Equipment manufacturer benefits from RIT connections

Frank Wenzel '89, vice president of engineering, and Lynne Woodworth, president and COO, are among many RIT grads at Stone Construction Equipment Co. Woodworth and her 215 co-workers are proud to say they have hearts of Stone.

Stone Construction Equipment Inc. "is a 100 percent employee-owned, American manufacturer," says Woodworth '86 (business administration), president and chief operating officer. "That sets us apart. As owners, we know the only way we can be successful is if our customers are successful. We're really focused on that."

Stone designs, manufactures and markets more than 370 products categorized as light construction equipment. Stone produces concrete and mortar mixers, dirt and asphalt compactors, power trowels and concrete and masonry saws at a 150,000 square-foot facility in Honeoye, a rural community about 25 miles south of Rochester. Stone products are sold in 86 countries, competing with Japanese and German companies that dominate the industry.

It's a challenging, dynamic industry, says Woodworth, "but we continue to grow."

The company takes pride in technological innovation, both with product features and business practices. Stone was among the first companies in the industry to introduce an e-commerce Web site for customers.

RIT plays a part in the company's success. Many key employees are RIT grads, and the company has provided co-op jobs for RIT students. Stone frequently seeks expertise from RIT's Kate Gleason College of Engineering, Center for Integrated Manufacturing Studies and National Center for Remanufacturing and Resource Recovery.

"We feel very blessed that we have access to such a great resource," says Woodworth, who joined the company 21 years ago as corporate communications officer, and took a path to the presidency via marketing, sales, and engineering. Along the way, she took night classes at RIT to complete her degree. The many roles and hard-earned education gave her a good understanding of the company and the industry. She was promoted to her current job in 1999.

Frank Wenzel '89 (manufacturing engineering technology), vice president of engineering, says the practical emphasis of the RIT education is a good fit for Stone.

"You wear a lot of hats in a smaller company," he notes. "We start with an idea and turn it into a product, see it being built, then work with the customer who will use it. The engineers are involved from start to finish."

That sort of flexibility is a company strength, says Woodworth, who characterizes Stone as "market driven with an intense customer focus." Because the employees own the company, there's open sharing of information from financial data to marketing strategy.

"Our four cornerstones are trust, respect, communication and development," explains Woodworth. "The cornerstones drive our operation."

For more on Stone, visit the company Web site at www.stone-equip.com.

The University Magazine, Fall 2003