Australia, Features

Avopiling’s major order for Kobelco crawlers

Leading foundation and piling expert Avopiling recently took delivery of the first two of six Kobelco lattice boom hydraulic crawlers from TRT Australia. Avopiling’s general manager David Tevanian provides some history to the family business and how the new cranes will fit into the fleet.

Avopiling was established in 1989 by David’s father Avo Tevanian (B.Tech Civil Engineer). Avo has 48 years of diverse experience in the field of piling, foundations, and ground engineering. David takes up the story.

“We were a migrant family and arrived in Australia with $1,200 and the clothes on our backs. Dad was determined to make a go of the opportunity and he went about what he knows best and that is construction,” he said. 

“Our mum, Jackie, worked in the business from early on, managing the administration side of things as well as us three young boys. Through hard work, determination, and some good fortune, we have managed to build the Avopiling business into what you see today.

“Back in 1989, dad purchased his first crane, which was a Hitachi KH 125, a 35-tonner. He went to an auction expecting to pay $120,000 and came away paying double. This crane was the start of his commitment to the construction sector. We still have the crane in the fleet, although it is currently in the workshop being re-built. 

“He then purchased a couple of mechanical cranes, a P&H and an NCK. After this we started to move towards the hydraulic lattice boom crawlers rather than the mechanical machines.”

Today, Avopiling has operations in Brisbane, Sydney, and Perth, and recently opened a branch in Victoria.

David completed school and moved into the business 25 years ago, completing a trade certificate in carpentry and civil engineering studies while working full time.

“Dad gave me a mobile phone, notepad and a pen and told me there were a couple of jobs he wanted me to supervise. He also told me that, in a few hours, I was going to order 36 cubic metres of concrete, so when I was ready to call Boral. 

“So, at 18, I am working with men well and truly twice my age and they’d already spent 20 to 30 years in the industry. 

“It wasn’t long before I was running major projects and I spent the next 20 years working on site. During the last 10 years, I have continued to run major projects, and I have also had the national operations role.

“Earlier in 2021, I took over the general manager position for the entire business and my brother, Masis, who has also worked in the business since 1998, took over the role of national operations manager,” he said.

Avopiling has always targeted infrastructure projects since day one. Avo always saw the opportunity, as well as the security, in working on government projects compared to working with builders. Today, 80 per cent of Avopiling’ work would be major government-funded infrastructure projects, with the other 20 per cent spent working with the larger builders, which is outside of the civil infrastructure realm.

Masis and David Tevanian during a recent visit to the Kobelco factory.

“We have over 170 plus employees, including a few contractors, and we operate a large fleet of piling equipment,” said David. 

“The fleet includes everything from a 11t piling rig up to a 180t piling rig. We operate a modern fleet, and we also have the internal capacity to maintain our fleet as well.

“When we have visitors from some of our major suppliers, such as Liebherr and Bauer, they are quite amazed at the set-up of our workshop facility in Wollongong. We maintain the fleet here and we also have fabrication capabilities for the piling aspect of our business.”

David explains that Avopiling has had plenty of experience with the Kobelco brand, which is a major reason for the purchase of the new cranes.

“Some time ago, we bought a Kobelco CKE800 into the fleet and we then added a CKE900. We really like the quality of the Kobelco brand. The cranes are based on traditional Japanese values of high-quality engineering and manufacturing qualities. 

“They are engineered to last. They are manufactured from the highest quality steel, so they are extremely rugged, and, in our experience, you only have to service them to the OEM requirements and occasionally replace a part. Their performance is outstanding, they are extremely reliable and bulletproof, and our operators love them,” he said.

David explains the move to hydraulic crawlers has been ‘task specific’ because recent projects have included a lot of low headroom work. He also goes on to discuss the reason for the capacities of the new cranes and why there are so many arriving from TRT.

“We have been working on a number of large infrastructure projects, which include the construction of massive diaphragm walls. A few years ago, we were working on lift plans for diaphragm wall cages which were weighing 1.5t or 3t up to 5t. We are now working on more complex arrangements that include topping and tailing operations. 

“With recent projects, the cages are getting longer and larger and weighing between 32t to 40t and we’re going to be working with 50t cages on future projects. 

“So, the panels are getting deeper, and the cages are getting heavier. Also, our clients are asking us to stay under the 75 per cent of the lifting capacity of the crane and, if we don’t stay under this percentage, the lift studies will be increasingly scrutinised. 

“This isn’t a problem, but as a business we decided to have a few more safety factors in play and having extra capacity in the crane was one of the factors, especially when you are working with heavy lift projects. This explains the capacities of the cranes we have recently ordered,” he said.

