Another unique Columbus business: Ashley Sling, Inc.

March 26, 2009

John Dorroh - traveler2@cableone.net

 

When my mother had cataract surgery back in the 1980s, she forgot that she was not supposed to lift any object heavier than a few pounds. Since it was Thanksgiving and she always cooked the meal for two families, she figured that that is what she would do. 

 

When she tried to pull her heavy cast iron skillet from the bottom of the oven, it pulled the muscles around her eye. 

 

"OUCH!" she screamed. It was the first holiday that my mother ate in a restaurant. 

 

I experienced the same sort of pain from attempting to lift my suitcase for a trip after my appendix had ruptured on my 40th birthday. And again last year when I pulled a groin muscle playing racquetball. 

 

 

 

Science in action 

 

Machines lighten our heavy loads. Levers, pulleys, wheels, and other such simple machines help humans to virtually move mountains. 

 

Last week I visited Allen Pruett, branch manager of Ashley Sling Inc. He explained what they do and how they do it. What started as a potentially benign subject quickly intrigued me. I kept asking myself, "How many Columbus folks even know that this place exists?" 

 

There are seven branches of Ashley Sling: Atlanta, Ga; Charlotte, N.C.; Chattanooga, Tenn., Knoxville, Tenn., Nashville, Tenn., Norcross, Ga., and here in Columbus. They produce customized quality lifting products, wire rope, and all types of slings and rigging supplies. Ladies and gentlemen, we are talking TONS of lifting force. 

 

Ashley Sling is just one more business in the Golden Triangle about which most people are unaware. They complement the work of several larger businesses such as SeverCorr/Severstal and Burkhalter Rigging. It is a healthy meshing of forces, no puns intended. 

 

 

 

Starting at the bottom ... experience is the teacher 

 

In 1983 Pruett started working for a sling manufacturer in Chattanooga, Tennessee. 

 

"I worked up from the bottom," he said. "I installed cabinets at first, and then I realized that I needed a job that offered health insurance. I really didn''t know much at all about the business I had gone to work for." Over the last 25 years however, Pruett has learned more than any classroom textbook could attempt to teach. 

 

"We have a zero tolerance for error," Pruett said. "There is really no place that a person can go to learn in a classroom what we do. Some of our people have degrees in engineering and other related fields, but the knowledge here comes from experience...our key operating word is service, making sure that our customers are happy with the products that we make for them." 

 

 

 

Product specificity 

 

When you think about chains and slings that lift objects weighing several tons, you can begin to understand why there cannot be any miscalculations or mistakes made. Each and every job at Ashley Sling is customized, specifically designed for only one task. It is definitely not a "one size fits all" operation. 

 

"We have made chains for SeverCorr/Severstal that lift 100 tons," Pruett said. 

 

Every item is tested for at least two times what it can hold. I saw two employees, Mike Phillips, and Edward Kyser, test a 20-foot 1-inch chain that was made to lift 47,000 pounds. Its test load was over 95,000 pounds, while its breaking strength was a whopping 190,800 pounds. 

 

And if you think that''s something, Ashley Sling recently installed a new test machine in its Atlanta office that will pull up to 1.8 million pounds! 

 

I witnessed the test-breaking of a nylon sling, which was being pulled inside a metal cage that would prevent any flying debris to hurt innocent bystanders -- me. When the material reached its breaking point, I heard an elastic snap and saw what appeared to be a fine white powder "poof" into the air around it. (Usually the breaking point is five times its capacity.) 

 

Each test is computerized and graphed with easy-to-read data. Ashley operates under strict ANSI and OSHA guidelines, standards-enforcement organizations, and they are members of AWRF. 

 

Ashley Sling also sells fall-protection harnesses, some of which are retractable, and all other sorts of safety equipment. 

 

"We also conduct customized training sessions, lasting from 30 minutes up to three days," Pruett added. 

 

"The community has supported us in every way that it can," said Pruett. "I think that we truly ''found our fit'' here in Columbus." 

 

Ashley Sling, Inc. is located mid-city at 1824 3rd Avenue North directly behind Johnson Carpets on Hwy. 182. Their website is www.ashleysling.com and you can reach them via e-mail at apruett@ashley sling.com. 

 

Reba Bohon, office manager, is probably the first person you will see when you walk into the office. She said, "I like working here with these folks....it''s like family." No doubt she has her hands full trying to keep everyone in line. 

 

They arrive at the office early and stay late. Hours vary according to the jobs. 

 

 

 

John Dorroh is a semi-retired high school science teacher, who writes a business column for The Dispatch. E-mail John with your business news or column ideas at traveler2@cableone.net.

John Dorroh is a semi-retired high school science teacher, who writes a business column for The Dispatch.