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Farewell to an industry stalwart

After 35 years in the industry, Australian owned and operated business Hanchard Cranes closed late last year due to the retirement of Mike Hanchard. Cranes and Lifting was fortunate to catch up with Mike before he was craned off into the sunset to enjoy his well-earned retirement.

What’s been your experience in the industry over the past 35 years.

It has been an interesting time watching the industry grow. One of the main changes has obviously been the advancement in technology and how the industry has responded to that.

How did you start out in the crane industry?

It all started when I applied for a position at Edi Hire, which was a division of Evans Deakin. When I started working there, I was very lucky to be taught by Ian Milne and Doug Burnside in my early days and later by Ron O’Sullivan at Brambles.

When did you launch your own business?

I had my first business, TAC Hire Services, for 12 years, from 1978 to 1990. Hanchard Cranes is my second business, which opened in March 1997. The company started with myself, my wife as the company secretary and our daughters working as the office manager and in administration.

The company started with a 45t Kato Truck Crane and two dry hire 12t frannas.

What areas of lifting did the business specialise in?

Anything that needed lifting, could be done by Hanchard Crane Hire. Our fleet of mobile cranes included city, franna, all terrain, mini and hydraulic truck cranes with capacities from 2.5 tonnes to 220 tonnes. Hanchard Cranes also did more than lift – the business provided traffic control, permits and reliable, on-time lifts.

Forty-seven years is a long time in the industry how do you feel about retirement and closing the business?

It is a very emotional time for not only myself, but the whole family. This industry and the business has always been a major part of my life.

It’s very sad to say goodbye to so many people over the years, who have helped to shaped the business into what it is today.

We are experiencing a once in a generation construction ‘mega boom’ and with predictions that the infrastructure projects could require up to 300 cranes in NSW (alone) how is the industry going to cope in terms of labour?

Construction activity in Australia is obviously very strong. The latest RLB Crane Index suggests that while the majority of cranes are located in Sydney and Melbourne, we’re also experiencing booms in cities such as Newcastle and Hobart.

From my experience, the industry is going to struggle in terms of labour to meet demand.

With up to 30 per cent of the workforce set to retire from the crane sector in the next 10 years, what needs to be done to encourage youth into the sector?

I am led to believe CICA and some of the manufacturers are addressing this problem at the moment.

Today, you can earn your crane operators ticket after a day’s course, what are the obvious concerns about this?

Operating cranes is a complex and dangerous job, and there are countless serious injuries sustained across the country every year. It is so important people entering the industry have the necessary skills and capabilities to operate this machinery and I don’t think the day’s training course delivers this.

Over the years we have been inundated with job applications from people who cannot even set up a crane correctly. I think this is a major issue in the industry that needs to be looked at.

How the industry has changed and his predictions for the future

The industry has become very price driven and contracts are won based on price rather than experience and qualification.

Technology will help reduce labour costs, however we are still transitioning into that era. Labour is still required and, like any industry in Australia, it is a premium expense.

How has technology changed the crane sector?

Technology has certainly had a huge effect on the industry. The machinery we work with is now more advanced than ever before.

In my opinion, one of the major advancements has been improved safety mechanisms in machinery.

How has the approach to safety changed in your career and what difference has it made?

Safety as a focus is incredibly high compared to when I started in the industry. While the focus on safety has increased, work place injuries have unfortunately not significantly decreased. I believe the reason we are seeing this is because time is of the essence when completing a project and this is having an effect on safety.

Cranes continue to malfunction? Loads are dropped with catastrophic outcomes (sometimes)? How do we prevent this?

I think the industry would benefit from drawing on old training systems and minimum hour quotas to be fulfilled before operating a crane.

Where do you see the crane sector headed over the next 10 years?

I’ve seen so many changes in the industry over the past 40-plus years and it is still changing rapidly – I couldn’t possibly predict where it will end up in the next 10 years but we will certainly be keeping an eye from the sidelines.

How did the auction go?

Fantastic, there were a lot of enquiries leading into the sale which turned into a very good result for the vendor. The buyers were happy, the vendor was happy and the staff all enjoyed the day.

Was there strong bidding on the equipment?

Some of the items made new prices, one asset which was sold late last year sold for an additional $400,000 this year through the auction.

Good number in attendance?

There was a large crowd on site which included well known personalities in the Australian crane industry. We also had a strong online buyer presence from around the country through the PicklesLIVE mobile bidding app (which connected them to the sale despite the terrible weather event which hit Sydney on the day).

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