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Harrington Hoists: The Importance of Behind-the-Scenes Product Manufacturing


You bought the tickets several months ago, and the night is finally here. You are at the theatre to see an off-Broadway production that has received rave reviews, or at an arena to hear one of your all-time favorite bands. There is an atmosphere of expectation as you check your watch and see that it is time for the show to start. Suddenly, the curtain opens and the production is under way.

Few, if any, of us would give a second thought to how the curtain was opened. But opening stage curtains reliably is a primary concern for a company called Harrington Hoists, which has its U.S. headquarters in Manheim, Pennsylvania; and two other factories in Corona, California, and Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania. The latter facility, affectionately called their E-Town plant, is making products previously produced in Japan, where the parent company, Kito Corporation, is based. And stage curtains for concert halls, arenas, and theatres only scratch the surface of the hoist products that their workforce makes.

Beyond entertainment-center applications, Harrington produces manual, electric, air-chain and wire-rope hoists, as well as complete crane systems, most of which are used in advanced industrial settings. Capacity ranges from one-eighth of a ton to 20 tons or more. As one satisfied customer, Stu Fenton of Ritz-Craft Homes, put it, “We have chosen Harrington because of the precision we require at the placement of any component.” He said their products allow for “smooth movement of our mammoth floor, wall and roof systems by giving us better weight distribution of our loads and the headroom we need for flexibility.” Put another way, Harrington’s manufactured goods make other manufacturers more productive and capable.  

Back to the entertainment industry, Harrington has developed a new product called the TNER theatrical hoist that gives set designers and stage crews more flexibility for a variety of venues. Harrington says the hoist, which is housed in a durable aluminum exterior, incorporates the world’s most reliable brake, and the simple design means there is no coil to fail or disc to wear out. After a performance, it can easily be packed and sent to the next venue on the tour.

The company traces its history to the year 1854, when a machinist in Vermont named Edwin Harrington founded his machine tool business. He moved the operations to the Philadelphia area a few years later, and began focusing exclusively on the hoist market in 1867, just two years after the conclusion of the Civil War. Ownership changed hands several times in the decades that followed, with Kito purchasing it in 1990. The California facility opened in 1993, and is now three times its original size.

Whether a hoist is being used in an advanced-manufacturing factory or in a 20,000-seat arena, it is a great example of a “behind-the-scenes” product that makes up an important segment of manufacturing in North America.