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Investing to the max in cranes and people

Investing to the Max in Cranes and People

Max Crane & Equipment Hire (SA) Pty Ltd (Max Cranes) recently announced that it will be taking delivery of a 1200-tonne Liebherr LTM 11200-9.1 AT crane in October 2018. This will be the largest AT crane owned and permanently based in Australia, and will allow contractors to plan and design around the availability of this crane and its impact on construction time and costs.

Max Cranes founder Mark Kuhn and his son Michael were in a group of Australian crane owners who visited Liebherr’s Ehingen (Germany) factory in 2009 for its 40th birthday celebrations. At that event, the crawler crane variant of the LTM 11200 was the star of the show, with the AT variant lurking on the sidelines.

When asked if he harboured any aspirations for the 1200 tonne AT crane as a result of his visit, Mark said: “No. At that time we had just bought our 250 tonne crane.”

Although the Max Cranes LTM 11200 will be the first to be owned and permanently based in Australia, it is not the first such unit in Australia. An overseas-owned unit came to Australia to undertake wind farm work, but the lack of continuity of the work saw it return to Europe.

However the past decade has seen a gradual increase in the size of both AT and crawler cranes owned and based in Australia. Users have come to appreciate the benefits that large cranes can bring to projects. Max Cranes itself owns both a 400 tonne and a 500 tonne AT crane, and the jump to 1200 tonnes capacity doesn’t seem as big as it would have a decade ago.

Getting serious about the LTM 11200

Mark and the Max Cranes team commenced due diligence in the search for a larger crane around three years ago. A number of alternatives were looked at, but Mark said: “It quickly became clear that there was only one crane that met our criteria, and then it became a matter of whether we bought a used or new crane, and how we could finance it.”

With mixed memories of previous purchases of used cranes, Mark said: “The certainty of a factory warranty really appealed to us for a crane of this size and investment.”

And it is a significant investment – slightly upwards of $12 million taking into account the cost of support trailers and specialised rigging. On top of that, Mark expects 18 new positions to be created within Max Cranes to support the crane and the new Heavy Lift Team built around it – and including the 400 and 500 tonne AT cranes. Behind this is an in-house technical team with CAD, engineering and drafting capabilities.

The decision was made easier by a grant from the Upper Spencer Gulf round of the Federal Government’s Regional Jobs and Investment Package (RJIP), with such grants recognising their stimulus value in allowing recipients  to diversify regional economies, stimulate long term growth, deliver sustainable employment and enter new markets and sectors.

By any measure, the LTM 11200 is a beast. Its 100 metre extended main boom length is the longest in the world, and then there’s the 126 metre luffing jib that goes with it to provide a maximum lift height of 188 metres and maximum reach of 136 metres. While the maximum capacity of 1200 tonnes is something that will never be lifted in real life, the capacity of 112 tonnes at a 100-metre tip height and 105 tonnes at a 30-metre radius (59 tonnes at 50 metres) give an indication of real world capabilities.

While the crane arrives in Australia in October, Mark expects that it will be six to eight weeks beyond that before it is ready to work. A factory specialist is flying from Germany to conduct training in operation and maintenance of the crane.

Mark has been conscious of the need to minimise disruption to existing work in crewing the new crane, and the resulting team is a mix of existing staff promoted to work with the new crane and external recruits with the requisite skills. An open day will be held at the Port Augusta facility on 22 November to show the new crane and support team to the market.

Part of the Max Cranes focus is in educating consultants and Tier 1 contractors about the capabilities of the LTM 11200, and how these can be exploited to provide improved outcomes on projects in planning.

As for the future, Max Cranes is not resting on its laurels and Mark is already researching equipment that can complement and expand on existing capabilities. As the largest mobile telescopic crane in the country, Mark expects that this crane will lead to Max Cranes servicing projects beyond its traditional boundaries, although the Spencer Gulf and South Australia will remain the company’s heartland.

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