International Construction Equipment (ICE®) is the largest supplier of pile driving and drilling equipment in North America. The business offers the largest rental fleet in the industry, with a global distribution network and one of the most complete lines of deep foundation equipment available. Pollyanna Cunningham, Vice President Marketing, Brand and Media Relations at ICE® shares her insights into the sector.
“I went to Pennsylvania State University and then spent 12 years in management working for the hospitality giant, Disney, in Orlando, Florida, alongside completing two advanced master’s degrees. While I wouldn’t change my experiences for anything, as I learned an incredible amount from many inspirational leaders, the business was consistently downsized and opportunities for growth became increasingly restrictive to someone in their younger years. So, I left the industry and went to work for a company that owned a patent on a business method to procure customized manufactured goods and services. It was a software package on the surface but a true game-changer for business methods, adding bottom line profit for all clients. I spent most of my time marketing and deploying it to international customers. Canada was my biggest success, and I worked my way up from entry level sales to a vice presidency. It was during this time that I met my husband and was asked to do some marketing to help the sales team at his company, ICE®. I continued there, and as any capable person, you learn and evolve alongside the organization. I worked for him and the supporting organizations, which I still find very rewarding, and I’m proud to be part of such a team.
“I always must love what I do. If I don’t have a passion for the industry, I don’t have a passion for the outcome. I like to be involved and I think I found my niche in pile driving and drilling. I love this industry and the people in it. I work very hard to promote the sector with educational programming, working with my competitors, and supporting those that like to get involved. It’s important to look at how far the pile driving industry has come in the past five years, let alone over 20, and this gives me a passion to advocate for this highly specialized sector,” she enthuses.
“While my experience facilitates planning and enhanced communication, alongside an extensive understanding of software, integrations, and major operating solutions, I bring more than marketing to the table. I have been able to transform our network, security and technology innovation to a whole new level,” she explains.
“The average tenure at ICE® is over 30 years. So, there are some serious experts and innovators in this organization and moreover, among the wider industry. I ask questions, go onsite, listen to people’s suggestions and subsequently, create internal think-tanks to come up with solutions to concerns. Surrounding yourself with great people and being in the right environment helps you do what you need to do.
“I do a lot of work with associations like the Pile Driving Contractors Association (PDCA), the Deep Foundations Institute (DFI), and the International Association of Foundation Drilling (ADSC-IAFD). Over the past 16 years, I have worked within these organizations, learning from everyone I meet and have been privileged enough to sit on various boards. I was Chairman of the PDCA’s Communications Committee, and during that tenure helped build it from four to six editions a year. A couple of years ago, I chose to turn the publication back over to the organization and move into developing the first of its kind, Driven Pile Academy. Additionally, for the past three years, I sat as the Chairman of DFI’s Driven Pile and Marine Foundations’ Committee where I developed a web series known as !mpact, amongst other initiatives. When my term was up, I began working with a team of professionals on a foundation document to help contractors better understand driven pile and its techniques.
“The ADSC-IAFD has a group of women in construction that have come together, and I have been asked to create a pre-program for them about pile driving terminology to be delivered in front of an audience at IFCEE, a large foundation construction event coming up in 2024. I’ve learned through the years that being a promoter or marketer is not just about showcasing innovation, it is more importantly about teaching people. At ICE®, we call ourselves a one-stop foundation shop, and when we exhibit at shows and events, I work tirelessly to make sure all the niche experts are in place to teach the engineers and construction teams about the equipment, material, and processes. The clients that visit us can test and gain a professional development credit at the end of these highly specialized sessions, free of charge. This approach and offering helps me to sleep at night, knowing that those attending will learn enough to at least be able to ask informed questions on a jobsite, if not more. I think if you can learn directly from a manufacturer how to carry out a technique, it brings additional benefits in terms of safer operations,” Pollyanna asserts.
As the driven pile industry continues to transition, the equipment industry is at the forefront of education through experience and innovation. As a member of the PDCA’s Associate Member Council, Pollyanna is instrumental in creating a new, hands-on educational academy for the driven pile industry. She calls it the Contractors Foundation Institute (CFI). As of today, this niche institute works with the PDCA in the creation of the Driven Pile Academy and covers set-up, stand-up and safety of driven pile projects. The pilot program was held in 2022 and proved to be a huge success with continuing education and professional development credits distributed to attendees. CFI’s Driven Pile Academy was unique as it provided onsite training with an ideal instructor-to-student ratio, enabling an individualized and enjoyable learning experience. This 3.5-day academy included both in-classroom and outdoor interactive experience with real world application taught by the industry’s leading equipment professionals. “The academy was such a resounding success,” Pollyanna enthuses, “that it was agreed it should be rerun over the coming years.” The next Driven Pile Academy will run in 2025 and include even more innovation on driven pile methods.
Owned and operated by two families, ICE® is a US manufacturer with longevity and extensive knowledge that has helped to push the business forward. “We have been through transitional times,” Pollyanna explains, “and have experienced many retirements over the past five or six years. That said, our new team members are instrumental to our growth, and we’ve continued to manufacture and set ourselves apart from the competition which mainly comprises resellers. We own branches across North America that house our own rental equipment, and the ICE® family has worked hard to ensure that we can service, as well as provide rental and new equipment. Our service teams and locations are extensive and have really helped our clients be successful. We care about the sector. We work in it, donate to it, and are all about being right at the forefront of it.”
In terms of how far the sector has come and strategies for the future, Pollyanna believes it’s important to take time to understand all implications when moving to the next steps and particularly, when it comes to sustainability transitions. “Leaders need to evaluate the pros and cons of potential initiatives and then take the appropriate steps to reach a resolution rather than rushing into proposals and potentially, enforcing the wrong reform. As a manufacturer, we don’t want to get left behind and we won’t get left behind, because we’re always working on more sustainable innovation. I do feel there needs to be a deeper appreciation for where all manufacturers and advancements are right now. Honestly, I wonder what the solution is for dealing with used solar panels, for example, as most can’t be recycled. Equally, how do we deal with batteries that have reached the end of their life cycle? I don’t have the answers, but I do think conversations and taking the time to plan the next steps would help everyone move forward with sustainability initiatives.
“For obvious reasons, I believe more support of US manufacturing should be at the top of the agenda for the driven pile and drilling industry. Safety also needs to be an interactive conversation and I don’t think there’s anybody better in the industry to lead that conversation than the folks who are manufacturing the equipment and those who are using it. Therefore,” she concludes, “education surrounding techniques and how the equipment is used is crucial. Hence, my vision for not only the Driven Pile Academy, but also wanting CFI to encompass more. Just because things have been done a certain way before, doesn’t mean we can’t improve on it today.”