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New Cranes wise heads, young blood, keys to Two Way expansion

Two Way Cranes continues to expand with a new cranes arriving and a new yard, but remains focused on the experience in the business and bringing on the youth.

Over the last 18 months Two Way Cranes has continued to integrate the Gillespie Cranes business, opened a new depot in Wollongong and recently announced the purchase of a number of new cranes. Owner Frank Zammit discusses his plans for the business, how the team is developing and how experience and youth are focuses for him.

“A major development has been the opening of the branch in Wollongong. It was a struggle initially, but we have persevered, the phones are ringing, and the business is really gaining traction,” said Zammit.

“There were a number of reasons for the slow start. It is a very tight business community in Wollongong, and I think customers were wary of our long-term intentions and plans for the business. Too many crane businesses have opened and then closed. I think the message is finally sinking in that Two Way Cranes is there for the long haul, we are not going anywhere.

“We’ve got a young team and I’ve been working closely with Sash Vujic and he is learning about the business all the time and how to deal with customers. He is a fine young man and good for the business. There are six cranes permanently based there and we are planning to send another three. We have eight full time employees, all local people, and they are really building momentum within the business. We’ve only been there a year,” he said.

“It’s interesting, everything changed with one pool installation. We did the right thing by the builder, gave him a good price and completed the lift and this has led to a rich vein of work. The customer is giving us plenty of work and recommending us to other builders. It feels like we’ve put in the hard yards and its beginning to pay dividends.

Zammit goes on to discuss the new cranes he has on order, how they will impact the already substantial fleet and the reasons behind the purchases.

“I’ve got six new cranes on order, and they will start arriving in the New Year. I’ve got a new Liebherr LTM 1120-4.1, two LTM-1150-5.3, two Franna AT40s and one Grove GMK 5150 XL. The new cranes are a result of general growth and demand for larger capacity cranes. I’ve heard the new Grove 150s are a good machine with lifting capacity closer to the old 200s.

“The Grove GMK 5150XL has a 68.7m boom the 4 axle Liebherr 120t has 66m of main boom and Liebherr 150t with 66m . This extra reach will come in very handy around the industry. We’ll have the fleet split between the Glendenning and Wollongong yards,” he said.

The Sydney operation is going well says Zammit with plenty of infrastructure work.

“The first stage of the Western Sydney International Airport is almost complete, and they’ve moved 20million tonnes of dirt during this phase. We are tendering for the next round of the works with Multiplex and CPB Oceania. This includes the terminal build and I’m hopeful we’ll secure this work.

“We’ve also been busy with Defence related projects and there has been a tremendous amount of work in the telecommunications sector. We’ve been involved in putting in the required infrastructure and this has been really good for us. We’ve tendered and quoted on plenty of projects and our pipeline of work is looking extremely positive,” he said.

“We’ve also been busy in the tower crane sector where we do a lot of work for Liebherr and also Resolution Rigging Services. The number of tower cranes going up at the moment is pretty crazy. This means my larger capacity cranes are out which is good for the business. We’ve also been working on the construction of data centres which is a major growth area.

As with so many in the industry, Zammit laments to the great loss around the passing of John Gillespie. But confirms the name and memory of John will continue within the Two Way Cranes business.

“I spoke to John three weeks before he passed, and I told how proud I was to have purchased the Gillespie business from him. I have nothing but respect for the Gillespie name which has been associated with the crane sector for close to 70 years. I told him I didn’t want the Gillespie name to disappear from the industry and confirmed I will always have a crane in my fleet featuring the Gillespie name and signwriting.

“John was very grateful and after he passed, Peter Gillespie called and expressed how overwhelmed the family was at the gesture. I just think it is fitting that the man who contributed so much to our industry should be fittingly recognised. We have dedicated a Franna AT22 which was a Gillespie crane originally. It’s painted in the Gillespie colours and if this crane ever has to be moved on, we’ll do the same with another crane,” he said.

Dave Gillespie has worked in the Two Way Cranes business since the acquisition of the Gillespie business which was two and half years ago. He has been responsible for maintaining clients and transitioning them from the Gillespie business.

Cranes are in Dave Gillespie’s DNA. He has been around them for most of his life and working them since he was 16.

“As a seven year old, all I wanted to do was go to work with my father, Bill Gillespie, the founder of Gillespie Cranes. I went with him every weekend and every school holiday. After leaving school, I started dogging on cranes learning the trade on 16t cranes for a few years and I eventually learnt to operate the cranes.

The Gillespies went into partnership with Gordon Marr bought International Rigging NSW. Dave worked for Gillmarr, the name for the amalgamated business, for 10 years between the ages of 20 and 30.

“This is where I really learnt everything I know about big cranes. I worked on the largest crane in Sydney at the time which was Marr’s 200t Link Belt, I was rigging and also erecting and dismantling tower cranes.

“By the age of 30, I was driving a 50t crane as a support crane for assembling and dismantling tower cranes. I was working on the 50 supporting the 200t Link Belt and I was fascinated by the crane.

“I knew how it worked and I’d always wanted to operate it and one day, the operator needed a toilet break, I jumped in and didn’t get out of it for the next two to three years. Operating the largest crane in the Sydney was a big step up for me,” said Gillespie.

