Interview with Mike Parnell, Industrial Training International, LLC. Chief Executive Officer and Director of Technical Services

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Mike Parnell has been working in the Industry 35 years.

Cranesy: What do you love about cranes?
Mike Parnell: I really am impressed with how much a crane can do at such long distances. In talking with a number of crane engineers, they have noted that cranes are fairly delicate machines and they are often amazed at the work produced by a crane when compared to its slender design. When I see booms working at a project site, it reinforces the idea that we have progress in our economy and society. These booms are like the “flag standards of old” carried by armies. The message is that the troops are here and victory will soon follow.

C.: How did you join into this sector?
Mike: I was hired by Wire Rope Corporation of America in 1979 and was trained to inspect and evaluate rope systems related to mining, construction, oilfield and other applications. After five years I became the general manager for a rigging company. In 1986 my wife and I started a company called Wire Rope & Rigging Consultants which eventually transformed into ITI. The years have flown by because of the joy I get from helping others learn and by solving problems related to load handling.

C.: What’s your favorite memory about your work with cranes?
Mike: Having purchased a number of cranes for our business, we actively use them for crane and rigging training. There is nothing better than to take a “green hand” who knows nothing about cranes and get him comfortable with how a specific machine works and teaching him how to keep the hook block quiet. Once he understands the flex and reaction of the crane while hoisting and swinging and he can move the block from point A to point B with a minimum of after-movement, it’s like watching a skilled race driver maneuver around a track with minimum effort. I remember a young guy named Scott that I worked with as a new operator. After a week in the seat he was able make the crane respond like an artist creating a new painting. He came out of the crane and thanked me for giving him the tips and tricks to smooth operation. It was like I had given him a million dollars. My experience with him is like many others in our industry. By starting a young crane operator off right, we are building a lifetime skill. It’s the old adage, “Feed a man a fish for one day, or teach him how to fish for a lifetime”.

C.: How has your work at ITI inspered you in your life?
Mike: My inspiration is seeing the “ah-haa” expression on the face of a student or customer as a crane or rigging principle is fully grasped. Knowing that this person has another vital tool in his tool box for life is a great reward all in itself. If we have a legacy at all during our time on earth, it is that we have provided others with critical pieces of information that will help them make smart and safe decisions along the way.

C.: Are you facing new challenges in Crane&Rigging Training? Tell us about it.
Mike: There is no substitute for hands-on training. ITI has and will continue to roll out extensive E-Learning programs that can prepare a person to successfully tackle many crane and rigging challenges. Getting knowledge is very important. Gaining skills is equally valuable and skills come from practice. That’s why ITI has invested nearly $1M in crane and rigging training centers. Practicing with real equipment in a working environment is extremely valuable. A book recently written about how kids become superstars in various athletic sports (soccer, tennis, etc.) notes that it takes at least 10,000 hours of focused practice and energy to master a skill. I think the same can be said for crane and rigging activities. There is no substitute for real-life seat time and hands-on work to hone a person’s skills. The challenge we face with our next generation is to overcome the idea that competency and mastery can be accomplished by viewing an activity or solving a few workshop problems through a computer e-learning activity. These sessions can be fruitful to gain necessary knowledge components, but real skills are built be “doing” in order to recognize the hazards and the solutions needed for success.

C.: Safety in workplace. Would you give some essential advices about how to protect yourself from potential injury?
Mike: Complacency is a killer. When we believe we can fully trust a crane and a suspended load without respecting the surrounding environment, we can get hurt or die. The operator has a certain skill level and the crane has certain capacities. Often the unpredictable things like wind or a failing ground support can cause erratic load behavior or crane toppling. Being constantly aware of our surroundings, our escape routes and being ever vigilant will go a long ways to getting old in a healthy way in our business. The other key to success is to remember that gravity always wins. We can’t “make” a load move by personal will. If the laws of physics are against us, the load doesn’t care how many years of experience we have or how much skill and knowledge we possess. We have to respect equipment capacity and its limitations.

C.: Would you recommend other young men to undertake this career?
Mike: It seems that a large part of our society is somewhat competitive and appreciates a job well done. Those two attributes help drive folks to get into the load handling business. The daily challenges of, “can it be done”, if so “using what tools in an efficient and safe manner” and “in a timely fashion”, are the crux of our business. After a job is complete, you can pass by the work product (a new bridge, building or an entire machine shop set up) and have terrific satisfaction that your efforts will serve many generations to come.

C.: What does HAPPINESS mean for you?
Mike: Personally, there is great joy in family and friends. Seeing others reach their potential and achieve personal growth is thrilling to watch. No matter how big or small the victories are, there is joy in seeing family members and friends gain wisdom and understanding that can be applied throughout their entire lifetime.

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