Marc Stragier, Heil's new products manager since 1991, received industry-wide recognition last year when he was inducted into the Washington, D.C.-based Environment Industry Associations Hall of Fame.
Known as the “Father of Automation” in the waste industry, Stragier holds 11 waste industry patents, including one for the Rapid Rail automated collection system.
Stragier began his career in the public works department in Scottsdale, Ariz., during the 1960s. He credits that experience for inspiring him to explore new and better ways of collecting trash.
A particular inspiration was the desert heat, which led him to explore ways to make the work easier on collection crews. Stragier's first instinct was to buy some kind of automated truck, but there weren't any on the market in 1966.
“If the industry couldn't do it, we started thinking maybe we could do it ourselves,” Stragier recalls.
With U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) funding and the help of the Scottsdale staff, Stragier designed and built something called “Godzilla,” a gargantuan front-end loader assembly with forklift arms. Godzilla could pick up anything, Stragier says.
As the first automated trash collection device, Godzilla actually “picked up” the entire refuse collection industry, leading to the development of today's sophisticated front, side and rear loader automated technologies.
Over the years, Stragier continued to develop new automated collection ideas, and in 1974, he used his pension to start a company that might turn his ideas into products. Under the banner of Government Innovators, Stragier developed the Rapid Rail system, a lift capable of reaching out 8 feet and picking up containers as heavy as 2,000 pounds.
In 1990, Heil took notice of stragier's Rapid Rail innovation and bought Government Innovators, installing Stragier as the company's new products manager.
Since then, Stragier has worked on a variety of new products including Heil's STARR trailerization concept and SOFAST, a collection vehicle capable of lifting commercial containers from the front or the side with telescoping arms that do not require backing away from the container after dumping.
Stragier currently is working on a smaller version of the Rapid Rail lift, a self-aligning container, and a quick-disconnect hydraulic manifold.
Waste industry automation couldn't be in better hands.