Steady commitment to customers, industry, and workforce keeps Ashley Sling positioned for long-term success.
BY: Mike Chalmers
Founded in 1992, Ashley Sling, Inc. is a proud leader in the wire rope and rigging industry, whose mission is to provide customers with the highest quality products and services. A family founded company headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, with locations in Charlotte (NC), Columbus (MS), and Knoxville (TN), Ashley celebrated 30 years in business in March of this year.
Across that span, Ashley has comprised a broad inventory of product categories—from wire ropes, lifting products, and sheaves to synthetic ropes, fall protection, and pretty much everything in between. To top it off, they also provide a robust offering of training courses and seminars, as well as load testing and rigging inspections.
In fact, three decades of growth and expansion has positioned Ashley as a leading manufacturer and distributor of below-the-hook lifting devices and rigging supplies.
That said, according to Marketing Director Julianne Jordan, the company’s story goes back even farther. “Greg, David, and Mike Ashley – current owners of Ashley Sling – actually all began working at a wire rope and sling fabrication company owned by their father Robert Ashley and his partners. They worked in various roles at the company—each starting in the workshop, learning the fabrication process, and eventually earning their way into sales roles.”
At that point, Robert Ashley had already become an integral part of Atlanta’s wire rope and sling industry—with a legacy that began with the opening of Superior Rope & Sling in 1971, where his sons later began their careers. Ultimately, Robert influenced many aspects of the industry, which included his assistance in the founding of Associated Wire Rope Fabricators (AWRF).
After Robert’s retirement, his sons eventually decided to make their own mark. “Once Robert decided to retire and sell Superior Rope & Sling, Greg, David, and Mike remained at the company for a while before deciding to start a business of their own,” explained Jordan. “And Ashley Sling, Inc. was launched in 1992.”
The Right Combination
In addition to their previous experience at a wire rope manufacturer, the Ashley brothers decided their emphasis would be on quality products and exceptional services. “Any company can put together a cheaply made product and sell it, but they wanted to offer quality products that would last,” Jordan emphasized. “Pair that with their remarkable customer service, and it kept customers returning.”
And return they did. Throughout the next 30 years, business grew steadily, new locations emerged, and the workforce grew. “We now have around eighty employees across our four locations—many of whom have been with us for many years,” confirmed Jordan. “That level of commitment and loyalty is a testament to how Greg, David, and Mike operate their business.”
Internal promotion is an important part of Ashley’s success over the years, added Jordan. “The majority of our customer service and sales team began in the workshop. The knowledge of the fabrication process and what goes into creating our products truly helps our team best assist our customers. Our warehouse staff are extremely hard working—it takes a lot of technical skill, manpower, and attention to detail to make these slings properly.”
That combination has allowed Ashley to productively evolve its product range over time. “Initially, we focused primarily on wire rope, wire rope slings, nylon web slings, and chain slings,” indicated Jordan, “but we’ve also continued to develop slings based on our customers’ needs—whether that be roundslings, wire mesh slings, sling protection, and more.”
Additionally, she said, Ashley has made the most of its relationships. “It has allowed us to become distributors of high-quality rigging equipment. We’re very proud of our partnerships with brands such as Modulift, Crosby, Harrington, Samson, WRI, and more.”
Promise of Longevity
In addition to customer needs and relationships, market influences have also shaped Ashley’s forward momentum. “The emphasis on safety in the industry has driven an evolution of products in our business,” Jordan pointed out. “Sling protection as well as fall-protection/safety equipment have become highly sought-after products.”
To that end, with sling protection in such high demand, Ashley ultimately developed their own, comprehensive TUFF-ASH® Sling Protection product line—with options for almost every lifting need. “We offer a variety of different products with the goals of aiding longer sling life, preventing abrasion and cutting, protecting the load, and keeping riggers safe,” said Jordan, adding that TUFF-ASH® Sling Armor is their most popular, and strongest, option—a lightweight sleeve made with the finest Dyneema® tubing.
“And not only do we set our customers up for success with the best harnesses, hats, high-vis gear, and other essentials,” she noted, “but we also try to anticipate our customers’ needs by offering new products on the market—like hands-free safety tools for example.”
According to Jordan, there has also been increased customer demand for lighter weight, yet equally strong, slings. “We’ve seen an increase in synthetic rope slings, especially those made with Dyneema® or similar fibers.”
That said, the majority of orders at Ashley are custom fabrication. “While it largely depends on the application, our sales staff is well-equipped to work through what rigging will be best suited for our customers,” Jordan said. “And if needed, our territory managers visit sites to discuss the best way to accomplish what they need.”
The level of customer service and attention to detail led to Ashley eventually opening additional locations in Charlotte, Knoxville, and then Columbus. Each location was developed from the ground up rather than acquired, and part of an opportunity that Ashley felt offered the promise of longevity.
Evolution being what it is, Jordan also explained that, while day-to-day products and services have grown considerably with expansion, the company culture has remained familiar. “While we’ve grown, we still try to maintain that small business feeling in terms of connection with our team and our customers,” she said. “We want our team to feel like they are part of the family and are appreciated for all of the hard work they contribute.”
Load testing, sling inspection, and rigging training services have increased greatly over the last 30 years at Ashley, said Jordan. “We’ve seen an increase over the years of more slings needing load testing and certification, and as our product offerings have grown, we’ve had to do more break-testing of products to establish design factors for the new offerings.”
Ashley boasts multiple load test machines at each location, including the “Iron Mule”—a 1.8-million-pound, 120-foot-long test machine at their Atlanta location. “Sling inspections and rigging training have grown so much over the years and are such a big part of our value-added services that we added a field inspection manager and a training manager to our staff who work directly with our territory managers to schedule all of our customers inspections and training needs,” observed Jordan.
“And the need for training has grown substantially over the last few years—so much so, that we have a training manager on staff that creates content for the courses and coordinates and performs our seminars,” she added.
One of Ashley’s most popular courses is the Qualified Rigger and Crane Signal course—conducted at their training facility in Atlanta. “But we also go directly to the customer and do trainings in factories and jobsites,” she noted. “We feel we offer some of the best rigging training courses in our industry, and because of the quality of our offerings, we stay booked up for our trainings.”
In addition to popular courses, some of Ashley’s more popular products include Modulift spreader beams and sling protection.
Doing Its Part
Thirty years of steady growth and expansion will also find a company doing its part as a steward of the industries it serves. In this case, Ashley is a member of AWRF, SC&RA (Specialized Carriers & Rigging Association), and WSTDA (Web Sling & Tie Down Association).
“We’ve been members of AWRF since early on,” said Jordan. “And we attend various meetings and events for AWRF and WSTDA—where we’re part of the Round Sling Technical Committee and Web Sling Technical Committee. Sam Socolow—our Director of Operations and Training—is the chair of the Testing Committee in WSTDA.”
As for their customers’ associations, Ashley is a member of SC&RA, SEAA (Steel Erectors Association of America) and currently has a member on the Safety Committee at AGC (Associated General Contractors of America).
“The associations keep up to date on current standards and different practices so that we can continue to evolve our business and give our customers the best, and safest, products and services,” she affirmed.
Not a bad formula for longevity, especially when success starts from within, added Jordan. “Infrastructure is such a vital part of every community, and we believe there will always be a need for our type of industry. Ultimately, we’re thankful that we have so many dedicated members of our team to continue growing the business and providing quality products.”
For more information, visit www.ashleysling.com.
This article originally appeared in the March/April 2022 issue of Wire Rope Exchange.