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West Crane celebrates 20 years with Humma

West Crane and Access Hire have been a long term supporter of the Humma pick and carry range. Gary West explains why they have been the backbone of the business for two decades.

Gary West the founder of West Crane and Access Hire together with his son Chris operate the largest crane hire operation in the Western Districts of Victoria. West speaks of his involvement with Humma starting back in 2000 and how his business has developed from a Humma 20-25 to a fleet of Hummas.

Fast forward to 2020 and Humma 20 had completed over 20,000 hours of work.

West reminisces about the start of his crane hire business and being located in the small country town of Stawell, there were a few businesses requiring crane hire like the meatworks, farm sheds, which depended on farmers cashflow and some infrastructure projects. This made it necessary for West to travel long distances to other towns to get work, it was not uncommon to travel over a 100km to do a job. The margins were reasonable but continuity of work was a problem making it difficult to operate a profitable business.

“Crane operators were not available and had to be trained and if there was no continuous flow of work you had to put your drivers on casual and if this continued for some time, they would leave chasing reliable permanent work,” said West.

“This was a major obstacle to building the business. To contain costs, I did all of the maintenance and servicing and added additional services. On a number of jobs, the client required access plant, boom lifts and scissor lifts so we added these units to our operations.

“It also meant that it opened up a new hire area where roofing contractors only required access plant and not cranes. Mine-sites appeared in the area, and they required cranes and access plant and this slowly generated continuity where we could train and retain personnel and multi-skill them for use of all items of plant,” he said.

By 2000 West had been in business for fifteen years and the company was on solid ground.

“I was operating a AT12 Franna which was a good workhorse but the time had come to upgrade to a larger pick & carry, Franna AT20 was being considered but the boom length for the job I was looking to get was too short and I was investigating what could be done, also boom 4 was manual. I decided to go to the Perth Crane show as I had heard about Humma and they had recruited engineering and technical people who worked for Linmac which had closed after thirty years,” said West.

“Linmac was a pioneer in pick and carry cranes releasing a number of tractor-based models and later releasing the 18T road crane in competition with the Franna AT18. The Linmac 18 was a robust and what I consider to be a heavy-duty pick and carry compared to Franna AT18, the AT18 was upgraded to AT20.

“At the Perth Crane Show, I saw the Humma 20-25 and studied it and found the boom was over 2m longer than Franna AT20, I liked the airbag suspension which would prove to provide a smoother ride than the AT20 leaf spring, which was similar to the AT12 I owned,” said West.

“Having to drive over 100km to various jobs, this ticked the box and having fully powered booms was a big plus. With the cabin as a module and not part of the crane and the lifter cylinders behind the cabin like the Linmac, provided a 180-degree unobstructed view and this was also appealing. It had the same robust appearance as the Linmac 18 but included additional features, longer boom with boom 4 fully powered which I required.

“I considered the Humma 20 which I later found was the second twenty tonne built and because it incorporated the established robustness of the Linmac 18, it was unique and gave me an edge against the established Franna AT20. I decided to purchase the Humma but found the financing was difficult to obtain because the brand was not known. It looked like the purchase could not proceed and on discussing it with Peter Dalla Riva, the Operations Director at DRA Engineering, he supplied a personal guarantee to cover any loss when the crane was sold if it sold below the depreciated value. This security was accepted by the lender and it was the first Humma sold in Victoria,” said West.

He goes on to explain how his business had expanded having added larger cranes to his fleet and by 2016 West Cranes was at the cross-roads. His Humma 20-25 was starting to lose work to Franna MAC25s, Chris his son had joined the company and Gary was considering retirement. Both Gary and Chris were at the Perth Crane Show in 2016 and saw the Humma 35 Mk3. Peter Dalla Riva suggested they should purchase it as West Crane would have the largest capacity pick and carry crane in the area giving them a major advantage over competitors, expanding their business. It was a major investment and West was not convinced.

The day after the show had closed Gary and Chris visited DRA Engineering manufacturing facility and Peter Dalla Riva asked Chris to take a Humma 35 Mk2 from the DRA dry hire division for a drive. It is now history, Chris who had driven the Humma 20-25 told Gary ‘We need this crane in our fleet’. The Humma 35 Mk2 entered West Cranes fleet in 2017 and within months was able to expand the area of operation being able to travel at 95kph to attend distant jobs competitors could not handle in the infrastructure and power generation sectors. The extra capacity and increased travel distance added a range of jobs including bridge work, wind farms and mines. The business quickly expanded and within 18 months three Humma 35 were added and the rest of the fleet was working.

West goes on to explain more.

“Yes, there were teething problems with Humma in the early days but the DRA Engineers listened to my comments and suggestions and designed out the problem. From the first instant, Humma was a well- conceived design. It required some refinements from the field, and this has been achieved. I have said “the day you buy a Humma you begin to save money” and I know this to be true as I now have four and we are waiting for delivery of a new Humma 35 Mk3,” he said.

“DRA saw the benefits of working with us in solving operational issues and decided to take a further step by establishing a dry hire operation placing mostly 35T on long term projects to monitor performance, operating costs and reliability and at the same time generated a hire income stream to help finance the ongoing R&D programme. I consider it a smart move and the reason Humma is in the position it is in today.

With the new Humma 35 further expanding West Cranes business, is this the end of the journey with Humma? West doesn’t think so.

“When you are a Humma owner the Dalla Riva’s work with you, I know there is a new model for release in the near future, they are working on a new fail-safe braking system, we have a Humma 55 from their dry-hire division working on a wind farm and it is full of smart engineering. It is very safe to operate and is the next generation of heavy lift pick and carry.

“Looking back to 2000, buying the Humma 20-25 was the beginning of a long and mutually successful association with Peter Dalla Riva and more recently his son, the service and support cannot be faulted and both companies will continue to work together on future innovations,” said West.

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