CMR Crane & Rigging Inc.
- Written by: Matt Dodge
- Produced by: Shaun Emery
- Estimated reading time: 5 mins
Based in Woodbridge, Virginia, CMR Crane & Rigging LLC (CMR) is a family-owned and -operated commercial crane, rigging and heavy lift operation serving mechanical, electrical and plumbing contractors throughout the Washington, D.C., metro area and beyond.
“Anything that’s big and heavy and hard to move, that’s what we do,” says Chip Lee, president, manager and part owner at CMR.
CMR was founded in 1993 as Commercial Rigging Incorporated by Lee’s father-in-law, Glen Cooper, a 45-year industry veteran who started the company with one pickup truck and a single employee. By the late ‘90s, Commercial Rigging had expanded into a 55-vehicle, 80-employee company and was quickly building a reputation for itself in the D.C. metro area as a leading crane and rigging operator.
CMR was recently purchased by Glen’s three sons Cliff, Troy and RC Cooper, son-in-law Lee and a nephew David Weedon, who rebranded the company as CMR Crane & Rigging LLC in November 2015. The company now employs 30 people, including 10 family members, who can step in and perform any job the project might require. “We’re basically a backup crew. There are five of us here who can pick up the slack if we need an extra driver, rigger or crane operator and it would be slightly easier to downsize is we had to because we could cover all aspects,” Lee says.
From its 7-acre, 30,000-square-foot headquarters in Woodbridge, CMR’s geographical footprint stretches from just west of Baltimore down to Fredericksburg, Maryland, some 75 miles. “We do a couple jobs outside of that area but they are few and far between because the cost of moving something big is outrageous,” says Lee.
CMR holds all major relevant industry safety certifications, including Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and EM 385 — the safety certification system used by the U.S. military. The company performs rigging and crane services using its stable of five cranes, ranging in size from a 12-ton boom truck to a 210-ton Link-Belt crane.
All of CMR’s riggers and crane operators are certified in their field, including several master lead riggers who also belong to Local Steamfitters Union 602 and Local Operators Engineer Union 77. The company’s fleet of cranes, flat-bed and tractor-trailer trucks are all emblazoned with the familiar white and teal color scheme common to all of the company’s equipment.
“It’s a pretty nice sight when it’s set up around D.C. and it’s got our name on the side,” Lee says of the company’s newest 210-ton Link-Belt crane. “They don’t even need to see the name because they know white and teal means CMR.”
The company also performs a majority of its own hauling work, but contracts out loads above 80,000 pounds and uses two permitting companies to help cut down on paperwork. “We could do it, but then you’re talking a lot of permitting and getting pilot cars. Most of the time when we do something like that we hire outside companies to do the permitting or haul super loads,” says Lee.
CMR has a fleet of forklifts ranging in capacity from 3,000 pounds to 25,000 pounds and performs a range of warehouse services, including handling in/out, as well as inside storage and 5 acres of outside storage. The company also prepares its own safety rigging and lift plans, and an in-house team of sales staff chases new leads and projects.
Capturing the Capital market
Working in the greater Washington, D.C., area affords CMR the opportunity to perform many high-profile projects and establish relationships within the often lucrative government contract market. In summer 2015, CMR completed a massive institutional project that included installing three 85,000-pound, water-cooled chillers on the George Washington University campus in D.C. While CMR did not haul the chillers to the site due to their size, it used a crane to gently guide the massive chilling units through the campus building.
While the George Washington University project did not present any major obstacles, CMR often has to work around dated architectural quirks. “50 percent of the work we do is on roofs and 50 percent is in basements. Obviously the roof stuff is easy, but basement access is tough sometimes; engineers didn’t think of that 50 years ago when they were building those buildings,” says Lee.
One job that took place back when CMR was still operating as Commercial Rigging Incorporated illustrates the company’s reputation in the D.C. metro area. At one point we had to lift a piece of metal from the World Trade Center remains, stored in a warehouse in Northern Virginia, so the designers of the Bush Library could decide how it would be displayed
Rigged for success
Pre-planning is the name of the game when it comes to running a crane and rigging company. “It’s a big move or lift it’s usually pre-planned a month in advance and permitted correctly to make sure we can move stuff from point A to point B,” says Lee.
The next generation of leadership at CMR aims to double the business coming through the crane and rigging company in the next few years and plans to invest in new employees and equipment. “We would like to get to 50 employees and made a couple more cranes and a couple more tractor-trailers,” says Lee.
With the seasonal switchover happening, CMR currently has as much work as it can handle. “When the heat is cut off, we are replacing heat and when the AC is cut off, we’re replacing AC. We’re in that phase right now,” he says.
CMR holds weekly meetings where management tracks numbers and other metrics to ensure the company’s longevity. “I’m a big numbers guy. I look at trends and forecasts and projections with my sales staff all the time” he says.
Lee says the family-owned aspect of CMR, along with the ability to support the livelihood of its employees, gives him the biggest sense of pride. “I’ve worked at big companies before, but this is a family business and your actions will definitely affect your employees, so it gives me a big sense of pride to know that because I’m doing something right I’m able to keep 29 other people employed,” Lee says.
With a strong history of family leadership, a new generation with its sights set on expanding the business and a solid reputation among mechanical contractors in the Washington, D.C., metro area, CMR Crane & Rigging LLC will remain a leader in the industry for years to come.
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