Australia, C&L, Cranes & Lifting, Features

WATM’s 50 year evolution

WATM Crane Sales and Services celebrates 50 years in business.

2024 sees WATM, the Western Australian distributor for a range of products including Manitowoc, Grove and Hiab, celebrate 50 years in business. Managing Director Anthony Lazenby and CEO Adrian Wilkes cover the rich heritage of the business and the significance of recent developments.

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Started in 1974 by Frank and Marcia Lazenby, WATM began life as WA Truck and Machinery Repairs, says Anthony.

“Dad was a panel beater, his business partner at the time was a diesel mechanic and Mum looked after the books. They rented a shed, opened the doors and then started to chase work, with their first job being a smashed-up truck which had rolled over. They repaired the truck and away they went,” he said.

“It remained a truck and heavy machinery repair business until the mid ‘90s. By this time, we had a good reputation for not only repairing trucks but all types of heavy equipment including different types of earthmoving equipment, anything that came through the door, pretty much,” said Anthony.

He goes on to discuss the significant opportunities which presented in the late 90’s. 

“In 1997 we heard the then Hiab dealer was losing the dealership, we approached Hiab and soon after we were appointed the WA distributor. Then in late 1999, we were approached by John Stewart from Grove who wanted us to become the Manitowoc and Grove distributor and we quickly agreed.

“Over the next five to six years the business transformed from a general repair shop to a crane business, to the point where we were exclusively focused on the Hiab and Grove products. We also picked up Pettibone Rail Cranes and WATM became a specialised crane business from that point forward,” he said.

The business developed significantly from mid-2000s to late-2000s due to a huge amount of activity in WA. WATM sold a lot of cranes, and to accommodate this growth more facilities were built. What the business calls Workshop 2 was bought at auction second-hand after the closing of the Griffin Coal mine in 2003.

“In 2006, we built Workshop 3 and we kept developing the yard, and investing and improving our facilities. In late 2011, we bought [a workshop at] Pickett Street because we were overrun with installation of new Hiabs and we’d outgrown the main yard. Pickett Street was an old, run down ex-fabrication workshop, so we put in a new concrete floor and added new roller doors.

“We also refurbished the offices and then in early 2012 we moved in. Today we install 100-plus Hiabs a year. 

“In 2014 we put permanent staff up in Newman with resources on the ground and service trucks. In 2017, we bought our third facility, Shovelanna Street in Newman, and we’ve occupied that ever since,” Anthony said.

Adrian goes on to discuss more recent and significant developments for WATM.

“Today, WATM employs 61 people, across our three branches in Bayswater and Newman.  The business has continued to develop over the years whilst managing to retain our family first culture and customer focus,” he said.

WATM Crane Sales and Services celebrates 50 years in business.
The team at WATM today. Image: WATM.

“Like from the very beginning, product support remains at the core of what we do and is our largest area of investment.  As a reflection of this, we have three additional technicians starting over the next three months.”

They are experienced technicians specifically recruited from around the world, says Adrian. 

“They are factory trained Grove technicians and they will complement and further add to the capability of our WATM Service team,” he says. 

With the increase in number of Grove cranes in operation across the Pilbara, WATM is keeping pace and will increase its service and support capacity at its Newman facility. 

Two additional trained and experienced technicians will be arriving in the Pilbara in May and June 2024, to enhance WATM’s expansion and service offering throughout the Pilbara.

“WATM continues to implement our strategic plan which includes the establishment of a coastal Pilbara facility over the next six months,” Adrian said. 

“Feasibility is at its final stage for a Karratha or Port Hedland depot, in order for WATM to be best positioned, to support our Pilbara customers. WATM will then be the leading and largest crane service provider, across the Pilbara.

“To ensure all crane sites are safely accessed and efficiently serviced, WATM has increased our fleet of field service trucks and light vehicles, to accommodate and support our team of trained technicians. This will ensure prompt response times and service reliability is enjoyed by our customers,” said Adrian.

The changes come after Manitowoc recognised WATM for its hard work, naming it as the best rebuild completed across the Asia Pacific Region in 2023. 

“That was great recognition for the excellent work our service team delivered, and which is why we are one of a limited number of Global ‘Elite’ Dealers across the Manitowoc Group,” Adrian said. 

“To be an Elite Dealer, means we have the inhouse capability to manage full crane rebuilds, maintain excellent parts availability and undertake extensive factory training for our  technicians. WATM is also a leading crane service provider across WA to perform 10 Year ‘Major Inspections’ and I would like to highlight our ability to perform this on ALL makes and models of cranes – and not just Manitowocs, Groves and Frannas,” he said.

“A very exciting new development for our business was the establishment of WATM Equipment mid-way through 2023. This new business has been set up to provide diversification and allow the WATM group to provide a broader range of equipment, not only to our existing customers but also new segments such as civil and infrastructure, right through to smaller trade type businesses. 

“The first major step for WATM Equipment was the appointment as a Western Australian dealer for Kalmar, which is part of the Hiab family of companies. It was a logical extension, and we have access to the full suite of Port Equipment products including forklifts, reachstackers, terminal tractors and other specialised port equipment,” he said.

“The most recent very exciting news was our appointment as the exclusive Western Australian and Northern Territory dealer for SANY construction equipment. This is a new opportunity for us. Initially we will be selling and supporting the full range of excavators, rollers and graders with further new products lines to be added later in 2024.  Obviously, we will not be handling cranes, we are very clear to our customers about the products we support in our new equipment business.  

“We are undergoing training at the moment, and we already have excavators in our yard. We see this as an exciting opportunity to help diversify our business and it also helps to de-risk the business as well. It’s well and truly within our wheelhouse. We have experienced technicians who are very capable of swapping between the SANY equipment and the full crane service and support we offer,” he said. 

“Our aftermarket support across the Pilbara, as it is currently and with our future expansion plans, will enable full remote support for the complete range of WATM group products. 

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