Features, Industry News, West Australia

WATM’s reputation growing in the crane industry out west

After being appointed CEO of Western Australian company WATM Crane Sales and Services earlier this year, Adrian Wilkes platformed his aspirations to develop and grow the awareness of the products they are offering, as well as a commitment to the service and support WATM provides throughout WA – and the preliminary results are showing he’s a man of his word.

WATM, being the Western Australian distributor for the Manitowoc, Grove and Hiab brands, holds a rich history dating back to the 1970’s under chief founder of the then-family business Frank Lazenby and his wife, Marcia. Selling over 330 mobile cranes, demand at WATM is strong, ensuring that Adrian is consistently being kept on his toes but, as he insists: “there is always room for improvement”.

“Our focus continues to be firstly on safety; safety within our business, with our employees, and trying to ensure that the products that we provide and support, are superior out there in the market,” he says. 

There is a lot of movement across our Grove products, with new cranes being delivered to customers operating on mining sites, in remote territories such as the Cocos Islands, and to WATM itself because, as Adrian says, the Grove products are “constantly coming out with exceptional upgrades”.

“Next month we’re taking delivery of the brand new GMK5120L,” he says. “It’s got an unbelievable chart on it, all with the new Grove Crane Control System (CCS).”

With “significant orders already in place”, all cranes coming out from the Grove factories are carrying the new Grove Connect: the remote diagnostic support so that companies like WATM can ensure that they provide “the right people with the right tools and the right equipment to ensure maximum reliability along with minimum downtime, particularly in remote areas.”

Exercising the opportunity to spend the last week in Newman to visit WATM’s facility up there, Adrian says he visited a number of client sites and, on the back of the “extensive opportunity and volume of work that’s up there”, WATM has just doubled its number of  technicians.

“We used to have either one or two people,” he adds. “We’ve now got up to four people that are rotating through the Pilbara, to make sure that the backup support on the product is exactly where it needs to be – especially in challenging remote areas throughout the Pilbara.”

On top of providing improved support throughout the Pilbara, WATM received an order back in March for two new Grove GRT 880s from a leading supply and logistics company – operating on the Cocos Islands – to replace two obsolete GRT880s also acquired from WATM.

The customer had no hesitation in approaching WATM for a straight replacement of the RTs, with two brand new GRT 880s.

“This is an existing long-term customer of WATMs, and they previously had two GRT880s, which is a two axle, 80-ton, rough terrain crane, which they really liked,” says Adrian. “They spent their whole life out on the islands and when it came up time for the age of those cranes, they had no hesitation in approaching us for a straight replacement of the two, with two brand new GRT 880s.”

The GRT 880s feature a four section, full-power, 41m boom, as well as a new cab and the new Grove CCS to ensure ultimate efficiency on the job site for all lifting required. 

With a maximum lifting weight of up to 80 tonnes, Grove itself backs it with a two-year standard warranty, indicative of the manufacturer’s faith in its performance and reliability – something Adrian points out was a key “reason” the customer decided to “stay with those two cranes”.

“They were proven, they had very good utilisation, and that was with mid-range hours on them”, says Adrian. “The reliability was the key factor because shipments can be minimum two weeks and often three to four weeks in between parts and suppliers getting access to the island. However, those cranes certainly were well-suited for the environment and terrain that they needed to work within.”

Taking delivery of the cranes in March from their US factory, Adrian says WATM was able to hold the cranes at their facility in order to add features such as rust protection measures – tailoring their work to make sure the “longevity” was going to be “where it needed to be” in an environment such as the ports and wharfs on Cocos Islands. 

Additional to tailoring work to their customer’s specific needs, WATM also holds a preventative maintenance program where technicians – “experienced Grove Manitowoc mechanics” – are sent to the location of the crane, in addition to some “basic training” conducted with site personnel to ensure that customers in remote locations can access whatever support they need as soon as they can obtain it.

“All of this is because we want to make sure we’ve got the right people and the right in-house support for a product that is well entrenched in the WA market,” says Adrian. 

“Finding good people has been an absolute challenge over the last couple of years, but we’ve got more technicians now than we’ve ever had in our WATM 49-year history; for me that’s critical to ensure the support is provided to the product that we back.”

Further to catering to the demands of customers operating on remote islands, WATM has also seen demand for their products in mining sites across the state and, once again, Grove was the name at the tip of everyone’s tongue – this time, in the 150XL edition. 

“Obviously, that’s (Grove GMK 5150XL) a great crane,” says Adrian. “It features a 69mmain boom and a very good taxi chart, making it easy for that crane to move both between an urban environment as well as the long boom for mine site works.”

“It was a no-brainer for one of our largest proven customers to actually be the first to take delivery of that in WA,” he adds.

Also taking delivery of the GMK5150XL in March and undergoing mine site spec modification, CraneSafe inspection and road registration at the Department of Transport in WA, Adrian says the crane should be out in the Pilbara as soon as May.

“The operators loved the Groves; they did not want to go away from the Grove product,” he says. “The key issue for them was holding a proven understanding of the capability of the crane as well as it being a very comfortable, proven, reliable machine.”

However, as Adrian outlined, safety is also at the forefront of his mission as CEO at WATM, something taken into account when initially taking delivery of both the GMK5150XL and the GRT880s. Saying they “don’t come standard” and that the safety process revolves around “making sure” that all of the protection measures for working at heights are “put in place”, Adrian says WATM wants to “exceed safety requirements on site”.

“WATM specialises and customises our cranes for our customers’ specific requirements”, he says. “So that’s everything from air-actuated handrails up on the deck, to modifying ladders, and ensuring proper grab points are where they need to be.” 

“Additionally, we lowered the rear chain boxes and timber boxes so that it can all be done from ground level, meaning you don’t need a platform ladder to access the rear chain boxes anymore,” he adds.

“Essentially, it’s just making sure that everything is done the way it needs to, and that it’s safe and it can handle all the terrain and the challenges that’s thrown at it from the site it’s operating on.” 

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