RIO Steel & Tower

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By Alyssa Stahr – Inside Towers Special Correspondent

From modifications to fabrications to safety training, RIO Steel & Tower’s wide range of services have set a standard in the broadcast and telecom industries for more than 12 years. Inside Towers spoke with Keith Cendrick, vice president; Paul Walters, project manager/director of safety; and Vance Hapeman, director of sales about where the company currently is and where it’s headed.

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RIO started off doing broadcast installations, and Cendrick said that they “went with the times” and branched off into doing modifications on towers and fabrications of mounts. The trio feels like the company can “do it all,” from working with site acquisition to fabrication of towers to installation. Additional turnkey services include: mappings, CAD drawings, foundations, erection, general contracting, site development, civil work, structural upgrades, plumb & tension (sag or intercept method), antenna/ line installation, and 24/7/365 emergency services.

Whether you need broadcast HDTV, AM/FM broadcast radio, cellular or microwave, any project can be quoted as a turnkey solution for guyed towers, self-supported towers, monopoles, building roof-tops, or water tanks. Cendrick said that he thinks there is a lot of potential for growth in addition to existing services and that RIO wants to “be a major part of it.” Ancillary work that RIO does also is a key component, including tower inspections, a benefit contracted by structural engineers.

Hapeman said that the turnkey process of what RIO can do is helpful with it comes to customer service.

“That’s really a bonus for the customer because they don’t have to deal with three or four different individuals, they can just deal with RIO. They enjoy that a lot better, because if there’s a finger to point they can just point to one person,” he said.

Additionally, having an in-house fabrication capability allows RIO to manufacture the parts you need.  Everything from a single bracket, antenna mounts, ice shields, structural upgrades, guy anchors, and bridge stiffeners to a complete communications tower can be produced in one of two shops. One shop sits on about two acres at the home office in Texas, while another larger facility is housed at the parent company to take care of backlogged orders.

“We do not do monopoles, but I think that’s really about it,” Cendrick said. Walters agreed, “We do modifications for monopoles and mounts for monopoles, but we don’t fabricate the pole itself. We also have the capability of fabricating gin poles. I know that’s an interest.”

Hapeman shared that two projects at naval air force bases in Texas and Florida have been highlights, and a new offering is modifications on water tanks.

“We’ve just started doing that, which is kind of neat. Our crews were saying, ‘Hey, we want to do more of that because this is new.’ This is not just a typical tower or a monopole this is something new, so they enjoy that,” Hapeman said.

All of the welders in the shop have been or are certified climbers and have an intimate understanding for what is needed.

“We also have six certified welders that are Crown Castle certified to weld on existing structures,” Walters said. “As far as our fabrication goes I would say the most that we are doing now is lots of modifications on existing structures to bring them up to the new standards.”

Hapeman said that he doesn’t think those are going to stop.

“The fabrication of new towers has dropped a little bit; the modifications on existing have just skyrocketed,” he said.

Training is an important part of RIO’s success, and the approved PICS vendor requires all of its tower crew personnel to attend the Basic Health and Certification Program.

“Our basic training—all guys have to do before they’re even allowed to go out to a tower site,” Walters said. “Then they have to get their authorized climber and property climber before they’re allowed to go out and work on the towers. Then we have advanced training for our higher level longer term employees, foremen and crew leaders.”

RIO shuts down the company twice a year, usually close to July 4 and between Thanksgiving and Christmas, to retrain everybody and to keep safety standards up-to-date. There is a full training facility upstairs, with a 60-foot training tower in the back of the shop. New employees receive training courses as well, and RIO also offers rigging and hoist operations training. In addition, all personal protective equipment is checked for wear and tear during this time.

“We review all of our climbing requirements, and the main things that we review that keeps it fresh in the guys’ minds is our property climber and tower rescue class,” Walters said. “That’s something that you need to be automatic at when you’re out on a tower site if something were to happen. So, practice really keeps that fresh in their minds.”

For more information, visit http://www.riosteel.com/.

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