Fullers Mobile Cranes is celebrating its 30th birthday this year. “Nothing is a problem” has been the company’s ethic over the years and this has helped to shape and define the business and the solutions it offers.
Fullers is a third-generation family business that originated from Larry’s father Colin’s rigging business. The business is now run by the hands-on father and son team, Larry and Kane Fuller under the guidance and watchful eye of Larry Fuller, Managing Director. Together, they run a strong, reliable and successful company. They speak about their lives in the crane industry and their plans for the next 30 years.
“I’ve been around this business since I could walk, my life has been cranes. I’ve been raised with cranes and if you have a father in cranes and you don’t work with him, you pretty much don’t see him,” said Kane.
When Kane left school, Larry encouraged him to get a trade, which he did. The day he was qualified, he left and started work in the family business full time.
“I learned about the business from the ground up through dogging, driving and rigging. I then moved to supervisor and allocator and now general manager. The operations are run through me while Dad is out on site overseeing our men and interacting with clients,” he said.
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Fullers operates with a planned and focused crane fleet which minimises capacity gaps to cover all general lifting and more specialised lifts.
“We’re running 17 cranes with the biggest being a Grove 250t. As far as slewers are concerned, we range all the way from 8t, 16t, 40t, 55t, 80t, 90t, 100t, and 130t. We have a number of 25t Frannas and one 20t Franna. To build on our Franna fleet, we’ve got a 40t on order. The smallest crane is a 4t UNIC crawler. We predominantly run Groves, but we also have some Demags. We tend to stick to a brand on the basis that if our operators can drive one crane, they can drive everything,” said Kane.
“From Larry’s original two cranes, our fleet has grown over the years. We have monitored the construction sector in Sydney and planned our fleet around the changes and requirements to meet the demands of our customers.
“Our aim has been to build a quality fleet with no gaps in capacity, so we don’t go from a Franna to an 80t machine. We have closed the gaps all the way along the line, so if one crane can’t manage the lift, the next in the line will. We’re probably looking at one more crane for the fleet which will be larger again because we need to stay up there in terms of capacity.
“Typically, we are working with tier-one builders. We target this sector of the market and being a smaller hire company it’s a bit harder for us, but we win contracts that the larger hire companies would be happy to work on, totally on our merits,” he said.
Fullers have been involved in many of the infrastructure projects that are shaping Sydney today.
“We’ve had a number of major projects on WestConnex which speaks for itself and we’ve played a role on all of the infrastructure projects in and around Sydney. These include the M7, the Wynyard Walks, Barangaroo etc. We also do a lot of work with the tier-two builders which is the bread and butter work for our industry. But we are targeting the larger end of the market where the projects have a four-year duration and we can plan the business around these,” said Kane.
According to Larry his business is focussed on what it does best, and everyone goes by the ethic “nothing is a problem”.
“We target the work that suits the experience of our employees as well as the quality and capabilities of our machines, whilst upholding a family owned and family focused business,” he said.
“As far as our crew is concerned, we have 38 men crewing the the cranes and seven of us back in the office managing the business. I’m focussed on keeping the company compact, I’m not interested in having 40 cranes and the amount of staff required for that size of fleet. For me, it’s the quality of our men that are winning us the work. The relationships we have on site are excellent and our guys go above and beyond what’s expected, and guess what? We’ve got a happy project manager who will book us for future lifts,” said Larry.
Fullers value and enjoy long term working relationships with companies like Adco, FDC, Richard Crookes to name a few. Many have been clients since Larry first started servicing the Sydney market, and like Fullers, they have evolved and remained competitive and relevant in an ever-changing industry. Maintaining long term working relationships with clients is one of reasons Fullers has been in business for 30 years and beyond.
Maintenance of the fleet is a priority for the business.
“We’ve got a fulltime mechanic who works in our yard and also on site. He worked for Grove, went out on his own and now works for us which is perfect for our fleet maintenance. Maintenance is a key issue for us and it’s one of the reasons why we try and purchase new cranes, depending on wait time not used cranes. 90 per cent of our fleet was purchased new which makes maintenance much easier,” said Kane.
“We try to keep a 250-hour schedule which helps to stay on top of the machines. We have found Grove to be very progressive and innovative with its range and also with product support and service. If we’ve got an issue and need to call any of the service guys they will be here within the hour or they are good enough to diagnose problems over the phone,” he said.
Safety is a key issue for the business as it is for the industry as a whole. One of the company’s strategies is for Larry to conduct spot checks on the team.
