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Recognising heavy lifting excellence

With over 35 years of experience across diverse industry sectors, Wallbridge Gilbert Aztec (WGA) has developed an award-winning engineering and project management team offering a wide range of consulting services.

With over 35 years of experience across diverse industry sectors, Wallbridge Gilbert Aztec (WGA) has developed an award-winning engineering and project management team offering a wide range of consulting services.

Mark Gilbert, founder and director of Wallbridge Gilbert Aztec (WGA) was recently recognised by the South Australian branch of CICA for his outstanding contribution to industry.

After building oil platforms in the North Sea, Gilbert returned to Australia in the early 80’s and set up Aztec Analysis with business partner Geoff Wallbridge. Aztec Analysis specialised in heavy lifting, haulage and loadout which built on Gilbert’s specialist skills and experience. A second business, Wallbridge and Gilbert, provided more general consultancy services and in time the two businesses combined to form WGA.

Gilbert and Wallbridge started the business together with a part time draftsman. Today, WGA is a multi-disciplined consulting engineering firm represented across Australia and employing over 350 people.

WGA provides consultancy services to the various industry sectors including civil, structural, electrical, mechanical, heavy lifting and heavy haulage, temporary works, geotechnical and almost every form of engineering design, says Gilbert.

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“We also offer services specifically designed for the lifting sector. We are crane experts; we are crane designers and we are heavy lift designers; we often review and provide third party certification for clients.

“We provide client certification on big lifting operations which can be up to several thousand tonnes, but there is no limit really. We are one of the few, if not the only, specialist, independent company in Australia. There are a number of people with knowledge, but they tend to work within crane companies and are therefore not truly independent. We are independent consultants,” said Gilbert.

WGA services are generally required when a client is faced with the prospect of moving a massive piece of plant for example, says Gilbert.

“Most often, it’s the owner of the plant who will come to us and say we have to remove a furnace weighing 600t from the top of this building and how on earth are we going to do it?

“We then investigate what resources are available. Because Australia is such a big country, the crane you want for the job could be thousands of kilometres away, so you have to be resourceful. We always tailor the lift to the available equipment and resources and that is really the art of it. The client obviously wants the lift completed safely, we all do, so we plan it meticulously and we draw up every aspect of it. Through risk analysis we take the risk out of heavy lifting for the client. We also supervise the crane operator during the lift,” said Gilbert.

There are many variations of this scenario as well, says Gilbert. WGA might be approached by a crane hire business with a client wanting a major job done.

“In this situation, we have a number of tools at our disposal that aren’t available to crane hire companies. The difference is we’re engineers, so we design, and we analyse, we draw and we analyse the lifted object, we design the lifting lugs and the lifting beams, we offer the entire service. We are not saying the bigger crane companies can’t provide these services, but most clients like the fact we offer a broader service and then we can certify the entire design,” he said.

Rodger Weste, WGA, manager industrial says the certification is key for a lot of clientele to ensure they can certify their engineering when working on high risk projects.

“The certification we provide is a key service to link the crane companies and the project owners to provide a safe, effective and transparent outcome which we provide all over the country.

“A recent example of this would be Multiplex, Collins Arch Project in Melbourne’s CBD. We provided a lot of the lift studies and certifications for this project’s key foundation lifts. This included combining up to five different cranes (mobile and tower) on site with multiple different capacities and multi crane lifts to ensure the building’s precast sections, which weighed up to 40t, could be lifted and installed safely,” he said.

“These lifts were often offset going in at large radiuses off a street in the heart of the Melbourne CBD which is quite a difficult task. Access was limited and only available from two sides of the square, you can imagine the amount of work involved in preparing a project like that. That’s just one recent project, we would have provided certifications for 1000’s of projects over the years,” said Weste.

According to Gilbert, Tier One contractors invariably require a third-party review of any lift study that might have risk attached to it. That provides an independent opinion to give them more certainty and confidence.

“We often conduct the third-party reviews. The crane company might develop the lift study and we conduct the third-party reviews to test and validate it. With the actual lift our role can vary. More often than not we will supervise the lift, so we take the lift from concept to completion,” he said.

Gilbert’s life commitment to the industry is recognised by CICA and he says WGA does a lot of work that is endorsed by CICA including signing off on major crane inspections, commonly referred to as the 10 Year Inspection.

“10 years is not necessarily 10 calendar years for a crane, it is 10 working years. We help our clients interpret the work history of the crane and piece together and advise them on when they really need to spend a huge amount of money on a major inspection. Often, we can extend the life of the crane quite substantially. We have approximately 12 specialist engineers around the country providing this service to numerous companies,” he said.

Gilbert was recognised by CICA for his contribution to the industry.

“I was a joint recipient of the CICA Outstanding Achievement Award with Mark Kuhn from Max Cranes. We were recognised for a lifetime contribution to the industry, which was a wonderful award, a great honour.

“I was also awarded an OAM was an even greater honour. The nice thing about the OAM is you are nominated by your peers, so I think my efforts in the crane industry have been recognised by some who went to the effort to nominate me, which was excellent and touching,” he said.

“As an observation, the construction industry is moving towards the modular construction process where larger sections of infrastructure projects are being built requiring fewer but much heavier lifts with greater lift spans and radiuses.

“Generally speaking, the crane companies in the industry are positioning themselves well to cope with this change and development.

“If I have made a contribution over the last 20 years to the crane industry, it’s been to raise the level of documentation in engineering and lift studies. I think we have a safer industry than we had 20 years ago.

“Today, every crane company takes a more detailed and rational approach to planning their lifts and lifts have been transformed in 20 years. I don’t think there’s a limit to what we can cope with, we can keep up with the construction industry trends with no problem,” said Gilbert.

Weste confirmed details relating to Gilbert’s commitment to CICA and the industry in general.

“I’ve been involved in CICA for about 12 years and when we were looking through the records and archives trying to find detail about Mark’s record, we couldn’t find a year when he wasn’t on the committee, and we looked as far back as the records went. His Outstanding Achievement Award is absolutely right, and he’s certainly been a part of the association for a very long time,” he said.

“Yes, I thinks that’s about right, I think I would have joined around 2000,” said Gilbert.

“In fact, I joined when I read about the association in Cranes and Lifting magazine, it was called Construction Monthly back then. I actually entered The Lift of The Year Award because we had a good lift which I felt would have a chance.

“I received all the documentation, put a lot of work into the entry and submitted it. I then received a call from Rob Way who is one of the elder statesmen of the industry and he said, ‘I want to come and see you about your lifts.’

“He said ‘your entry is fantastic, but you are disqualified because you are not a member of the South Australian Crane Association, as it was back then. I said ‘well I’ve read all the documentation and found nothing that says I have to belong to the association.

“He said, ‘we’re going to give you a special honourable mention and would you mind joining? I said I’d be happy to and that’s how I joined the Crane Association and Rob and I became a life-long friends,” said Gilbert.

“In those early days we won a number of the Lift Awards because we took a rational and an engineering approach to lifting. Now everyone does it that way and we take a little bit of credit for that,” he said.

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