And just like that, Cranes and Lifting is marking a decade, okay, 11 years, of production. We wouldn’t be where we are today if we didn’t have the support of the sector and it is our goal to continue to contribute to the success of our readers, advertisers, and suppliers well into the next decade.
In looking back on the last 10 years, a number of early supporters, who continue to back our efforts, come to mind. Our 10th anniversary spread wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t take the time acknowledge them. Patrick Lau speaks to some of them to get their thoughts on the decade that has gone by and what they hope to see in Cranes and Lifting (CAL) moving forward.
Rodger Weste, manager industrial, WGA
On the major trends: Definitely the upgrade in safety systems, in line with what the industry’s doing these days. Cranes and attitudes are quite different to what they were back then. There’s definitely the trend towards all-terrain-type cranes; your traditional truckies are less popular. A key difference is that it’s cleaned up its act. 10 years ago, there were quite a few operators working to a far lesser standard. Whereas now there’s a very high standard of safety in the industry.
On the industry’s changing needs: Over that period, it’s sort of up-and-down. We recently had a few years of very quiet workloads causing uncertainty. A lot of the crane industry’s been through a fair bit of pain for two or three years. Business was really really booming for a long time prior, and then obviously we slowed down for the last few years due to the decline in mining and exploration to name a few. It looks like we’ve weathered that now, and things are starting to look healthy again, which is great. The decline definitely affected plant and personnel within all crane and transport companies, which has a major effect on the way they can run their businesses. It is great to see that most maintained a high level of safety and professionalism throughout.
On CAL’s role in the sector: I’ve been involved with the magazine for the last 12 years. It gives a sound report of what’s going on with the industry, keeps you updated with who’s doing what. It’s quite good.
John Stewart, vice president and general manager for Australia, Manitowoc
10 years ago: From our perspective, Australia 10 years ago was the absolute pinnacle of craziness. With the mine sites going a thousand miles an hour, with oil and gas going crazy, with infrastructure strong; and everybody trying to get ahead of the game because they could see business going everywhere. So, we had extremely strong backlogs and people buying cranes for prospecting business. Most of these big projects were overlapping, so you needed to get more cranes to cover both. This was at a time when the exchange rates were extremely good, and China was booming with double digit growth. With that being said, the boom pushed costs out of whack. Even though we were having great sales success and the rental companies were all stretched to breaking point, the overall crane industry was not making the type of money you’re supposed to be making in boom times. It was an absolute time of excess, and it wasn’t just Australia, it was everywhere. 10 years ago, the focus was probably 80/20 resources work to construction work, today it is just the opposite.
On today’s machines: Over the last 10 years, we have increased the capacity, you get longer booms, and generally our cranes are lighter so you can travel better on the road. One of the things that, in the last 10 years we’ve all suffered through, is the emissions standards changes in Europe and around the world. They went from Tier 3 to Tier 4 Interim to Tier 4 Final – and now they’re moving on to Tier 5. This whole thing between Tier 3 and Tier 4 Final was excruciatingly painful. The engines and the emissions equipment that goes in to the cranes are heavier and larger and sometimes in inconvenient places. You had things like 1m of straight pipe going at specific angle, and wouldn’t you know, there’s an outrigger beam in the way… so we all needed to redesign our cranes. Almost all the crane manufacturers had a lull in 2012, 2013, 2014, even 2015. There was not a whole lot of new models coming out, because it was just taking so much time and energy to redesign the cranes with the new engines. So, in the last three years, our new models have started to roll out. We have a whole new range of all-terrain cranes with single-engine technology now. And when you have single-engine, combined with Megatrak, you can start putting the weight where you want it. Instead of having 500kg of engine in the upper, you can have that weight in boom structure or chassis depth and removable counterweights. There are a lot of innovations that we have been using to gain advantage on capacity, boom length and weights.
Why he reads CAL: The part that I like is that it’s not just a depository for manufacturers to give you stories. You guys have some editorial input; I think you guys seem to take more care to get more interesting stories.
Jeff Wilson, equipment finance broker, specialty – cranes and construction, Finlease
On notable regulatory changes: The most significant change in the past 10 years is tax-related and has only just occurred in June 2017 and that is the recalibration of the annual income which determines a small business. This recalibration now allows companies with an annual income of $10 million or less to obtain the massive tax breaks previously only available to companies with an annual income of $2 million or less. This has opened up the ability for many medium sized crane companies to actively claim depreciation rates of up to 30% (diminishing value) across their entire fleet of assets if they actively elect to do so. This recalibration achieves many outcomes: an ability to substantially increase depreciation expenses as a non-cash expense, an ability to immediately write off asset purchases under $20,000, an ability to sell existing assets without an immediate tax liability created through profit on sale (as all assets sit within a pool of assets where the overall value is simply reduced), and an ability to pre-pay many deductible expenses before the end of a financial year.
Expectations for the next 10 years: Certainly, the next 5-10 years see a particularly buoyant environment for the crane industry as they ride the present construction, infrastructure and alternate energy boom with the sleeper being the mining sector which is showing strong signs of a resurgence. This landscape will see many companies expand their crane fleets. This expansion requires significant amounts of finance to pay for this capital investment and those companies who do not have their crane debts spread over a broader base of supportive lenders could well run into “peak debt” head room issues with their existing banks. Crane companies would be well advised to spread their debt early in this cycle so they have established “runs on the board” with a broader base of financiers to ensure their next growth cycle is well supported.
