Interview with Karen Norheim, Executive Vice President – American Crane and Equipment Corporation


Cranesy: What do you love about cranes?
Karen Norheim: What’s fun about our products is all the different types of end users. Our products can be integral tools used for everything from lifting a spacecraft to moving rum and even fish. How cool is that?
In addition, I love the technology from our engineering and manufacturing to our business systems. Watching raw materials become powerful machines appeals to my inner geek and adds to the cool factor of what we build and how it all works.

Cranesy: How did you join into this sector?
Karen Norheim: I was recruited by a family member. One of the major milestones in my life was the decision to work for my father. At the time, I wondered, ”How fun could manufacturing be?” It’s been more than 13 years since I made one of the best decisions of my life. Through my work with American Crane and Equipment Corporation, I found my passion for manufacturing and engineering. Where else can you bring something from concept to physical existence? I get to help solve complex problems that have real impact for our customers.

Cranesy: What’s your favorite memory about your work with cranes?
Karen Norheim: I don’t know that I have one favorite memory. I look forward to every day and the chance to work with our amazing staff. We really strive to have a “Problem Solving Culture” where successful collaboration is met through mutual trust and respect; and embracing our differences is seen as an opportunity to find more effective solutions.

Cranesy: How has your work with cranes inspired you in your life?
Karen Norheim: It has inspired me to share my passion and viewpoints on our industry and manufacturing.
We need to stop being so bashful. Overhead lifting and material handling is cool damn it! Maybe it’s the marketing girl in me, but we need to promote the industry for the exciting and interesting place to work that it is.
I also think that manufacturing in general needs to work on its reputation. No more dated, uncool stereotypes of mechanical engineers and dirty shop floors. If it hadn’t been for my father, I may not have considered a career in manufacturing. I would have missed out on the most rewarding job I have ever had. This is why we need to get the word out and share our passion with others!

Cranesy: Are you facing new challenges in this sector? Tell us about it.
Karen Norheim: I think we will see more and more integrated technologies and our challenge will be integrating them into our business. Technologies are making manufacturers a hotbed of innovation, improving their operations, and increasing their growth opportunities. We will see it on our shop floors, in the field and in our equipment.
Another challenge is the upcoming shortage of workers and the need to create a talent pipeline for the future. We need to tap all available resources including millennials and women.

Cranesy: Safety in workplace. Would you give some essential advices about how to protect yourself from potential injury?
Karen Norheim: At American Crane & Equipment Corporation, we are devoted to maintaining a safe and healthy work environment. We value our employees as individuals and as part of our overall success. Therefore it is imperative that we maintain a safe workplace.
My best advice is to make safety the number one priority. Our safety culture is based on caring about everyone’s wellbeing. By staying alert and aware of your surroundings, we can ensure everyone is safe. We make certain that everyone is educated on wearing the appropriate safety gear and understands that safety means attention to detail. Safety come first, everything else is second.

Cranesy: Would you recommend other young women to undertake this career?
Karen Norheim: Absolutely! Manufacturing is an orchestra of different people and skills coming together to create an end product. This can include Sales, Engineering, Fabricating, Purchasing, Accounting, Information Technology and more. The coordination can provide an exciting work environment. Manufacturing also offers well-paying jobs with work that is both fun and rewarding. Plus, these days the manufacturing floor has so much technology integration which adds to the excitement. And, it’s just cool! I love to see our products go from concept to creation. It’s amazing!

Cranesy: What does HAPPINESS mean for you?
Karen Norheim: Happiness to me, means enjoying life. It means not taking myself too seriously, being passionate about what I do and enjoying the process as much as the final product.
I am of the belief that you must always keep moving. Keep pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone and be open to new opportunities. Continue learning and stay curious. Life is a journey not a destination and happiness means enjoying the ride.

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