Above the Competition
Sky Climber Renewables
Sky Climber Renewables began in 1955 as a manufacturer of suspended access equipment to get people up the exterior of buildings to perform services. The Sky Climber family of businesses serves many work-at-height industries in the industrial and commercial markets. We spoke with Vice President of Sales and Business Development Chad DiFranco and General Manager Tom Warchol to find out more.
Sky Climber Renewables has grown into a global leader and expanded into Europe with a manufacturing facility in Belgium. A network of distributors and dealers was developed that distribute rigging, hoists, and modular work platforms to over seventy countries.
“In 2006, Sky Climber Access Solutions was established as a subsidiary of Sky Climber, LLC and a national rental and distribution service, supporting industrial and commercial construction and maintenance companies by providing suspended access equipment and services,” says Chad.
In 2008, Sky Climber was approached to provide an alternative to crane access on wind turbines and entered that market as an equipment and access service provider. This aspect of the business quickly grew as other customers enquired about the same service. These customers wanted to cut out the layers of contractors involved on projects, and Sky Climber Wind Solutions was born.
“So, we evolved into offering services, and that’s really grown organically over time as we added on new services year over year. We are ten years into this wind industry. It has been rebranded into renewables. Today, that business has over 320 technicians, with offices in Canada and personnel spread out all over North America,” says Chad.
Similar to the start of Wind Solutions, Sky Climber Telecom was launched in 2013 at the request of a customer. One of the largest tower owners recognized Sky Climber’s history of excellence in engineering, manufacturing, and providing safe access for people working at heights. It saw the work that Sky Climber was performing on high rise buildings and wind turbines, and the telecom industry felt it could also benefit from this service.
The tower company was initially interested because it wanted Sky Climber to develop products to help its people with access. Sky Climber was already providing service technicians for its wind division to work on these structures.
“The conversation pivoted quickly, and they realized that there was an even bigger need for services on our towers, so that effectively helped create Sky Climber Tower Solutions. It came out of a customer requesting that we form another division,” says Tom.
In a span of only a few years, Sky Climber Tower Solutions saw very quick growth all over the country. Last year, it accomplished 350 projects involving building a brand new tower, from the pouring of the concrete to stacking the towers all the way up. More commonly, Sky Climber would come in and make the existing towers stronger and able to hold more equipment.
Every five to six years, historically, there is a change in technology, and that requires new infrastructure. An overhaul was necessary to go from a 3G network to a 4G network, and the cell carriers are currently working on moving to a 5G network. New antennas have to be built across the nation. Sky Climber provides the construction, engineering and fabrication support to help with that overhaul.
“A tower might be designed to have ten antennas, but now it needs fifteen. The current tower isn’t rated structurally to hold up all the new equipment. We come in and make the tower stronger, so that it can hold more. We do it safe, fast, and cost-competitive,” says Tom.
Some of the company divisions have undergone recent name changes. Sky Climber Wind Solutions’ division was renamed Sky Climber Renewables, and Sky Climber Tower Solutions was rebranded as Sky Climber Telecom to reflect the company and its services better.
The Sky Climber Renewables name is a reflection of its growing capabilities and client base. Many of its clients are active in other segments of renewable energy. Its capabilities as a service provider expand into these segments, and the name change represents where it stands today in its ability to support companies in this market.
“Regarding Sky Climber Telecom, we evolved away from ‘tower’ to reflect our increased capabilities to serve other aspects of the telecommunications industry. For example, our in-house teams now provide capabilities in fiber deployments, civil construction, microwave installations, as well as an impressive ability to fabricate steel and aluminum components for the industry,” says Tom.
Sky Climbers continued commitment to superior customer service as a part of its philosophy to build on customer needs and the customer experience as a whole. Since Sky Climber touches on a host of different industries and applications, it is called on to help as it is a ‘solutions provider’ in the true sense of the term.
The question then becomes, ‘What is Sky Climber doing to differentiate it from other similar companies, while continuing to add value?’ One way is through its customer forums. Customers participate in a real partnership and can speak to management about what is important to them. The concern is not just about the scope of work, but how that work is delivered as a service.
“Then, we try to evolve, add on, change, remove, and make adjustments within the organization to really make their plans easier as a customer, as an asset owner, and a maintenance provider. We really help customers achieve their operational goals,” says Chad.
Its menu of services is constantly changing; it is both becoming broader in scope while components of the menu are getting more specialized, just to make sure that the customers are successful.
From a telecoms perspective, the key word is adaptability. Sky Climber is second to none when it comes to providing adaptive solutions for customers. It listens, it develops relationships not just at a corporate level, but at all levels of the organization. Its project managers listen to customers’ needs. “That’s what we really do excel at,” says Chad.
There is pride in wearing a Sky Climber t-shirt. “This is a company that has been around for sixty years. When even a brand new technician wears that shirt, he feels a sense of pride from the get-go,” says Tom. It is akin to feeling like a part of a family as employees care for each other in the organization.
Privately held Sky Climber has built a culture around success in its divisions and success as individual employees. The company delivers a higher standard of service. Whether it is within the telecom or renewable energy fields, certain skill sets are required and augmented with training. Its people are proudly carrying themselves as Sky Climber employees, and espouse the values of the company with integrity and a passion for what they do.
When recruiting an employee for the field or senior management, Sky Climber expects the same core qualities to be present for everybody on the team. Besides being technically capable at their job, they must have integrity and respect for the company and its clients, understand how to move through work and tasks to reach the end goal, aspire to be the best that they can be, be a good fit for the company culture, be passionate about challenges and able to solve problems independently.
“It takes all these character traits above and beyond competency as a foundation to delivering a great service. We need people that take pride in what they do, and they go out and deliver that in the field. I think we’ve done a great job of hiring and bringing people into the organization that are able to do that,” says Chad.
Sky Climber has joined with renewable technical programs that provide a foundation for new technicians. It has also developed extensive in-house training programs. The employee leaves with a very strong knowledge and skill set to take into the field.
There are specialty needs for telecom training. “Because we employ people working at elevations, there are certain training requirements that we have internally for protection and rescue, or radio frequency safety. There are also Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 10-hour and 30-hour courses to be taken and become certified. Sky Climber takes this very seriously,” says Tom.
Sky Climber Renewables and Sky Climber Telecom go above and beyond traditional training required by the industry. Other companies save been many injuries and fatalities over the last ten years from rigging accidents. Workers may have mandated training, but they do not know what types of forces go into a rope when they are trying to lift a heavy antenna up a pole.
“We spend time and specific training with our crews on how to do that kind of work, but also how to calculate. There is a bit of math involved. You have to work and be knowledgeable. It’s not just about how to do it, but why to do it. It adds another level of attention, understanding, and ultimately quality into the service,” says Tom.
Sky Climber will continue to present value and support to its existing clients. Continuous growth is expected from expanding the selection of services, from increased work volume, and moving into other areas such as the solar and construction industries. Plans may include establishing a local presence and expanding into different markets within the industries it serves. Regional teams can deliver the same great service, equipment, and value it currently delivers.