Talking to 72-year-old Peter Webb, his passion for engineering, thrill-seeking and mechanics is evident.
Get sent to Peter’s voicemail, and you’ll hear a line about riding road bikes to explain his absence away.
“I’m a part-time worker now,” he says, “and I want to spend as much of my time out and about doing what I enjoy.”
Having “done his time” in the crane industry for 57 years, on top of being a road cycling aficionado, Peter is now a tester and operator trainer at Gleason Cranes. Beginning as a dogman at the ripe age of 15, Peter made the switch to becoming a professional crane driver by 1991, citing “longevity” in the system as the main reason for the switch.
“Additionally, I couldn’t be bothered lifting heavy stuff anymore; if it was dirty or heavy, I didn’t want to do it,” he laughs. “I saw the operators sitting on a comfy chair in the cabin of a crane and thought ‘gee, that looks alright’.”
Peter’s career in the cleaner confines of the crane cabin has seen him work alongside some of the most reputable brands in the crane industry, such as Kato, Hitachi, Tadano, Grove, Demag and Liebherr.
Completing countless jobs across various cranes with varying capacities, his experience has seen him perform all manner of lifts in a vast array of environments.
Therefore, when he says the Zoomlion brand has improved “out of sight” across the last 15 years, there’s an added element of veracity in his words.
Out of sight
“Zoomlion’s reputation has completely turned around in my time in the industry,” he says. “Initially, I wouldn’t want to be close to one of them; now, however, the technology is very practical, the crane is nice to drive, and the ergonomics are outstanding.”
Peter puts the newfound quality of the Zoomlion brand down to a couple of key factors; firstly, better welding on the machines has improved the structural integrity and reliability of the cranes. Peter’s experience with Zoomlion cranes during his tenure as a part-time operator for Gleason Cranes has resulted in his initial “apprehension” being quelled in light of the crane’s performance.
“Stability and control are everything as a crane operator,” he says. “At times, you’re driving by the seat of your pants, and you really want to trust the control of the machine you’re handling.”
“These cranes hold the capacity to provide both fast and slow operation,” he continues. “The computer will cut the machine depending on the percentage it is operating at to ensure it doesn’t exceed its working load limit, and the cranes provide excellent stability when operating within the WLL.”
The other facet to Zoomlion’s booming reputation in Australia, according to Peter, is the manufacturer’s willingness to listen to the feedback provided by distributors such as Gleason Cranes.
After all, a problem cannot be fixed if the manufacturer does not know about it; and, following the lead set by Japanese manufacturing brands from decades gone by, Peter says Zoomlion is very engaged in the practicality of its machines and wants to work with the people selling its products to provide a better service.
“The brand is getting bigger, and more people are becoming more confident in Zoomlion’s machines,” he says. “As I qualify and test the cranes as they come in, I can see where the cranes have gotten better. A lot of it is based off the feedback we give, and it reflects Zoomlion’s attitude toward flooding the market with better, safer products.”
Another key element of the Zoomlion brand’s products is the technology present within the machine. According to Peter, the machines strike the perfect balance of new technology and practicality; as Peter says, a “practical crane” is a “safe crane”.
“The technology is really easy to understand and use,” he says.
“Zoomlion’s cranes provide the best of the technology without things becoming overwhelming in the cabin.”
It’s not just Peter who testifies to this either. Speaking to Cranes and Lifting in August, Director of Mirri Cranes & Rigging Shane Golding labelled the cranes as “readily available…practical… and technologically advanced”.
Furthermore, in July, owner and founder of NR Cranes Nathan Randles labelled his new Zoomlion ZTC 251 as one of the “easiest” he’s operated in his lifetime thanks to the machine’s propensity to “not overcomplicate itself”.
For Peter, the stories coming from small-business owners are reflective of who the Zoomlion brand is most viable for. Discussing the quality of the truck-mounted cranes that Gleason Cranes distribute across the country, he underscores the roadable and affordable nature of the machines as the reason why they’re so often selected to start a crane hire company.
“The truck-mounted cranes are extremely versatile and are easily transported to any jobsite,” he elaborates.
“They don’t hold as much weight, and therefore reduce costs when it comes to moving the machine from point A to point B and when used in accordance with their WLL, provide a very practical, user-friendly machine.”
Zoomlion’s cranes hold a wider target audience than small-business owners looking to make their way into the industry, however.
As reported last month, Gleason Cranes has taken stock of a range of crawler cranes that hold capacities spanning from 30 tonnes through to 500 tonnes. This new range of machines, and the quality it shows, has been noticed by companies operating in high stakes projects such as those on the mines and notable renewable energy projects, according to Peter.
“I’ve delivered cranes to a variety of different locations across Australia, which is emblematic of how the Zoomlion brand stands up and performs in a variety of different environments,” he says.
“Zoomlion has done the hard work to improve the quality of its machines over the last 10 years, and results are there for all users and business owners to see.”