goldhofers were used from a deck barge roll-of to deliver to the customer site. Our engineers and crews have done some incredible work with this equipment and it continues to fascinate me every time I watch a multiple axle or double-wide move.
The other critical component of our super-sized and heavy lifting, rigging, and transport capabilities is Burkhalter's large fieet of modern crawler and hydraulic cranes. We have Liebherr, Link-Belt, and Manitowoc. We have Grove and Liebherr in our fieet of all terrain cranes. The LR 1400 Liebherr crawlers we have still impress me with lifting capabilities, coupled with how quickly this model crane can be moved and assembled. Our crews have rigged up LR 1400s complete with superlift attachment in one long day. Of course, everything has to be loaded and delivered right, but they proved we can make it happen.
What do you do in your spare time, when you are not running things at Burkhalter?
I use exercise and keeping fit as my release in a highly competitive and occasionally stressful industry. For the past few years I have trained and competed in triathlons. On November 4, 2006, I completed my second Ironman competition at Ironman Florida. I started the race with about 2,200 others from all over the world in a 2.4 mile swim, 112 miles on the bike, a 26.2 mile run, and finished in 11 hours and 59 minutes. It was a great milestone for me because Ironman Wisconsin in 2005 took me 16 hours to finish.
I truly enjoy the personal challenges in training and competition, and have fortunately become competitive in regional events ending 2006 being ranked in the top 10 of my age group in the USTA Southeastern Region.