C&L, Cranes & Lifting, Features

Longest boom for long white cloud

New Zealand crane hire business Ashton Crane Hire takes delivery of a Grove GMK5250XL-1 featuring the longest boom on five axles.

New Zealand crane hire business Ashton Crane Hire takes delivery of a Grove GMK5250XL-1 featuring the longest boom on five axles.

Marty Ashton, Ashton Crane Hire, also known as “Noodles’” to local cranies, knows all about Grove all terrains, he’s spent 20 plus years working with and on them, and now Groves are the basis of his crane fleet.

Before starting his own business Ashton Crane Hire four years ago, Ashton had spent 17 years working with Groves.

“I started as a junior just helping out around the yard. I got a dogman’s ticket and began setting up cranes, I was pretty much just being a young fella in the crane industry, helping out and learning. In time, I progressed and ran my own precast team and we were erecting precast concrete panels and jobs like that. Then I started jumping in the cranes. I started off in a little seven tonne crane and then onto a 10 tonne and worked my way up the crane sizes to a 220 tonner. That’s the way we did it back then, you couldn’t just jump onto a big crane,” he said.

“The crane business is all I’ve known and, after 17 years, I thought to myself ‘It’s time to give it a go and start out on my own’. I bought a 50t crane and hired it back to other crane hire businesses. I obviously knew a lot of people and I had a few connections after all the years in the industry and I was fairly confident I’d do OK and do my own thing with the one crane. The truth is the business took off quickly and the demand led to more cranes and now I’ve just taken delivery of my sixth crane,” said Ashton.

Ashton started his business in 2015 with a 50t Kato truck mounted crane which he used for general work, lifting structural steel on construction sites, lifting air con units and yacht masts, spa pools and lifting in general construction. You name it, he was lifting it.

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“I got quite busy quickly and found myself turning down work which you never like to do, but I couldn’t get to all the jobs. Then I picked up a contract with a film studio, so I dry hired a crane and employed Josh, a guy I used to work with.

“Josh operated the crane on the film set for a few months which allowed me to keep running around Auckland, working the little jobs here and there. We kept getting more work and I couldn’t keep up with the demand, it was just too busy,” said Ashton.

“I ended up ordering a Grove GMK 4100L-1, a 100t capacity all terrain, from TRT, the Grove dealer for New Zealand. It was never in the plan, I never thought I’d be doing it, but I ordered the crane, nonetheless. I got rid of the dry hire crane and took the 100t Grove on board, I took on another employee to help out with the truck and carried on with that. After a while we expanded again, this time with a 13t Kato city crane. From there I ordered a second 100t Grove. All the cranes have been brand new and the 100t was the first model in the country,” he said.

By this stage it is 2017 and the business is two years old. It’s getting busier all the time and as Ashton’s reputation grew there were more enquiries which lead to more work and the growth cycle continued.

“We were two years into the business when we had an accident with the 13t crane, which we wouldn’t wish on anyone. Gladly no one was hurt, but the crane was off the road for a while. We were told the repairs and parts would take nine months and I was faced with dry hiring another crane which I wasn’t prepared to do, so I ordered a new 13t. When the damaged machine was fixed, we had two 13t cranes in the fleet. We then added a 25t rough terrain Kato and after that arrived. In 2019, I decided to purchase the new 250t Grove, the first one in the Southern Hemisphere,” he said.

With a 78.5m Twin-Lock boom, the longest boom on a five axle all terrain, the GMK5250XL-1 provides high capacities combined with a small footprint and excellent manoeuvrability. The Grove single engine design with the latest emission levels reduces the operating costs due to 30 per cent lower diesel consumption compared to previous generation models.

Features of the GMK5250XL-1 include:

1. Height-section 78.5 m Twin-Lock boom

2. 18 m swingaway with jib and/or boom inserts for a maximum of 34 m length and up to 50° off-set.

3. CCS operating system with jog-dial, boom configurator mode and MAXbase variable outrigger positioning

4. MEGATRAK independent suspension with All-Wheel-Steering

5. Mercedes OM471LA Tier 4f or Euromot 5 engine with Mercedes G280 16-speed transmission

6. Up to 21t roadable counterweight on the crane with boom over front

7. Voith secondary water retarder standard or VIAB turbo retarder clutch optional for wear-free starting and braking

8. Logistic benefits due to interchangeable counterweight slabs and self-rigging auxiliary hoist.

Options for the GMK5250XL-1 include the VIAB turbo retarder clutch, which first featured on the original GMK5250L. The VIAB unit enables wear-free starting and braking, enhancing manoeuvrability and operator comfort. In addition to its high-performance features the crane delivers a compact footprint, making it ideal for use in crowded or urban areas.

An increased workload helped justify the purchase for Ashton.

“I was hiring in a lot of other companies with cranes over 100t and we were spending a large amount on subcontractors. To me the numbers just weren’t weighing up and I decided to bite the bullet and ordered the Grove 250t. This enables me to cover lifts from 130t, 170t 220t and 250t,” he said.

The new Grove GMK 5250XL-1 has two specialist TRT VersaLock crane trailers in support.  These Tandem / Tandem B Trains are designed to carry the specific ancillary equipment and counterweights for Ashton’s new crane.  There is also a specific load allocation for a forklift (pictured).  The TRT designed and manufactured trailers will enable Ashton Cranes greater efficiency, safety and time saving in crane transport, setup and breakdown.

Brand loyalty is an important reason for the recent purchase. Ashton has always been pleased with the performance of Grove all terrains and the support he gets from TRT.

“The company I worked for previously ran Groves, I was brought up with Groves, they are the cranes I am used to, they are the cranes I grew up with and they are the cranes that I like, so when it was time to buy a crane I was comfortable buying the brand I knew and understood,” he said.

“The new Grove is a five axle 250t and it features the longest boom in the world on five axles. It’s a new model with all the features that I want. Obviously, the other brands have similar features but like I said I’m loyal to the Grove brand. I’ve got a good relationship with TRT and I’ve got a good relationship with the finance company DLL. I’m going to honour these relationships, that’s the way I like to do business.

“The relationship with TRT dates back a while now, I’m used to TRT and I’ve dealt with Rob Carden and his team a lot over the last 10 years, so I know them very well. I’ve seen their operation many times, I knew how they operated with trade ins and I know what they offer in terms of service and support,” said Ashton.

Ashton is surprised at where he finds his business today, and he’s been impressed with performance of the Grove all terrains.

“My initial business plan was to have one 50t truck crane not six cranes with one being a 250t. I’m definitely excited about the film industry, there are a couple of major construction projects that we are working on as well, so it’s a busy time,” he said.

“Customers tell me I provide a better customer focus than some of the other companies, we’re a bit smaller and we’re more focused on customer service.

“With the new models, the 100t and the 250t, Grove has definitely upped its game, they’ve changed things around, they are definitely better to operate, and they perform really well. I’m happy with the improvements they’ve made. Compared to the older models, they’ve come a long way. I like to have pairs of cranes and I’m looking to order another 25t and I’ll see how the 250t goes. Having pairs is the plan,” said Ashton.

Ashton recognises the success of the business wouldn’t be possible without the dedicated team he has around him.

“Without the amazing team I have around me, we wouldn’t be where we are today, and I am thankful to every one of them. As with any growing business, there is a lot that happens behind the scenes and my business partner, Bruce has always been there with sound advice and guidance.

“And none of this would be possible without the understanding and support of my beautiful wife Kelle and son Preston. I couldn’t have done this without the hard work put in by Kelle and I thank her for putting up with all the crazy hours I do,” he said.

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