The Millstone Companies and GEDA USA Partner Up

Patiently and with a rock-solid work ethic and calculated business sense, John Miller, president of the Millstone Companies has grown his once small-time family access business into a goliath in the Mid-Atlantic region, and he’s managed to do so in a manner that has garnered him and his company respect in a highly competitive industry.

So it comes as no surprise that when Charles Clutter, who joined GEDA USA in 2010 as regional sales man- ager, was tasked with expanding the company’s presence towards the east, the first call he made was to Miller.

For Miller, 2010 wasn’t the right time, but Clutter recognized the potential of a partnership with the company and continued to pursue it. Why? Respect for Millstone’s reputation in the access industry, and its foundation in the Mid-Atlantic region.

“Millstone has been in business for several decades, and we were a German OEM looking for a strategic alliance partner on the Eastern Seaboard; it didn’t take long for us to pinpoint them as a potential partner,” says Clutter. “The company had all the criteria we were looking for, including the lack of commitment to another construction elevator manufacturer.”

As it turns out, patience does indeed pay off.

For Miller, January 2012 proved to be the right time, and after several years of courting, GEDA USA secured an order for fi ve brand new rack and pinion PH 2737 6,000-lb. construction hoists from Millstone Enterprises. In November of that same year, the new hoists arrived, marking yet another turning point in Millstone’s 32-year history. With an order for five more PH 2737s to be complete at the end of November 2013, the timing is finally right to formally announce the Millstone/GEDA USA partnership.

“The last five years in the construction industry have been a series of ups and downs with no consistent growth.” explains Miller. “Trying to time this expansion has been like trying to hit a moving target. And now with this global economy, increased lead times, and working with German engineers to get the absolute best hoist made for our market, the timing has seemed to fall into place.”

Today, and with the addition of the GEDA line of rack and pinion construction hoists, Millstone boasts the newest hoist fleet in the industry and one of North America’s largest.

Solid Foundations
Founded in 1977 by his father, Miller, an SAIA past president and current member of Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC)- Metro Washington’s Board of Directors, took over the company in 1984 with expansion in mind. Since then he has grown Millstone from a hoist operation primarily, to near equal parts hoists, supported, and suspended scaffold products—providing sales, rentals, service, maintenance, testing, training, engineering, and parts to the Mid- Atlantic region, with targets specifically set on D.C., Maryland, and Virginia.

Under the Millstone umbrella are three companies including, Millstone Corp., the scaffold operation, Millstone Enterprises, the hoist operation, and Millstone Erectors, the labor operation. Based in Upper Marlboro, Md., Miller juggles them all out of the company’s 50,000-sq.-ft. facility.

With a reputation for spending a little more to ensure quality and a safety record that’s been recognized 12 consecutive times by the ABC Metro-Washington Chapter, Millstone has won contracts to have its equipment deck out many of D.C.’s most recognizable landmarks. The company’s hoist fleet has provided access at one time or another on the White House, U.S. Capitol, Pentagon, The Department of Justice, The Department of the Interior, Department of the Treasury, State Department, Department of Commerce, the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, and the list goes on.

“Today we’re a split of 60% hoists and 40% scaffolds,” says Miller. “Eventually we’d like our product mix to be equal between the three segments, as these products do not steal from one another, but grow independently.”

GEDA USA, on the other hand, has roots that began in Germany in 1929 and over its many decades providing vertical access equipment including industrial elevators, construction hoists, material hoists, and transport platforms, the company’s product lines now spread across all seven continents.

“GEDA is no ‘Johnny come lately,’” asserts Clutter. “Once he decided to take the leap to own this equipment, John competitively bid the contract and at the end of the day GEDA was the right fit. That says something.”

“We have worked with all the primary hoist manufacturers and decided GEDA was a good fit,” concludes Miller. “They were willing to listen to us, implement design changes, and basically customize the hoist to our specifications. That along with some sage advice from Walter Manning, who basically created the U.S. market for construction hoists, sealed the deal for me.” (Manning is the former president of Champion Hoist, and also founded Century Elevators LLC).

Partnering Up

At the time GEDA first approached Millstone, the company, a former Champion Hoist distributor, had 5,000- lb. material hoists in its fleet, but otherwise did a lot of re-renting when it came to personnel/material hoists.

Pat Kiker, vice president of operations for Millstone, explains, “Nobody worldwide builds a hoist as durable as the Champion Hoist. We still have 72 in our rental fleet. But Champion was purchased by Alimak, and after a few years they discontinued production. Now there are no construction hoists being manufactured in the United States.  Everything is coming from abroad.”

The new partnership now makes Millstone the premier representative for all GEDA products, including not just large construction elevators, but temporary products in general, including material and personnel vertical transportation machines with capacities anywhere from 550 lbs. to 10,000-lb. custom cars. Eventually Millstone will round out its product mix with the inclusion of GEDA transport platforms and mast climbers.

“Right now, we’re working with Millstone to set the foundation for the construction elevators, transport plat- forms, and material hoists in the market,” says Clutter. “The transport platforms are a marquee item for us so we obviously want to push those; mast climbers will come down the road.”

Miller says that while the GEDA construction hoists have fit seamlessly into its current business portfolio, they will more slowly integrate GEDA’s other vertical access products into the mix on a per project basis. Miller explains: “We are a little late to the party with regard to mast climbers and transport platforms and that was our choice. Millstone is first and foremost a scaffold and hoist company and mast climbers compete with traditional scaffold while transport platforms compete with hoists. The GEDA construction hoists have fit seamlessly into our current operations as all are out and we await our next shipments from Germany.”

The ME-6000 Personnel and Material Hoist
Millstone’s five new, custom- designed construction hoists—the ME-6000s—are compliant with ANSI’s A10.4 and meet OSHA regulations. While the details of the design changes are under lock and key, Miller does say he feels the changes and enhancements GEDA engineered make the equipment more applicable to the U.S. marketplace.

The 480-volt, three-phase hoists have a maximum load capacity of 6,000 lbs. or 30 workers, a lifting speed up to 300  fpm, and a maximum lifting height of 1,310 ft. They feature adjust- able tie-in assemblies wherein the hoist tower attaches and is stabilized to a structure with unique telescoping tie-in assem- blies that are placed at 30-ft. intervals. Each tie-in requires just two mounting plates on either a vertical or horizontal surface on the structure, and the length is infi nitely adjustable between the minimum and maximum specifications.

Looking Ahead
“Today we have contracts for the new GEDA/Millstone hoists from Johns Hopkins University, Rockville Town Center, Tyson’s Corner residential, and the Hyatt Place hotel in D.C., with much more in the pipeline,” says Miller.

Clutter contemplates that with Millstone’s solid foundation and strategic relationships in the Mid-Atlantic region, the sky’s the limit for the future of the partnership.

“The Millstone Companies have consistently exceeded client expectations relating to vertical access equipment and solu- tions for over 30 years. Now with the addition of the GEDA line of construction hoists, transport platforms, and other vertical access products, it can introduce GEDA throughout the Mid-Atlantic region and continue to build on its stellar reputation,” says Clutter. “One day, we hope to branch out to other states that benefit both Millstone and GEDA, not just with construction elevators, but with the whole line of products we’re selling. This is just the beginning.”