The Melrose Cranes fleet is under continual review with additions catering to the changing demands of the construction sector. Cranes and Lifting finds out more.
Gregg Melrose, Managing Director, Melrose Cranes understands his business has to grow with the demands of the construction industry. The latest additions to the fleet are testament to this ongoing evolution.
“We’ve just bought our largest all terrain, a Liebherr LTM 1500-8.1 and this purchase reflects our intention to continue the evolution of our company to new levels,” said Melrose.
“Right now, the business is at a genuinely productive level and this crane is the most suitable we could have purchased given the demands of the market. We were interested in purchasing a 650t, which is physically the same size, but they are unavailable for two to three years and, as I’ve said before, you need to plan the shape of your fleet carefully or you can get left behind,“ he said.
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“We may yet buy a 650t and I’ve spoken to the OEM’s about it and that’s on the potential purchases agenda, but at the moment we need to compete in our own market and continue to offer our customers everything they expect from Melrose Cranes; and this crane brings it.”
The Liebherr LTM 1500 is suitable for a huge range of applications with a range of boom systems. Its load capacities can be further increased with its Y boom guying (superlift gantry).
Some key features include:
Maximum load capacity is 500t at a radius of 3m;
Telescopic boom is from 16.10m to 84m;
Lattice job from 6.0m up to 91.m;
Maximum hoist height 142m;
Maximum radius is 108m;
Number of axles – eight;
“The big point of difference is that we were able to negotiate both hydraulic booms in the deal with Liebherr (ie; 50m + 84m). With this crane the boom has to come out (for transport), no matter what length, so you are always going to require a support crane and a big support float,” said Melrose.
“In Europe they put the boom together on-site using hydraulic jacking style trailers and assist cranes. We were the first people in the world, I believe, to ask Liebherr if it was possible to turn up on site with 84m of boom with the Y guy gantry fitted, lift it off and put it straight into the crane. From our perspective there’s 84m of telescopic available in 1.5 hours, with the Y guy already fitted.
“On site, and we’re yet to do an exact study, that might take 4.5 to 5.0 hours if you do it the traditional way. I’d like to think we can manage it in potentially 3.5 hours with 165.0 tonne of counterweight and the saddle, which is a major bonus to our clients,” he said.
According to Melrose, the construction sector continues to escalate with Tier One builders increasingly focused on improving safe work practices and more efficient site management processes.
“Everything is increasingly regimented in the construction sector with more permits and compliance required, decreased timeframes and space issues on sites. We’re trying to help customers with these constraints. They might be using other suppliers now, but the fact is we can put 34m more boom length into our crane in far less time than you can put 50m of hydraulic boom and then 34m of bolt on flyjib,” he said.
“I think the LTM 1500 8.1 will provide an extremely strong point of difference. We still have the enormous lifting power of a 500t with its normal 50m boom and this will compete in the market we work in. We believe we run our cranes better than anyone else in terms of logistics and even if our competitors follow, we have an ace to play and we intend to remain a step or two ahead with it. That’s how I see this machine,” said Melrose.
Liebherr Australia has worked closely with Melrose to ensure the crane had the right specification and could be delivered within the required time frame.
“Liebherr has been great, particularly Tom Grady. Liebherr understand the time restraints we are faced with and they’ve been very supportive with pricing, offering all sorts of value adds,” he said.
Melrose explains how the LTM 1500-8.1 came to his notice.
“OEM’s are always providing us with details of what equipment is available throughout their global network. This process started with and update on a 2017 model 500t, traded in Europe on a bigger Liebherr machine. The 500t suited our needs but it didn’t have all the options we wanted. Liebherr were able to accommodate our requirements and provided the crane fully equipped and to our specification,” he said.
“The new crane will do similar work to our 450t crane, but heavier lifts with higher reach capacity. In the past I think we have possibly been overlooked when in contract negotiations because other suppliers have bigger cranes and customers think ‘we need to use them because they’re the only one that has one,’” said Melrose.
“It’s a competitive market, it always has been and always will be, and our competition will obviously use any advantage as best they can. When we first purchased the 450t we dominated for three years, because it was the only crane of that size on the East Coast,” said Melrose.
“The competition then bought a 500t providing an advantage for a while, and when we had one each it was tit for tat. Then, when the tunnel boring machines got bigger, the competition bought a second 500t enabling dual lifts into excavations, and we couldn’t afford the purchase at that time.