“We try to assess each employee once a month. I turn up on site with a check list which we call high performance evaluations. I arrive unannounced and watch the crane operating from a distance and then get closer to see what’s going on. It then becomes a case of explaining to the crew what I saw and explain where his set up could have been better and so on,” said Larry.
“There’s an acknowledgement from the employee and a sign off ensuring everyone is on the same page. I make sure they listen and take my responses on board, it’s important for them to focus on everything they do and to keep learning, that’s why all of this comes from the top,” he said.
Understanding the complications of the project and providing the right solution are critical.
“We visit every site to understand the job and if lift studies need to be done prior, we do that before we send the crane to site. Lift studies are very much part of the day-to-day life of our crane business. We do a lot of ours in house and we also use a third party of specialist engineers. They check issues that we wouldn’t necessarily think about like ground pressure with the concept of rolling weights, chain angles and side loading lugs,” said Kane.
The Fullers heavy lift team of professionals has vast crane experience across mobiles, crawlers and tower cranes can work on multiple projects at one time.
“They work on full CAD library and rigging calculations. They’re Independent and really experienced in the building industry and possess all the relevant software licences, personal indemnity and public liability insurances, which you definitely need. They’re an asset to us,” said Kane.
Bringing new blood into the business is also an important strategy for the Fullers. Larry mentioned that their approach has always been to upskill the staff. For more than 20 years, the company has been bringing in new staff into the business.
“We take our time to upskill them which brings loyalty. Our leading operator started on our 30t truck crane and has since operated every crane we’ve bought and he’s now operating the 250t crane. We develop our guys as the business is developing,” said Larry.
“We are proud and thankful to have employees that have been with us for 20 years, a lot of our staff have been with us over 10 years. This reflects what Fullers aims for – building professional and loyal staff,” he added.
Kane provides an example of the strong relationship the Fullers have with their employees.
“We are celebrating our 30th year in business this year and we organised a surprise party for Larry on the date. To honour dad’s great achievement and success in business we had a custom-made footy jersey made which every employee signed, it’s framed and takes pride of place in his office,” he said.
“On the evening, only two staff were unable to attend the party to celebrate. One couldn’t make it due to ill health and, the wife of the second had just has their first child. Partners, wives and kids were there, and it was a real family affair. We had the function at a new pub in Marsden Park which we helped build originally with one of our long-term valued clients. A number of our staff were also given a jersey for service over 10 years as they helped build the success we have today.
“Our guys see him as ‘Big, Bad Larry’. People know him as a gruff, no-nonsense, old school crane guy, but to see the staff congratulating him on his achievements and listening to his stories from back in the day and laughed at his first company name, Llubtish Cranes. They realised he’s got a soft side, as long as you do the right thing,” said Kane.
Kane said that the company knows if they provide a positive work environment the return on our investment is going to be much better. He said that would be a reflection on the business because if their staff are happy at work, it comes across in everything they are doing which makes the client happy.
“We believe this approach separates us from the rest. We’re big enough to take on the big projects but we’re not too big to recognise that our staff’s priority is the wife and kids. We’ve always been family orientated,” he said.
According to Kane, the industry is in a transitional period with key industry identities retiring, long-term family businesses sold or closed, and this presents a great opportunity for their business. He said that the Fuller family started in the business of rigging and that is where the love of cranes, and progression into cranes, came from.
“This love has been passed down from my grandfather to my father and now to me. I have two young sons and I’m hoping they will want to get involved and continue the family tradition,” said Kane.
“For all its traditional values, this industry is changing, and technology is driving the change. Just look at the cranes, they are packed with new technology to ensure we complete lifts efficiently and safely. There’s plenty of companies resisting this change but we’re not one of them, we’re already a few steps ahead,” he said.
Larry explains the reasoning behind the purchase of a larger crane. He describes the Grove 250t as a great crane that has opened up new markets for their business.
“Before this, we didn’t have tower crane work, smaller bridge beams and culverts work, we are in these markets but there are a few jobs we are missing out on. We know we have great relationships with the clients, and we know the addition of a larger crane will put us in to a position where we can do almost anything our clients ask of us.
“We are looking into purchasing a larger machine, but we can’t purchase it until we get a bigger yard. With one more large crane, we believe we’ll have a complete fleet,” he said.
Larry explained that when they decided to target the major projects, it took them awhile to get some traction, but they showed clients how a well-planned fleet means they didn’t need 80 cranes to provide a complete service.
“Now we are included on all the big tenders and we are being recognised for getting these jobs done with a far more personalised service.
“When clients are dealing with Fullers, they are dealing with the owners of the business and they know we approach each project with the same level of professionalism, they know we won’t let them down and nothing is a problem,” said Larry.