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Zack ParnellMar 18, 2024 4:06:01 PM8 min read

Remembering Keith Anderson - A Gentleman & Professional Rigging Engineer

Keith Anderson headshot

I was fortunate to meet Keith around 2011, when he was the Chief Rigging Engineer for Bechtel. I was new to ITI and a greenhorn in the industrial training world. I recall wondering, Why is this English rigging savant interested in time with me? And, why does this English gentleman live in Louisville, Kentucky?

Keith had a plan and a purpose that would dispel my quandaries. 

An English Gentleman in Louisville

Bechtel was Keith's final career stop, a company he had served since 2000. This followed a globetrotting career that few experience these days. 

Keith was born in Newcastle, UK and graduated in 1975 with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from Lanchester Polytechnic Coventry. After a period designing high-pressure hydraulic braking system components, in 1979 he joined the world of heavy lifting as an engineer at Kramo Montage, engineering and overseeing specialty lifting and skidding applications using hydraulic gripper climbing jacks. 

Over 17 years, as he rose to Chief Engineer, Keith gained an incredible amount of experience in planning and executing heavy lift projects, as well as designing and engineering high-capacity lifting systems used around the world.

From 1991 to 1996, Keith was the Chief Engineer for Van Seumeren UK (now Mammoet UK). He was responsible for engineering and proposal preparation for heavy lift and specialized transport projects. After a two-year stint managing Sarens in the UK, in 1998, Keith rejoined Van Seumeren working in Utrecht, Netherlands, as a Contracts Manager.

In 2000, Keith joined Bechtel as Senior Rigging Engineer based in London and relocated to the USA in 2001 as Rigging Manager. 

My initial questions of Keith in 2011 were resolved within a few months. (1) Keith was working on a book that he wanted to publish with ITI. (2) Keith was in Louisville to work closely with his predecessor, Ali Mirage, before being promoted to Chief Rigging Engineer of Bechtel Equipment Operations. BEO headquarters eventually relocated to Sugar Land, Texas, though Keith was able to remain in Louisville. 

A Man on a Mission

Keith shared that he was interested in publishing a book on rigging engineering and lift planning. He described how he had slowly been building out information and segmenting into a book outline.

I recall asking him, "What's driving you to do this?"

In so many words, Keith shared that as he's led project teams and engineering departments, he has always conducted a great deal of training and coaching. He described how there really isn't any formal, publicly available training for rigging engineers and lift planners. Companies would hire engineers with training in common branches such as civil, structural, or mechanical engineering, but engineers would gain little to no exposure applying principles from all branches to the assignment of heavy lift and transport. He would say that rigging engineers had to develop a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary understanding of various principles to solve heavy lift challenges - considering things like foundation loading, load handling equipment such as cranes and hydraulic jacks, and rigging arrangements customized to the project's requirements.

Keith's vision was that one day, Rigging Engineer would be a degree program in university and polytechnical schools.

To take a step toward this vision, Keith and our team agreed to publish his book, Rigging Engineering Basics. As the book was being finalized, Keith and I began brainstorming the next steps...


Photo: Keith developing learning content for the rigging engineering training program at ITI offices, Woodland, Washington, 2016.


Photo: Keith speaking with attendees of the Crane & Rigging Expo in 2016, hosted by Barnhart Crane & Rigging, and ITI, in Memphis.

Training Program Manager & ENR Top 25 Newsmaker 

The next chapter is best shared by another friend of mine taken way too early in life, the late, Tudor Van Hampton. He wrote this article for Engineering-News Record (ENR) in early 2016:

