WGC Cranes recently opened a new branch in Newcastle and welcomed the delivery of two Grove GMK 5110-1s.
WGC Cranes (WGC), a member of FREO Group (Freo) which in turn is part of Marmon Crane Services Inc (Marmon) recently opened a branch in Newcastle appointing Blake Furner as the new branch manager. In mid-March, Furner took delivery of two Grove GMK 5110- 1’s which had been previously been operating in the United States. Both machines required modifications to comply with Australian regulations; a process that was managed by the Manitowoc team in Sydney.
As a result of under-utilisation of assets in Marmon’s North American operations, the opportunity arose to transfer several cranes to Australia which had not been as severely impacted by the COVID 19 pandemic. Freo and WGC have continued to search for growth opportunities in Australia and this resulted in the establishment of the Newcastle branch.
With Furner’s solid understanding of the Newcastle market the two new Grove GMK 5110-1’s were required to be modified to comply with Australian standards and New South Wales road regulations. The equipment needed to be road ready, crane ready and CraneSafe certified before they entered the WGC fleet.
“Once they landed, a few conversions were needed, imperial to metric and miles per hour to kilometers per hour for example and we engaged Manitowoc team to ensure this happened,” said Furner.
On arrival in Australia, Todd Carney and the team at Manitowoc were engaged to assist with applying the technical modifications required to bring the machines in line with Australian Standards.
“We received the cranes just before Christmas and during the early part of the new year we have reduced the overall width of the cranes to ensure the complied with NSW road standards.
We also changed over all the wheels to narrow wheels to reduce the width. We completed some major repairs to ensure they are CraneSafe compliant and this included some repairs to ensure they passed RMS standards. We spent the first two months of the year getting the cranes ready for our valued customer,” said Carney.
“Reducing the width of the crane is an involved process” explains Carney, “It involves the removal of all the decking and cutting that down by 50mm on each side. There was also a guard lip which had to removed, to enable a little more narrowing of the crane. Basically, the crane needed to be reduced 100mm on either side all together”.
“Some of this work was quite straight forward as they were straight cuts but there was more intricate work required around the slew ring itself where you have to get the radius in and you have to ensure the mounting points are right. The guys have done a fantastic job on this element of the project and we’ve completed this within a timely manner,” said Carney.
“This was a fairly complex job for us to get both cranes altered to meet compliance issues simultaneously. Most of the work has been managed inhouse by the Manitowoc team, although a contractor was engaged with some of the trimming work.”
“If we can’t manage a process with our internal team, we will always bring in the right people who specialise in the task at hand. All the rest of the work was managed by my in-house team, and they have done a terrific job,” he said. Carney then explained the key features of the cranes and the modifications that had been made to achieve compliance.
“Because it is a US crane it was operating in pounds and feet and so we had to go through the process of installing new software and load charts to bring this over and into kilograms and meters. One of my technicians Andrew managed this process. Within the dashboard itself, the Mercedes Benz side of the crane had to be converted from miles to kilometers as well and we get Australian Standards within that as well. These are relatively high-level processes, but my technicians are highly qualified and trained for these types of jobs,” he said.
Carney talks about the amount of planning required to ensure the cranes are converted and ready for service, in a timely manner.
“If we don’t have the parts, we order them from the factory. With the Mercedes Benz conversion it was a matter of plugging in the Mercedes tool which we have here at Manitowoc, and we were able to change parameters to switch it over from miles to kilometers, we also had to download new software from the factory for the crane to change the gauges from pounds to kilograms and from feet to meters.”
“This involved an overnight call, the factory sent the new parameters to us, we set these up for the crane and she’s ready for action. As part of the refit for WGC, updated during each step of the process.
“We have obviously worked closely with the customer and made them aware of milestone developments. We like to be proactive with our customers and keep them informed of developments before any questions are asked. It is important for us to keep our customer informed on how the job is progressing so they can start planning on when the cranes will be operating”.
“WGC had to get their IAP connected and we worked closely with them on this. We worked closely with WGC’s signwriter providing him with enough time to get this side of the project completed”.
“It’s not the first time we’ve provided this service, narrowing up guards on cranes is something we have done before for customers. We provide an array of services for our customers, from servicing the cranes managing modifications as we’ve done for these cranes through to major repairs. We do what we need to do for our customers to get them on the road.
“With the help of my team, I am focused on providing customers with the right levels of service to get their cranes out on the road and earning money as quickly as possible,” said Carney.
Furner commenced his working career with Walter Wright with whom he worked for 11 years until the business was liquidated. He then moved to another crane hire business and worked there for three years, two and a half of which were as branch manager. From a low base, business built quickly, and the fleet grew to 20 cranes and a crew of 60. The WGC Newcastle operation might be new, but Furner has ambitious plans for the operation.
“Newcastle is a small town and the business communities are tightly knit. Everyone knows everyone and you can’t afford to get offside with people because they have very long memories. Being born and bred in Newcastle
you understand this, and you also understand local businesses want to deal with locals. I love a challenge and when WGC confirmed they wanted to open in Newcastle, I jumped at the opportunity,” said Furner.
“Our biggest challenge is getting our name out and into the market. we are gradually making inroads by explaining to customers who we are, the team we have, the cranes we have access to and who we are backed by. There are some large corporates in Newcastle,” he said.
Furner talks a little more about the WGC fleet in Newcastle.
“We have the 300t capacity crane which runs between the Valley and Newcastle and we’ve got the 400t which we also use in Newcastle as well. We’ve already had this working on a project in Newcastle and this provided the opportunity to demonstrate our capabilities to customers.
We run a brand new Liebherr 230t capacity with a 75m boom. Obviously, we’ve just taken delivery of the Grove 110s which feature 50m of live boom. Realistically, they are a short stick 130 as they still have 40.1 tonne of counterweight just like a 130. They have the same carrier and the same crane; they are just one boom section shorter. This makes them exceptionally good on chart with panels for example. They are an excellent crane on chart, and they can out lift the 130s in some areas.”
“We also run a 100t Liebherr, a brand new 90t Liebherr, two new 60t Groves, two city cranes and a number of pick and carry cranes. Now we have 15 cranes operating in the Newcastle fleet,” said Furner.
WGC has a tight team in Newcastle says Furner.
“Supervisor Neil Hall has been working with Freo for the last three years. He decided to be a part of the new venture in Newcastle. Our other supervisor, Luke Foster recently joined our team giving it a fantastic foundation for the WGC business to build on. WGC Newcastle has 15 crew along with, 10 crane operators, riggers and dogman. The team we have put together in a short space of time is excellent and I am extremely happy with everyone’s effort to date.”
Furner goes on to discuss the profile of customers he hopes to attract to the business.
“There are good customers in high rise construction, and we are working closely with the major construction companies.
“Infrastructure work is great, and the high level of activity we are seeing in the area will likely last another 10 years. We are focused on attracting the mining sector and related contract work to sustain the crew and to be utilising our assets. We started the business in late 2020 with not much, so to have 15 blokes working every day this quickly is nothing short of incredible,” he said.
The new branch is strategically placed on Kooragang Island, in the heart of
the coal handling facilities. The choice of location was very strategic. We are in prime spot with customers like Orica, Incitec, Port Waratah and NCIG on our doorstep.
“I’ve been in cranes for long enough to feel very confident about the opportunities for the Newcastle organisation. I can see this operation running 20 cranes and employing 40 permanents and 20 casuals by the end of 2021. With everything we have planned we can certainly be one of the larger crane suppliers in Newcastle,” said Furner.