Reab Berry

Customer service, GIW style

“We sold our first dredge pump in 1948. Not everyone knows this; but dredge customers have always been important to us,” Berry says.

They’re also important to Berry personally; thanks to one dredge customer’s problem early in Berry’s career, he received an unforgettable lesson in, what he calls, “customer service, GIW style.”

Tom Hagler Jr. (right), Pat Smith (left), and a guest (middle) by the plane in the 60s.

Tom Hagler Jr. (right), Pat Smith (left), and a guest (middle) by the plane in the 60s.

In 1963, when Berry was still a student and working with GIW as a draftsman through a co-op program at Georgia Tech, a dredge customer in North Carolina called needing an emergency pump shaft replacement. Berry recalls the incredible story of how they managed to have a new shaft machined, delivered, and installed in 24 hours.

“It takes about 12 hours to machine a large shaft, and we got it started right away. They spent all night machining the shaft, and then, early in the morning, Chief Engineer Tom Hagler Jr. and I loaded it up in Tom’s giant station wagon, drove out to Bush Field where we kept GIW’s company plane — which was our customer service workhorse in those days — and strapped down the shaft in the back of the airplane.

“It took us about two hours to get to Cape Hatteras with Tom as the pilot and me as the co-pilot. When we got there, I quickly realized there was no airstrip, but Tom descended anyway and began circling over the dredge, where I saw someone waving a hard hat at us. That man got on a barge, went to shore, got in a pickup truck, and drove to the main highway along the island where he stopped the traffic — so Tom lined up and landed right on the highway!

“We taxied to a Holiday Inn, parked the airplane, and loaded the shaft into the back of the pickup truck. We spent all day on the dredge installing the new shaft. That evening, we went back to the Holiday Inn and had supper with the dredge crew — and flew home.”

As Berry’s story illustrates, all the engineering knowledge and manufacturing speed in the world wouldn’t be valuable without excellent customer service to back it up — which is exactly what GIW employees strive to do.

“If we had done that delivery by truck, it would’ve taken three to four days, and that was unacceptable to us.” Berry recalls. “And that was my introduction to customer service, GIW style: If you need something, we pull out all the stops!”

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