“When you are lifting and moving stuff, you are dealing with considerable risk,” explains J. Keith Anderson, Bechtel’s chief rigging engineer. “Training for people who are going to plan and execute this type of work is really haphazard.”
Two years ago, he wrote a book called “Rigging Engineering Basics” and went on to develop the industry’s first accredited curriculum on the subject, “Fundamentals of Rigging Engineering.” Launched early last year, the online course has attracted more than 70 students from major industry owners and construction companies, such as AECOM, BP and Fluor.
This past November, the go-at-your-own-pace classes received continuation-education accreditation from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. According to Zack Parnell, president of Woodland, Wash.-based Industrial Training International, which administers the course, it is the first of its kind to be nationally recognized.
Parnell says this project was completely Anderson’s baby. “He said to me, ‘I’d like to do this someday.’ I said, ‘Keith, we can do it right now.’ ”
For passing on his knowledge of rigging, Anderson was named, in May, a Bechtel Distinguished Engineer and Scientist. Only about 50 people have received that distinction, and he is the first honoree to represent those working in the construction sector.
The course is already making a difference. As cranes get larger and more complex due to technology advancements, such as modular construction, so grows the need to apply sound engineering principles to lifting, says David Duerr, owner of Houston-based consulting engineer 2DM Associates and one of roughly 20 instructors who teach a variety of classes within the course.
“There is simply a greater risk involved in some of the work we do,” Duerr says. “The answer is to elevate the level of sophistication and planning that goes into lifting operations.”

Keith's books and online learning program have impacted thousands of students since 2012, and as Tudor shared, Keith was named a Bechtel Distinguished Engineer & Scientist in 2015 which "...recognizes employees who have made particularly significant technical contributions to Bechtel’s success and reputation. They promote technical excellence throughout the company and take a leadership role in coaching and mentoring other specialists." Of Bechtel's 50,000+ employees at the time, Keith was 1 of only 51 in this prestigious group. Keith had certainly made his mark on one of the world's finest construction companies.


Photo: Zack and Keith introducing the Fundamentals of Rigging Engineering Program at the World Crane & Transport Summit in Miami, Florida, 2014. 

Reflecting with Keith on the Online Learning Program, we were both humbled by the 20+ subject-matter experts who answered Keith's call to collaborate on this Rigging Engineering Program which is now approved for CEUs by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME).

fore-instructors 1

Rigging Engineering Course Instructors 2

Photo: The original 20+ subject-matter experts who answered Keith's call to collaborate on developing the Fundamentals of Rigging Engineering Program


Photo: Lunch in Houston with BEO team members, Keith Anderson, Joshua Cotton, Zack Parnell, Miranda Harding, Monty Chisolm (left to right), 2018.

His Legacy & Passing the Baton

Prior to his passing in 2023, Keith wanted to ensure his academic work was stewarded well into the future. He asked my father, Mike and I, if ITI would acquire the rights to his books and continue their management into the future. We were honored to do so and knew we had some big shoes to fill.

It felt poetic when the idea struck.

Keith served ITI as:

Keith's succession plan at Bechtel included a certain former rigging engineer who worked for Keith for over a decade. We felt that it could be very fitting to ask Keith's hand-picked successor to take on his responsibilities at ITI. That's when we called up Todd Harding.

Todd Harding, PE is the Rigging Engineering Operations Manager for Bechtel and will serve as the Editor of Rigging Engineering Basics and the Program Manager of the online learning program, alongside Jonathan Parnell, PE, who is ITI's Product Owner for these solutions. A Texas A&M civil engineering graduate, Todd began his career in 2005 working with Keith as a Rigging Engineer for Bechtel. In 2016 Todd was recruited to be the Rigging Director at Chicago Bridge & Iron, now McDermott. And in 2019, Keith passed the baton to Todd as the head of rigging engineering at Bechtel.

His Family

Keith is survived by his wonderful wife Kathryn, and his sons Rory Anderson, Ollie Hesslewood, and Aidan Hesslewood. You probably won't be surprised to find on their LinkedIn profiles that both Rory and Ollie are rigging engineers. :-)


Photo: Jim Yates and Keith doing a podcast recording in January 2020, the day after attending a retirement celebration for ITI co-founders, Mike and Darlene Parnell.  

An Invitation

I could write so much more about Keith; he was such a wonderful man and I feel very blessed to have known him so well. But I'd like to offer up something different.

On one of our final phone calls last year, Keith hoped to record a video, or write a short memoir, to share some final thoughts with the world and thank several people he met along the way. Unfortunately, we couldn't accomplish this before Keith's passing. So, we thought the next best thing might be to invite you, Keith's colleagues, friends and community, to do one of the following:

I look forward to remembering Keith with you in the comments below.