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NEWS > MAY 2019

Mazzella Companies
65 Years of Lifting Leadership and Education

Mazzella Companies is celebrating its 65th anniversary this year. We interviewed CEO Tony Mazzella, to learn about his perspective on the trends in the wire rope and sling technology industry, looking back on his company’s history and forward to its future. Mazzella’s father James founded the company, and his sons Matt and Adam are prepared to pilot it well into the future. A series of strategic acquisitions have provided it with steady growth over the years and landed it a dominant position in the industry.

By Jane W. Haynes

Smart Sling demo
photo: Jim Mazzella and company with the 7-Part Sling.™

Mazzella Companies is one of the largest independently-owned companies in the overhead lifting and rigging industries and is a manufacturer and distributor of a wide range of lifting products for industrial, commercial and specialty applications. Mazzella is a leader in providing overhead cranes, overhead crane services, material handling, and specialty machinery. The organization employs more than 800 individuals at more than 30 locations in North America and serves major markets including steel, construction, energy, vehicle and durable goods, ship building/repair, and mining.

Family Business Strategy for Growth

The Mazzella family has been involved in the lifting and rigging industry for generations. Tony Mazzella’s grandfather Antonio Mazzella never owned his own business. But he invented several multi-part wire rope slings, including the 3-part and 9-part (which are still made today, more than 80 years later). Then he sold those patents to a wire rope company for which he and his son James would work.

After a stint in the Service, James continued to braid wire rope slings by hand and eventually became foreman of a wire rope shop, Frank Morrison & Sons, in Cleveland, Ohio. He worked there for five years before founding his own company in 1954. The business made basic lifting devices — wire rope slings that were braided by hand. He also invented the Mazzella 7-Part™ wire rope sling, which improved ease of use and increased lifting performance and safety. James’ son Tony Mazzella began working in the company at age 14 as a sweeper and joined the management team in 1977, after graduating from college, becoming the company’s 13th employee. Two of Tony’s six sons work with him in the company today, and both already have more than 15 years of experience in the industry. Matt Mazzella is General Manager at Progressive Crane and Adam Mazzella is the Vice President of Sheffield Metals.

The company has grown organically through the decades by expanding its product offerings and entering new markets. They focus on acquiring companies that are within the industry or have related expertise that will help them expand their markets in new regions.

The company’s long-term growth strategy includes searching out other family-owned businesses. Mazzella Companies’ success in making these acquisitions is said to be due to its values and culture as a family-owned business. According to Tony Mazzella, family firms in the industry would often prefer to be absorbed by a like-minded family-oriented company similar to theirs, rather than a larger, more impersonal corporate entity. He says, “We’re a good fit, compared with private equity firms, when people want to sell but still look out for their employees. We make a good transition.”

Mazzella says, “the values that started with my parents, Jim and Phyllis Mazzella, are ones we continue to instill and try to be unwavering as we grow.”

More Than 800 Employees, in Over 30 Locations

The business’ two main revenue drivers are lifting and roofing. The lifting side includes making overhead cranes and the lifting apparatus between the crane hook and its load — which could be a sling or engineered lifting device — and supplying the wire rope that goes on those mobile and construction cranes. In addition, Mazzella service divisions, with over 100 technicians, provide inspections and repair on overhead cranes, slings and all overhead lifting products, as well as repair and modernizing of the cranes themselves.

Most of the lifting business is focused in the eastern half of the US. The company is unique in providing all three elements: manufacturing the crane, providing slings, the lifting device/engineered materials that hang off the hook, and providing the servicing/inspections.

The roofing side of the business focuses on metal roofing for contractors and sells throughout the US and across 30 countries. Sheffield Metals International specializes in Galvalume® and aluminum for the architecturally designed metal panel industry. New Tech Machinery is the leading manufacturer of portable rollforming roof panel and gutter machines in the world.

These products are used in schools, homes, shopping centers and industrial buildings worldwide. Tony Mazzella says, “Metal is now 14% of roofing material, up from 7% in 2004. We see great opportunity for further growth.”

Expanding Markets Through Acquisitions

Tony Mazzella says, “My father always said, ‘You’re either moving forward or backward. There is no such thing as standing still.’” This is why the company continues to seek strategic acquisitions that will add to its breadth of locations serving customers across the country. The challenge, and one that Mazzella meets very efficiently, is to blend each new company into the fold while helping its employees make a comfortable transition.

Mazzella adds, “When I started I was the 13th full-time employee and we could communicate by yelling across the room. That doesn’t work when you have 30 different locations. Especially when you are making acquisitions, you need to communicate effectively, with clarity, and have processes in place to keep it all flowing smoothly.”

A Mission for Confidence and Comfort

“Our purpose is to instill confidence and comfort in every interaction.” The focus is on providing reliable products and services, a highly responsive, knowledgeable team to support its offerings and the training to help ensure compliance of OSHA and ASME standards.

A Priority for Safety and Quality

Product quality and operating safety go hand-in-hand. James Mazzella recognized this when he also invented the Mazzella 7-Part™ wire rope sling, which improved safety, along with ease of use and increased lifting performance.

In 1973, Mazzella became a CM repair facility, and in 1996 Mazzella received ISO Certification.

