Seizing the infrastructure opportunity

By Keith White28 November 2022

Strategic planning and targeted investment position a company to better serve its customers ahead of surge in infrastructure spending, writes Keith White, chief executive at the rope manufacturing and supply group WireCo.

man in suit arms folded Keith White, WireCo chief executive officer. Photo: WireCo

Strategic planning and targeted investment will help position a company to better serve its customers ahead of surge in infrastructure spending, writes Keith White, chief executive officer at the WireCo rope manufacturing and supply group.

November marks the one-year anniversary of passage of the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act in the USA. This legislation earmarked hundreds of billions of dollars in new spending to overhaul long-deteriorating American roads, bridges, transportation networks, and power grids.

As these funds flow to municipalities, demand for construction services will grow, as will the need for the various materials and equipment necessary to repair and upgrade some 45,000 bridges and 800,000 miles (1.3 million km) of highway and interstate, according to White House estimates.

To play a meaningful role in the revitalisation of the country’s infrastructure, WireCo must be an enabler to its customers’ success. No amount of premium crane rope WireCo may produce will yield a single foot of new road or bridge without first being installed on a crane. The owners and operators of those cranes cannot be made to wait an unreasonable period of time for the components they need to do their jobs.

WireCo is investing in new capacity with these customers in mind.

Optimising production

Scott Thompson, WireCo Steel chief operating officer, and his team prepared a detailed plan that included installation of new equipment, moving pieces between sites, redesigned floor plans, and increased staffing. All were intended to bring crane rope production in line with projected demand.

“It’s a huge undertaking,” Thompson said, “but one that should pay big dividends, in terms of alleviating customers’ pain and supporting new infrastructure opportunities.”

The project is slated to take three years, accounting for equipment lead times, with machines landing throughout 2022 and 2023, and all new capacity fully online in 2024. This schedule generally aligns with the current pace of funding of Infrastructure Act projects, with US$110 billion of the bill’s $550 billion having been allocated since its passage in November 2021.

In addition to creating extra capacity to support projects in the United States, the Sedalia, Missouri, expansion also frees up resources to serve European crane markets, where various countries have enacted legislation similar to the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. This reduces the extent to which WireCo must choose between the two markets and positions the company to better meet demand on both sides of the Atlantic.

More jobs

The company’s investment also creates jobs, both in the USA and Europe. That is a blessing and a curse in the current labour environment, where attracting and retaining skilled professionals remain ongoing challenges.

Leaders at WireCo have devoted significant effort in recent months not only to recruiting but also to fully understanding what makes the company a great place to work. Based on that knowledge, resources have been put in place to ensure WireCo’s facilities meet the highest standards of safety and offer a positive, inclusive work environment.

As with any organisation, good people make all the difference. When it comes to filling vacancies, “We can’t do it fast enough,” said Thompson. “Tell your friends: We’re hiring.”

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