TUF-TUG: Scaling on a Tradition of Quality


TUF-TUG, a global supplier of safety and rigging gear with a commitment to climber safety, has earned its credibility in the climbing industry through innovation and engineering of safety and rigging gear. The company has a proud history, but it is looking forward to an even more exciting future.

Headquartered in Dayton, Ohio, TUF-TUG was founded in 1984 with the mission of designing and manufacturing rigging and safety gear for climbers. Over the years, TUF-TUG developed several different products aimed at making tower climbing safer and more productive, including tie-off anchors, the Safe-Climb System and other fall protection and rigging supplies. Today, TUF-TUG operates an advanced manufacturing facility with capabilities that include full metal fabrication, testing and technical application engineering, and the ability to design custom solutions for unique applications.

Under New Management

Three years ago, the family-owned company was purchased by a private equity group that made investments to position the company for the future, including a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. The new owner hired a management team, and Michael Robinson, who has more than 20 years of experience in the manufacturing industry, became CEO.

“We are doing a lot to scale the business and to be more proactive,” Robinson said. “We are fortunate that we have inherited a company that has a remarkable reputation. People have such a tremendous regard for TUF-TUG because they have faith in the product and the engineering behind it. We can build on that success and take advantage of some great opportunities.”

The Differentiator

The key to TUF-TUG’s success from the beginning has been listening to the customer, which has led to the development of customized products to fit the unique needs of tower climbers. Another characteristic that TUF-TUG believes sets them apart is their penchant to over-engineer products, providing additional hardware for safety and durability.

“We have always taken the needs of the tower climbers into consideration through talking with them and the engineers,” said Dawn Smith, Sales Representative at TUF-TUG. “This company has done really well in using the voice of the customer to develop products. We exceed standards and build our products to be double-safe. If you need one swage, we use two. If you need two bolts, we use four.”

The company watches the tower construction segment closely to stay abreast of new varieties of towers as they come on the market. The company has designed a plethora of brackets and attachment points to fit different structures.

Duck and Dive

The company doesn’t expect that to change. Even as TUF-TUG moves to the next level, Robinson is committed to preserving the entrepreneurial flair that allowed it to be dynamic and agile in its development of products. “We’re certainly not like some of our larger competitors, we recognize that. But what that means is we can be a lot nimbler,” Robinson said.

The new management team has been growing gradually over the last three years with the addition of a quality manager, an operations manager, a VP of sales and marketing, and an additional engineer, according to Robinson. “What is just as important, maybe even more important, is the established people at this company, because some of these folks have been in this business for 30+ years,” Robinson said. “We need to make sure that we retain the right kind of talent.”

Robinson said existing employees combined with people who have expertise from outside of the industry is complementary. “I think what is unique about the culture is the combination of the established people who have tremendous knowledge and experience in the industry and the product plus people who have broad experience outside of the telecom industry,” Robinson said.

TUF-TUG can customize any product, if the user can provide them with a drawing or pictures, according to Dan Higey, VP, Sales and Marketing at TUF-TUG. “A climber can come to us with a situation where they have an obstacle that they need to go around or through,” he said. “We will work with them to tailor the bracketry, so that climbers have a safe climb, and also ensure it’s simple for them to scale up and down.”

The Future

Even as TUF-TUG embraces a future of growth, Robinson is intent on honoring the foundation that made the company successful. He abhors complacency. He encourages his employees, old and new, to bring together their knowledge, brainstorm new products and think forward. He believes that, collectively, “hundreds and hundreds of new ideas add up to a huge amount of value.”

TUF-TUG is a platinum sponsor NATE UNITE 2023, February 20- 23.  You can visit them in Booth 629. TUF-TUG will have a presentation at the show on Tuesday, February 21 at 2:30 pm.

For more information, please visit https://tuf-tug.com/. Or, you can follow TUF-TUG on Instagram, Facebook, or LinkedIn.

By J. Sharpe Smith, Inside Towers Technology Editor

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