Feature Article from March/April Wire Rope Exchange
By Joe Nolan
Since the 1940’s Tway Lifting Products has built its reputation as a producer of rugged, hard working rigging products and as a provider of knowledgeable, friendly customer service. The Indianapolis-based company is the largest and oldest rigging house in the state of Indiana and today it’s known as one of the premiere rigging lofts and material handling equipment service centers in the Midwest.
The Tway Company was founded by Joseph R. Tway in 1943. Mr. Tway was a salesman for The Macwhyte Wire Rope Company for many years, covering the Indiana and Kentucky coal mines. When time came for Joe to retire, he and his wife Katherine opened the Jos. R. Tway Company in their home town. Their business model was wire rope, cut to length and delivered via taxi cab. In that era, cut lengths and delivery were not typical for rope dealers and The Tway Company continues to distinguish itself today by going the extra mile for its customers.
“There are a few of us that are still family owned and operated, a lot of our customers want to come in and sit down and talk with us personally. They don’t want to get lost in the shuffle at some bigger, less personal shop,” says Peter Hansen, the company’s president and C.E.O., and the grandson of founder Joseph Tway.
Currently, the company serves the construction, automotive and utility infrastructure industries and its manufactured goods are sold at brick and mortar retailers, and online sites across America. Tway Lifting Products boasts the largest inventory of fiber ropes, wire ropes, shackles, turnbuckles, eye bolts, blocks, chains, tie-downs, binders, web slings, pipe lifters, and wire rope slings in their region. They also supply a full line of parts and accessories and even offer their emergency and evening hours at standard day rates.
Tway Lifting Products has also earned a name for itself in the flashy world of professional football as the supplier for two of the most high profile stadium builds in recent years: Indianapolis Colts Lucas Stadium and Dallas Cowboys Stadium. Combined, these massive, state-of-the-art projects are valued at over $2 billion. Tway was called on to deliver specially manufactured wire rope and fittings, consistently meeting tight schedules under budget and on time. The company is now considered a major player in the football stadium, motor speedway and entertainment industries.
Tway is excited at its recent achievement of gaining ISO09001-2008 certification. The standards certification defines, establishes and maintains effective quality assurance for businesses in the manufacturing and service industries. The company is now the sole ISO-certified rigging equipment manufacturer in their region.
“We wanted to become certified because we have an excellent track record of making very few mistakes,” says Hansen. “We wanted to make sure that as we grew we’d continue to do things as accurately and consistently as possible. We’re also finding that more and more of our customers are requiring certification.”
In September of 2013 Tway produced their first wire rope sling with a 2-inch diameter. The massive piece of gear carry’s a breaking strength of 370,000 pounds. Wire rope slings have been used for more than 100 years to lift building materials and machinery, and in steel mill operations, and these newest products from Tway represent that evolution’s cutting edge. Like all of the Tway’s wire rope products these massive slings are crafted from raw materials supplied by great firms like The Crosby Group, Loos & Co., Wireco, Bridon and Bethlehem Wire Rope.
“Using only American steel is the most important thing. It allows me to sleep very well every night,” says Hansen. “Selling domestic products gives us the best possible steel available anywhere. When you think of safety and life cycles among imports there are questions. With American materials we don’t see workmanship problems and problems with fatigue. We’ve always felt that if we moved to imports the products would become just another commodity that begins a downward slide we didn’t want to participate in.”
In addition to their track record for consistent, safe, products and services, one way that Tway has guaranteed their success is by forming strategic partnerships with the suppliers they distribute. A great example of this kind of partnership is the agreement that Tway has with The Peerless Chain Company. Tway is one of only a few distributors in the U.S. that is trusted to perform their own welding of both new and reconditioned alloy steel chains. In order to facilitate the service, Peerless picked up the tab for the equipment investment that the new welding operation required. The arrangement is a mutually beneficial one that has streamlined the process of getting Peerless Chain products manufactured, supplied and distributed to their paying customers in Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee and all over the Southeast.
“Peerless has three or four of us in the country who do that work on their behalf,” says Hansen. “Typically, a welded chain would take four or five days to build weld, test and ship. We can knock them out in the same day and do them properly.” Having plenty of inventory on hand and owning their own testing equipment, Tway can service chain types from 9/32” through a full 1”.
In order to ensure that their products are both safe and durable Tway takes pride in offering a specialized service like in-house chain welding. The specialized technique involves heat treating and tempering the chain prior to proof testing and certification. Regardless of the chain’s grade, both welding and heat treating have to be performed to the most exacting standards in order to create a product that is as long lasting and safe as it is effective.
All of Tway’s welders and inspectors are certified, and their state-of-the-art welding and heat-treating equipment are the best tools for properly building or repairing chains on site. Tway also performs hydraulic proof load testing on all of their sling chains. Every chain they sell is certified safe. Tway’s testing machinery can apply a tensile load up to 110 tons, ensuring that every part of a given sling meets both the elasticity as well as the ductility requirements set forth by regulatory agencies like ANSI and OSHA. Tway also offers testing services on a contract basis to other manufacturers, engineers and consumers of all kinds of non-standard devices, structures and fabrications.
It should come as no surprise that a quick online search for information about The Tway Company turns up a few YouTube videos of the workers at the shop in action. One video shows a Tway employee in blue coveralls with a big beard and heavily tattooed forearms splicing 5/8” slings using a new National, 1500 ton swaging machine. The worker splits the strands at the end of a wire rope and bends them back to form a braided loop which is then fitted with a metal sleeve that he positions at the neck of the loop. The swaging machine then brings 1500 tons of pressure to bear on the metal sleeve at the neck of the loop, crimping the sleeve down onto the splice. The Tway employee opens the machine and spins the rope and the sleeve incrementally, crimping it over and over around its entire circumference. For the guys at the shop this is surely just another day at work, but for the rest of us, watching a skilled American worker using an impressive American machine to transform raw American components into an American-manufactured product in the heart of the American Midwest is like seeing a species of plant or animal that was thought to be long extinct.
Tway’s premiere sling product is the Gold Seal Sling (Trademark pending). With an assurance of the highest quality, Tway’s slings boast precision swaging tolerance, and matched length every time. Gold Seal Slings are manufactured exclusively by Tway Lifting Products and every swage fitting is painted gold with their final quality check.
Another video features another worker in a long apron and safety glasses, using Tway’s testing equipment to pull a hook past the point of failure, putting both safety and expertise on display. Tway has a nice website that offers lots of information about their products and services, but these videos tell more about Tway, its amazing equipment and its expert workers than just reading the pages on a website ever could.
“We’re making products that carry a high liability. The workers are trained directly by the suppliers of the products we buy,” says Hansen. “They’re all card-carrying, qualified riggers. They understand what these products are being used for. The guys in the chain department are certified welders. They’ve been trained by the chain company. These guys understand what their making, why they’re making it, and the consequences involved. We have 260 years of rigging experience in our staff and we rely on all of them with every job we produce.”
While Hansen is quick to complement his workers, his high retention of these trained employees also speaks to his successful management.
“I make it clear that I know the job. I can do what they do. I can build those slings. I can make those welds,” says Hansen. “But these guys are experts. They’re very good at what they do. They understand the product and we have such low employee turnover so we don’t have to continually retrain people.”
American manufacturing and distribution is alive and well at this rigging house in Indianapolis that meets its production via the skilled labor of energetic, expert American workers. These have been hard times for the American Dream, but at Tway Lifting Products, its never been stronger or safer.
To read more article like this and stay up to date on industry news, subscribe to Wire Rope Exchange bi-monthly magazine with a complimentary basic membership. Register for the Basic Membership by clicking here.