“At Gillespies, my brother John was the front man, and I was the guy who worked until midnight fixing cranes ensuring they were ready for the morning; driving a crane when we were short of an operator, or making sure the lifting gear was ready for the day ahead. I looked after all the lifting gear and not once did we get a call to say a crane was short of a sling or a shackle. I made sure every crane was ready, and that we weren’t late for a job, ever,”

“Film and TV production is a hard industry to get into but because I have developed relationships over many years and supplied the right access and lifting solutions. I have brought these relationships to Two Way Cranes,” he said.

Gillespie has been impressed with Two Way Cranes and how Frank Zammit is prepared to invest in the latest technology and equipment.

“Frank has got the gear. At Gillespies, I knew we needed equipment and we discussed this, but never seemed to have the right mix and by not moving fast enough and buying the right equipment we would miss out on some good jobs and solid work. When I moved to Frank and Two Ways, I could see he has everything, better than I could have ever expected. Frank is not frightened to invest in the latest equipment and technology, and this is true right across the business,” said Gillespie.

John Menendez also moved across from the Gillespie cranes business. He specialises in another niche area for Gillespies, and that’s tele-communications projects and barge work and his contribution is critical to understanding this specialised area of the lifting industry.

“We have bought expertise to Frank and Two Way Cranes and to have so many cranes at our disposal to solve problem lifts is a real bonus. We now have access to a growing fleet of modern cranes.

“With the acquisition and transition to Two Way Cranes, we have been able to bring some clients who we have worked with for years. The feedback I am getting is they are happy with the way we are working with them and how we are working on their job sites,” said Menendez.

“I spend a lot of time working in the communications industry. It’s an industry that we’ve been in for some time and a lot of other crane hire businesses have tried to break into the sector. Because we’ve been in the sector for so long, we don’t shop for work, we are asked by clients to tender for the work, which is a great position to be in.

“We’ve got the new Liebherr coming with a lifting capacity 120t and 66m of main boom, we could be using this every day in the sector. It’s the same with the new Grove 150s. With the range and variety of cranes we now have access to, I would say the customers who came across from the Gillespie business are even happier with the service we are providing,” he said.

During the transition between Gillepsies and Two Way Cranes, Menendez had not had the opportunity to speak to Frank about moving to the business.

“Obviously we had to continue with the various projects Gillespies had secured and we were not going to let our customers down. These 190t beams were going up on the bridge project, Borgers were using a 650t capacity crawler, Boom Logistics were using two 750t all terrains and we went in there with our 350t crawler, walked them in, stored them and then placed them once they’d completed the head stocks, which was a big boost for their project.

“Because of the acquisition and the probability of us getting a new home, I rang Frank and told him I had this project, and we could secure all the lifting if he wanted; he told me to grab it.

“During the next meeting with the customer, I asked if they were happy with my plans, I’d like to have the rest of the project with Two Way Cranes; they didn’t hesitate. That project meant 18 months of solid work,” he said.

Zammit confirms how important experience has been during the transition from Gillespies to Two Way and how he is bringing on youngsters within the organisation.

“Gillespie clients are very different to our standard clients and, in general, they are not in construction. They include movie set builders, engineering businesses and barge work. It’s interesting and varied work and not your standard construction work. COVID impacted this aspect of the business and movie production stopped, although we did work on The Fall at Potts Hill where they had five big cranes there for eight weeks. Now things are opening up, it looks like we will be working on the latest Mad Max movie which starts early in the new year,” he said.

“We are ‘bringing on’ the good operators in the business and recruiting youngsters. I am talking to younger people working in the smaller companies who want to get into a larger business like ours. I want Two Way Cranes to be a business that recruits youngsters and trains them in all the right ways. It’s then up to them to decide if they want to make a career with our business which presents plenty of career paths,” he said.

“We are focused on bringing through apprentices, but the apprenticeship program has been hit hard during COVID. TAFE stopped dead and it still isn’t back. My son Andrei is now 19 and I can see a huge difference in his head space from when he started two years ago.

“Another good kid is Damien Day who started here at 16; he is seriously switched on. They both have their Dogman and Riggers Tickets through independent RTOs (Registered Training Organisations) and they’ll gain their Crane Tickets when TAFE comes back online.

“I’m really proud of the way our young guys are coming on and they are going to be critical to the future wellbeing of our business and the crane industry in general. They are in a position to learn so much from experienced heads and this is part of my succession plan for the business.

“I want to attract youngsters into the business and spend the time and money training them. They learn the ‘Two Way’ of working and they don’t develop bad habits or cut corners. They are here to work in an ambitious business that will look after them and provide a career for them for as long as they want. As we know, once you are trained and have experience, this industry can take you anywhere in the world.

Acquisitions are never easy in terms of bringing together different work cultures and approaches to the business, but Zammit, Menendez and the management team at Two Way Cranes have worked hard to provide a cohesive environment where the crews get along with each other.

“We’ve seen some changes that is for sure. We’ve seen different approaches from the businesses we have bought but two and a half years later, we have everyone thinking the same way. The only way is with Two Way,” said Zammit.

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