C&L, Cranes & Lifting, Features

20-year-old pick and carry still humming along

Almost 20 years ago, Gary West purchased the second Humma ever manufactured. Today, it’s operating as well as ever and he’s added another three to his fleet.

Almost 20 years ago, Gary West purchased the second Humma ever manufactured. Today, it’s operating as well as ever and he’s added another three to his fleet.

With almost 50 years’ experience, Gary West from West Cranes & Access Hire knows a thing or two about cranes. His company boasts the largest mobile crane hire and access boom hire fleet in Western Victoria. He has owned and operated Humma articulated pick and carry cranes for nearly 20 years.

West told Cranes and Lifting he first encountered the Humma at a crane conference and exhibition in 2000.

“I was at a crane conference when I first met Peter Dalla Riva from The DRA Group and he had the Humma 20-25 on display. We started chatting about the crane and I was comparing it to the competitive product,” he said.

“At the time, we were working on a job that required a small slewing crane. We knew a pick and carry would have worked better, but the boom on the pick and carry we were operating couldn’t reach. The Humma, with the longer power boom could have and that got me interested. The Humma also had a bigger engine so it immediately ticked all the boxes and we decided to buy it,” he said.

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Initially, West had difficulty financing the Humma. He said that when they went to the bank for financing options, none of the finance companies knew about the Humma. This is because it was a new product and they wanted to know if it would keep its value and they were sceptical.

“As it was the one of the first machines, they weren’t sure about the quality and whether DRA was going to keep making them or was it going to be a one-off, prototype machine,” he said.

“Back in 2000, money was tight, and the bank said ‘you’ll need a guarantee from the manufacturer, stating they will buy back the crane if we couldn’t make the payments’. We were the first to finance one of these machines in Australia and without this sort of guarantee they were reluctant to release the money.

“The only way to get the finance over the line was for Peter Dall Riva to guarantee it, and he did. He could then get the Humma into the market to prove they were fine and a viable alternative. He could also prove they could hold their resale value, which they have. Dalla Riva gave the guarantee and we’ve stuck with him for the past 20 years and he’s stuck by us. He’s grown his business significantly in that time and we have ours,” said West.

West’s first 20t Humma was only the second produced and the first in Victoria and on the strength of its performance he’s gone on to invest in more Hummas.

“We bought our first 35t machine four years ago which was the first in Victoria and that’s been an excellent machine. With the first 25t machine, we found a few little things that we thought Dalla Riva could improve on and he readily accepted our feed-back.  Over the years we’ve helped him with the R&D on the Humma and, to his credit he’s taken a lot of our suggestions on board,” said West.

“Being a small company, we are very hands on, and we conduct 90 per cent of our own maintenance so we understand the machine inside and out and understand where improvements can be made.

“We’ve now got three 35-25s in the fleet and it’s an excellent machine. It has a 21m power boom, they’re quick down the road, the air springs make for a comfortable ride, there’s no cabin noise or steering vibration and they’re tough and easy to operate. They’re also easy to fix because of the simplicity of design,” he said.

“They use well known components like the Cummins engine, the hydraulic rams are made in Italy, the air bag suspension is the same as those on the big trucks and many of the components are off the shelf,” said West.

The 35-25 has also opened up a number of new markets for West. He said that with the continual drive for safer work practices on construction sites, tier-one builders are de-rating lifting charts to 75 per cent.

“If you have a 25t machine and de-rate it by 25 per cent, you’re removing a lot of capacity. Of course, it’s the same issue with the 35s but even with the reduced 25 per cent they are still at the upper end of the lift market,” he said.

West has been impressed with the long-term performance of the 25t Humma with a lot of hours clocked on it and not run into problems.

“We haven’t touched the semi hitch and there’s been no problem with line boring of articulation joints or pivot part,” he said.

According to West, the Humma still has the original bearings and there’s been no boom cracks and no replacement of wear pads. He said that the Cummins engine hasn’t been touched either.

“If you maintain your equipment as the manual says, you will get a good run out of it. If the manufacturer uses the right components in the first place and the machine isn’t stressing too much, you will get those sorts of hours,” said West.

West confirms the out lay for the Humma might be a bit more compared to competitive products but over the life of the crane the initial price is not an issue.

“In my opinion, they’re not that much more expensive compared to competitive products but over the life of the crane, it would be miles in front,” he said.

On to bigger things

Chris West became the sole director of West Cranes & Access three years ago increasing the company’s scope of works and is currently interested in looking at the new 55t Humma.

Chris told Cranes and Lifting that the company is in early talks with companies that have a project coming up that would suit this size of machine.

“They really like the 35t machines because of the extra capacity and we’ve mentioned the 55t to them,” said Chris.

“The whole point of the 55t is it’s lifting capacity and it’s ideal for heavy lift situations like moving a quarry crusher that weighs 30t plus. You can pick it up, put it on site or move it into a shed for example. Without that type of lift you’d have to take the roof off the shed. One issue with the 55t is we can’t register it in Victoria at the moment – we’d have to float it. It’s not out of the question that we’ll get one, for sure,” he said.

“Since we acquired the first Humma 19 years ago, it’s been busy. The wind farm sector has helped and there’s been a fair amount of infrastructure locally with roads and bridge work. There’s a fair amount of work in the mines and quarries. Because the Humma is so good on the road, it enables us to work in a much bigger radius from our yard,” said West.

West confirms the support from the DRA team has been first rate.

“The support from the DRA Group has been absolutely terrific. If there’s an issue, we ring Peter Dalla Riva junior because he’s grown up with the Humma, designed them and he knows them backwards. We call him and ask, ‘what’s wrong here Pete’ and he’ll tell us straight away.

“I can’t fault the back up and support. If there is a part he can’t provide, he’ll tell me who supplies him, they are very transparent with us and that’s really refreshing. I think they are like that with everyone,” he said.

“A couple of years ago we did a couple of wheel studs and I rang him and said, ‘what’s going on here?’ he said, ‘you are probably loose,’ and I said, ‘yes it might have been, but we did the tension up with a tension wrench following your guidelines’. He said, ‘give them another 10 newton meters because we might be a bit low on them’.

“We banged them up another 10 newton metres and we haven’t had any trouble since. He then sent me over 10 new wheel studs and nuts at no cost. They really look after you that way and I reckon we’ve still got seven or eight of them in our spare parts. The DRA Group has been a good partner and the Humma has proved to be a great work horse for our business,” said West.

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