Danny Black, general manager, Terex Australia and president, CICA
On changes in the sector: We’ve certainly seen technology playing a bigger role in crane operation, and in design. One of our products [a pick and carry crane] has a computer system that will de-rate the machine on any slope, at any articulation, and we didn’t have the computing power to do that 10 years ago. It’s actually doing it on the fly, rather than just having a look-up table. So, from a technology point of view, that’s been a fundamental change. From an industry perspective, through 2008, in the GFC, Australia was very fortunate to have a new mining product in LNG. The investment in new start-up mines was probably at a previously unseen level. And that certainly was very good for the crane industry. From a Terex perspective, we peaked in 2012. Whilst we did go down a little bit during the GFC, by 2010 it was turning around. The growth after that, from LNG, was unsurpassed. And that’s obviously left a big void in our construction cycle after those mines went from construction to production.
On legislative changes: Many, to be honest. We’ve seen the NHVR come into play. We’ve seen Safe Work Australia. The government obviously wanted to have one national Occupational Health and Safety standard, rather than separate state legislations. That probably hasn’t been too successful in taking off.
CICA’s view of CAL’s role: Putting forward the voice of our members, and of the industry. To give real-life cases and interviews, to give insight into regulations. And to be an independent source of information.
Chris Logan, Gleason Cranes
Trends and changes: When the mining cycle stopped, which it did fairly suddenly, it took the last two to four years for most of the crane companies to divest of the cranes which they bought specially for the mines. Quite a lot of people went broke because they couldn’t get rid of their cranes quickly enough. Quite a lot of other companies were strong enough to hold the cranes in storage whilst they disposed of them. That’s pretty much all done, we’re 99% clear. All the crane companies that are left standing now are those that have been able to dispose of their surplus equipment.
Forecast for the next 10 years: Now that the mines are on their way back, they’re looking at re-buying cranes. It’s slowly starting to happen, but it’s not like it was before. The difference is now, the country is running on state infrastructure. All the state governments are spending vast sums of money on infrastructure and that’s creating excellent sales for cranes, both new and used. It’s not the mining sector which is the driving force, it’s the state governments. There’s a lot of work out there on infrastructure, through the states. These projects are not short ones. They take five, six and seven years to come through. And the underlying economy’s very strong now. Demand is mainly now coming through roads and infrastructure. And demand will remain over the years.
On CAL’s value: It’s country-specific information. You talk about all the things in Australia, not just in one state; and projects around Australia. Whereas international magazines give Australia just a small spot here and there.
David Serg, general manager, Preston Hire
Notable trends and milestones: We have found there is more expectance of the smaller telescopic crawler cranes, in particular piling contractors opting for our larger telescopic cranes over lattice boom cranes. A trend we have also noticed in the past decade is our mini crawler range assisting/relieving tower cranes on many projects, which proves to be a more cost-effective alternative for the builder.
On how Preston Hire has evolved: We have grown dramatically in the past 10 years from a fleet of 10-15 cranes now up to 100+ cranes. Our model range is now broader. We have larger lifting capacity cranes. Also in the past year, we added crane specific specialists which have increased our staff and customer safety awareness.
On what Preston expects from CAL: To see trends in the industry and latest news, and also the ability to showcase our cranes and what is happening in our company. We do find Crane and Lifting is best suited to advertise for us, for our target market as also we feel it is the peak subscription for the crane industry. In next 10 years, we expect Cranes and Lifting to still be bringing relevant news in growing industry.
Angela Anderson, director – crane sales, Radius Cranes
Key changes in the industry and the company: Over recent years technology, added safety features to equipment, along with stringent paperwork have added costs to the industry. The goal of our Radius tower crane sales team is to offer our customers the best advice to allow their company to expand with the right luffing or flattop tower crane based around the fact that weights and measures are increasing 10%-15% every year.
Trends and challenges: Modularisation of structures up to 40 to 60 levels high demand both luffing and flattop tower cranes with added lifting capacity from 40t to 90t, e.g. new electric luffing tower cranes with single line capacity of 32t offer exceedingly high hook speeds lifting of 8000kg up the building at 135m per minute. Radius would like to see the retirement of 20-30-year-old tower cranes that have dominated the industry and are now prolonging project completion.
What Radius wants to see in CAL: More informative information on the use of high capacity construction tower cranes.
On milestones and changes: Throughout the past decade we have seen the mining boom replaced with a lot of smaller infrastructure projects, resulting in larger capacity cranes and the greater capacity of all-terrain cranes to be roadable in Australia. For Tutt Bryant, the major highlight would have to be providing the largest capacity crawler crane based in Australia (CC8800-1). As crawler crane specialists, Tutt Bryant is at the forefront of bringing into Australia the latest in technologies from partners in Asia and Europe. Recent additions to our national crane hire fleet include Australia’s first and only Manitowoc MLC650.
How the company has evolved: The Tutt Bryant team, traditionally well versed in machinery, has built on this skillset over the last decade, developing an engineering focus with extra emphasis on lift design, alternate lifting and specialised transportation utilising cranes up to 1600t, gantries up to 1100t, modular trailers and SPMT up to 5000t as well as full turnkey project execution. Tutt Bryant is also the exclusive distributor of HSC crawler cranes in Australia. The recent introduction of the next generation SCX-3 cranes sees a number of clever advancements that lift crane performance and bring to the market a level of versatility not previously seen. The new SCX-3 range currently encompasses the SCX800A-3, SCX1000A-3, SCX1200A-3, SCX1500A-3 and SCX3500-3. Further models to complete the SCX-3 series are expected in the near future.
CAL’s role: Cranes and Lifting has always highlighted relevant changes and trends within the sector and hopefully will continue to report on and give a platform for the industry.