This quality-first manufacturing mind-set led the company to being one of the only rigging shops with ISO 9002 certification in 1994. That will continue to be the subject of re-doubled emphasis. Mazzella has been a leader in safety training with all of its lifting specialists being certified to teach OSHA and ASME standards. It is fully compliant with CMAA, NEC, OSHA and ASME standards. More than 90 employees are certified rigging inspectors, with a dozen certified as specialized trainers. Two of Mazzella Companies’ employees have received “Trainer of the Year” awards. The company partners with customers to ensure the peace of mind that safety compliance brings.

old bridge
Training is one of Mazzella’s keys to success, both for employees and for customers.

Reliance on Customer Support

Educating the company’s customers is just as important as educating its workers because safety is a top priority for everyone, and Mazzella has been a leader for rigging shops for 30 years in training customers. Employees dedicate significant time to teaching people how to use the equipment to help ensure they are using it correctly, as misuse is a major factor in accidents. In a business where things are at risk, with people lifting products over people’s heads, Mazzella emphasizes its role in providing expertise and training. Crane Hotline Magazine has recognized two Mazzella employees recently for training excellence. In 2018 Lifting Specialist Al Abel was designated the top trainer in the country in the corporate category.

The company holds regular open houses, and welcomes customer visits — its employees are known for demonstrating a commitment to “doing it right” with energy and enthusiasm.

Valuing Employees

Employee turnover is low because the Mazzella Companies are committed to training and providing opportunities for employees. Even with high-paced growth, the average tenure for an employee has been ten years, and the company is working to increase that by providing a secure career path through training and education. The company looks to manage its growth and the development of its people as industry leaders. Mazzella says, “An employee is not stuck in one spot. If they want to grow, they don’t have to leave. They can stay here and take advantage of an opportunity.”

Company culture includes many company events that encourage employees to get to know each other, have fun, support their community and be involved. An employee says, “You’re not a number. People know your name.” Management is known to walk around and ask people, “How’s your day?” The company promotes this approach with an “Employee Biography” video page on their website.

Marketing Manager Mike Minissale says, “When I started here more than 20 years ago, Tony’s dad Jim was retired but still involved in the company. He was the one who handed you your paycheck every week.” Minissale is a typical example of an employee who has grown and stayed with the Mazzella Companies. He began in inside sales, has worked in purchasing, at several branches and now in the marketing group. He has had chances to increase his skills, for example, when he took Project Management classes available through the apprenticeship program.

Mazzella says, “It’s important to find a way to have some level of personal contact with employees. We strive to keep the family atmosphere and feel that it helps contribute to the longevity of our employees — they stay with us because they like the way they are treated and because we provide opportunities to grow if they want to.” He adds that another piece of this is, “instilling in people the confidence that we know what we are doing, we are doing the things that will allow us to stay in business, and we can offer them opportunities to grow with us.”

Meeting Challenges

“Our biggest challenge has been to grow efficiently into the size we have reached,” says Mazzella. This has meant doing things differently at each level, utilizing different talents and skill sets.”

For many companies, finding new employees can be a challenge, says Mazzella, “We have to keep a strong focus and be conscious of that. We want to be an employer of choice, we want people to want to come here. We view it as attracting them rather than recruiting them, even though some recruitment will always be necessary.” One of the ways Mazzella Companies attracts employees is its excellent reputation in the industry, and another is its robust referral program. This rewards existing employees for helping find talent that fits the company’s needs.

Apprenticeship Program in Lifting Technologies

Since 2015, Mazzella Companies has worked in partnership with a local college to develop MazzU, an internal apprenticeship program in lifting technologies. Employees have the opportunity to obtain an actual degree in “Lifting Technologies,” a program believed to be the first of its kind in the US. The program teaches product knowledge and inspection skills. It also focuses on developing leadership skills and teaches managers how to embrace and promote the company culture.

The apprenticeship program demonstrates Mazzella’s core value of striving for lifelong learning. The program is open to any employee in any department. Employees in the rigging side of the business can grow in the job and earn higher wages, too.

Recently, the company developed a national apprenticeship program in crane service. The program was developed internally and is led by an employee manager in their crane service business.

The Importance of Associations

Over the years Mazzella has taken on leadership roles in many industry associations. Three Mazzella executives have served as president of the Associated Wire Rope Fabricators (AWRF). Tony Mazzella has also served for nearly 35 years on the Technical Committee and is currently the last original member of that committee. The company is also involved with the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) with one of their ten engineers sitting on the B30.20 sub-committee, the Association for Iron and Steel Technology (AIST), the Crane Certification Association of America (CCAA), the Web Sling & Tie Down Association (WSTDA), and the Specialized Carriers and Rigging Association (SC&RA).

Future Plans

“Synthetics are becoming more important with the potential to replace metal in slings and on cranes in combinations with metal or other materials,” says Mazzella. He adds, “Synthetics are part of an evolving plan. We continue to evolve with the industry.”

Another trend that Mazzella notes is that, “people are being groomed and developed by Amazon to expect instant delivery. It means that we want to speed up delivery times for our customers.” Having multiple locations means that Mazzella has the ability to get product to a customer’s site faster.

Mazzella sees the company continuing on its current path, saying, “We are in a unique position, selling it all: cranes, service and rigging. We have a significant footprint and offer one-stop shopping for customers, especially if they have multiple locations.” He adds, “We’re in a better position to do it than anyone. We stay on top of industry trends. We are proud of our people and invested in training. Our goal is to be the knowledge experts out there. If a customer or potential customer has a question, we put significant time and energy into it. We offer a lot of research and information on our website, blog articles and videos.”

The Mazzella Companies aim to maintain their position as leaders in the industry and to continue to develop its people as leaders as well.

For more information, go to www.MazzellaCompanies.com

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