“There’s no reason a 450t can’t dual lift with the 500t. For us, it’s about continually providing our customers with the right solutions. The new crane won’t change our customer base that much, but it will provide us with different opportunities. I expect more tower crane, air-conditioning and cooling tower companies will ring because of the long boom, and I certainly hope that happens. I also believe wind farm maintenance contractors will ring more often because we can now service a rotor on 80m hub height turbines.
Melrose confirms the crane sector slowed towards the end of the financial year.
“The purchase of the LTM 1500 8.1 wasn’t ideal timing for us, as the EOFY wasn’t great for any crane company in Sydney. Due to certain factors, including the two elections, there was a slow-down. But we’re planning ahead, and we’ll be spending $10million plus in this six-month period with another 55T all terrain just delivered and more custom built TRT transport equipment to support the fleet.
“For the company to spend such a substantial sum means I have great confidence in what Sydney is doing. It doesn’t mean we’re limited to Sydney; we are quoting on projects outside of the Sydney market, but these are harder to win because of the number of big cranes available in every state,” he said.
“However, there are certain niches where we see opportunities to attack and you might soon see a number of Melrose cranes sitting on wind farms, in a gas plant shut down or mine, for example. We want to vary the nature of the work and not limit ourselves to Sydney. However, in today’s booming construction market MCR is well placed to continue doing what we do best, and will continue to do so,” said Melrose.
TRT is an important partner when it comes to the equipment supporting the crane fleet says Melrose. “TRT supply the float and dolly for our crawlers and other equipment to be relocated and manoeuvrability is a major issue on Sydney’s streets. As far as logistics is concerned, we are focused on doing everything better, it might cost more money but if it improves productivity it’s going to be beneficial in the long run,” he said.
“We have the TRT designers talking to us about a new model heavy 5×8 float with computerised steering and all sorts of other technology. For the day to day equipment, TRT also design and build a quality, light weight tri-axle trailer and we’ve ordered five of these special trailers because you can get 30t of counterweight on their backs. That’s 150t of the 165t of counterweight required for the LTM 1500-8.1 which leaves one more base plate section which we can put onto a standard fleet trailer with some TRT outrigger mats. We’re ready for the 500t in terms of the ancillary equipment required to carry luffing fly carousels and the like and TRT has provided plenty of valuable input,” said Melrose.
Melrose Cranes’ investment in new technology also reflects the priority Tier One builders are placing on site safety, especially when it comes to articulated pick and carry cranes.
“In terms of safety, I have always endeavoured to set the company apart from the rest. I want to see Melrose Cranes also evolve in terms of its commitment to safety and show the market we don’t sit on our hands,’ said Melrose.
“Safety is paramount in our industry and some builders have had reservations about articulated pick and carry cranes. We feel confident TRT, the manufacturer of the TIDD articulated pick and carry, has designed a great product with “Slew Safe” and that’s the reason we’ve retrofitted it to our four existing 25t TIDDs,” he said. In addition, all of Melrose’s articulated cranes have dynamic LMIs fitted, further increasing their safety.
“We’ve also invested in two new TIDD 28t Superlift model machines, not only for their capacity, but for their versatility and cost effectiveness. The basic 28t TIDD crane outlifts a MAC25 Franna (with Superlift fitted) using only its normal roadable counterweight. We can match the MAC25 without a support vehicle, which is financially beneficial because the cost to run separate vehicles around behind the TIDDs is negated. When the TIDD is boosted to full 28T capacity by the addition of an 1100kg Superlift counterweight, only a big ute (or similar) is required to be in support. We are sure our competitors will look to order the TIDDs, so we got in early.
“The Slew Safe technology is a feature safety teams will love. We are planning a forum in our yard for every safety manager in the top 10 builders. We’ll demonstrate how the system works and show them that safety is the top of our tree. We want them to be comfortable within their own constraints,” he said.
Melrose also confirms the market will see a major change in terms of the presentation of the company’s entire fleet, over time.
“21 years in and I’m still disappointed how I inherited our red, white and black colours because it was never my first choice. Originally, I registered a company called Black and White Cranes, but the start-up budget did not extend to a fleet repaint. At the time, there were no other red and white crane companies and as we grew, I continued to paint the fleet red and white. Other companies joined the Sydney market and chose our colours.
“At long last, we’ve decided to bite the bullet and change to a new colour scheme. We’re starting off with the Heavy Lift Division which includes the bigger cranes and the new 500t. We haven’t changed the colours, we are still red, black and white. I’m just making black the new red,” said Melrose.