“The other driver for ordering so many cranes is the amount of new work we have secured. This includes a significant amount of work on the North-East Link in Melbourne. The work on the project will be for two-and-a-half to three years and it includes another massive diaphragm wall package involving big cages and heavy lifts,” he said.

Avopiling decided to purchase the cranes for this project and other projects coming online in Sydney. The cranes include a Kobelco CKE 900, which has a 100t capacity with a maximum boom length of 61m, and two Kobelco CKE 1100, which feature a lifting capacity of 110t and a boom length of 70.1m. Then there is a Kobelco CKE 1350, which features a lifting capacity of 150t and a boom length of 76.2m and two Kobelco CKE 2500 featuring a lifting capacity of 250t and boom lengths of 91.4m.

Avopiling purchased the new Kobelcos for major projects around the country.

“The CKE 900 was purchased for work in Western Australia and a second CKE 900 already in our fleet will probably head west as well,” said David. 

“One of the CKE 2500 will be working on the major infrastructure projects in New South Wales. The second CKE 2500, along with the CKE 1350 and the two CKE 1100s, are headed to Victoria for the North-East Link project.,” said David.

In total, Avopiling has recently purchased 10 cranes because the North-East Link project also required four MC series cranes from Bauer to run the cutters and grabs. Avopiling continues to significantly invest in the industry. 

The North-East Link project will construct a new motorway between the M80 Ring Road at Greensborough and the Eastern Freeway at Bulleen Road. It will also widen and upgrade the Eastern Freeway. The project will provide Melbourne with a complete orbital road connection for the first time and will increase capacity on the Eastern Freeway. It will improve access and reduce travel times for both freight and commuter traffic and will take trucks off local streets in Melbourne’s northern suburbs. The Australian government has committed up to $1.75 billion to the project. The project commenced construction in late 2021 and is expected to be completed in late 2028.

David worked with Troy Hand, TRT’s crane sales & Pacific Islands manager on the order and delivery of the cranes.

“I’ve known Troy for some time, and I am delighted to see him move from the service and maintenance of Kobelco’s, to the sales and management side of the business,” said David. 

“He understands the Kobelco product from a technical perspective, he understands what we will be doing with the cranes, and he is able to make the right recommendations in terms of the models and their capabilities.

“Troy and his team have been totally professional throughout the process. The negotiations were robust, but I would like think the outcomes for both TRT and Avopiling have been positive for both businesses.”

The delivery process has been straightforward as a result of open and frank dialogue between both organisations.

“I know TRT had not received an order for six Kobelco cranes in the one deal before, it doesn’t happen every day, but we were happy to provide security around the order. We understood it was going to mean a big commitment from TRT,” said David.

For more than 50 years, TRT has been servicing and repairing cranes and supplying parts and advice to the crane industry. The crane OEM trained service and support team at TRT is recognised for its expertise in crane service and repairs, including major inspections and rebuilds, as well as crane maintenance programs. This expertise is designed to ensure customers get the very best in crane service and support.

Crane and machinery breakdowns happen when they are least expected or at completely the wrong time. To support their customers and reduce crane downtime, the spare parts team at TRT is focused on delivering crane parts, heavy machinery parts, truck crane parts, and heavy transport trailer parts at competitive prices.

TRT stocks a large range of genuine and OEM parts across most crane and equipment classes, makes, and models. TRT operates an extensive crane parts supply network in Brisbane, throughout Australia and around the world to ensure even the most obscure crane part can be located.

The CKE 900 has been delivered, commissioned and went straight onto a project and it has been the same for one of the CKE 1100. It was delivered, commissioned and went straight out to a project. The CKE 1350 and the second CKE 1100 landed in mid-July, and they were delivered to Avopiling’s Wollongong workshop for commissioning. They then went straight to work on the M6 extension project.

The estimated $2.6 billion M6 extension will provide a new motorway connection between the New M5 motorway at Arncliffe and President Avenue at Kogarah, in Sydney’s south-east. The project includes twin four-kilometre tunnels linking the new M5 motorway at Arncliffe to Kogarah and ramps between the main motorway tunnel and the surface intersection at President Avenue.

David has been involved in the engineering aspects of the work and used to be responsible for all of the lift studies. 

“I used to manage all of the lift studies and I loved this aspect of the business. I don’t have the time now, but I do keep a keen eye on what is happening and being planned. The engineering in some of these projects makes the job so worthwhile. 

“When you plan a complex dual crane heavy lift and watch it be executed exactly as you had planned and engineered the lift, it is a brilliant feeling. It makes the hours of work behind the scenes, which nobody sees, so worthwhile and I know it provides our team with a sense of a job well done,” he said.

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