By Chris Meehan | May 20, 2014
140 (70 in Colorado)
Employees: Around 140 (70 in Colorado)
Ownership: Public (Part of The Timken Co.)
Wazee Companies, a manufacturer of overhead cranes and a motor and generator servicing company, is lifting loads in the Rocky Mountain West and beyond, thanks to recently becoming a Timken brand.
Wazee Companies, founded by current President Trevor Armstrong’s grandfather, was granted Colorado State electrical license #21 in 1921. The company’s story is that of the Armstrongs and the Andrews, whom Armstrong credits with co-developing the company’s overhead crane division. “Jim Andrews has only worked one job in his whole life and it’s for Wazee. He left the Navy and came to work for my grandfather and dad and they started Wazee Crane,” Armstrong says.
Wazee has become one of the most innovative overhead crane brands in the country. “Jim and his son Steve have been instrumental really in the last four decades and going into the fifth of our success,” Armstrong says.
Overhead cranes are used in all manner of business—from moving glass panels to satellites and rockets to power plant turbine decks, Armstrong explains. Wazee has designed cranes to handle loads up to 125 tons.
“We’re kind of known as the aerospace experts,” Armstrong says. “We have Lockheed and Ball and ULA [i.e., the United Launch Alliance of Boeing and Lockheed] to thank for that.” Aerospace cranes use more advanced computerized controls that Armstrong likens to a light-dimmer switch giving more control over speed and movement. “If you’re moving a $400 million satellite you need…the best engineered solution to ensure that that payload will never see the ground,” he explains.
Armstrong and his partners purchased the company from his father in 2008. At that point it had three divisions, the crane, wind and motor services divisions. "In 2010 we purchased H&N Electric out of Tri-Cities and Pasco Washington. That brought us H&N Electric and H&N Wind." H&N's wind brand was better known than Wazee, he says. "So we dissolved Wazee Wind."
In 2012 Wazee was purchased by The Timken Co. "Today we still run four divisions underneath the Timken parent company," Armstrong explains. The change is good, he says. "I still feel like I’m running a company within a much larger company. But the stresses of a business payrolls and accounts receivable has all changed to more of a strategic role and expansion role,” he says.
The company now has crane service outlets in Casper, Rock Springs and Gilette, WY; Williston Basin, ND; Salt Lake City, Utah; Tri-Cities, WA; and Farmington, NM. That’s in addition to the crane manufacturing plant in Broomfield, CO. With Timken backing Wazee, the company plans to expand rapidly. “A big goal in five years is to have about 30 service outlets,” Armstrong explains. He adds, “The manufacturing plant can support all of those.”
The company also is distinguishing itself with faster customer service and repairs. “We’re working on getting that information back to the customer in a timely manner and also being able to produce the repairs either at the time of the inspection or shortly thereafter,” He contends that much of the competition will take weeks just to get a report on an inspection to the customer and sometimes it will take even longer for repairs. With Wazee, “A lot of the trucks…will have just-in-time parts on them and a computerized report with a a quote.” As such they can produce reports, make recommendations and do some service repairs at inspection time.
Challenges: “The amount of time it takes to get to some of our customers. We’re not compressed in the West like some of the firms in the east,” Armstrong says.
Opportunities: “Other facilities and locations owned by Timken,” Armstrong says. “We have a stronger name with Timken than we did as Wazee Crane. Anyone in a manufacturing plant worldwide would recognize us as Timkin.”
Needs: “Finding the qualified people and technicians in these regions where we’re looking to expand,” Armstrong says.