2018 Perspectives

Cranes and our economic environment

The average nominal GDP growth is forecast to accelerate from 3.6 percent to 5.6 percent in 2018, before declining to 5.1 percent in 2019, and this will impact the crane sector. Rod Auton, chief executive, Crane Association of New Zealand.

NATIONAL NON-RESIDENT building, previously reported to peak in 2018 has now been forecast to grow by 29 percent to a higher level of $9.6 billion peak in mid-2019.

All national non-residential construction is forecast to increase by 24 percent before levelling out in 2020 at $25 billion.

Financially significant national infrastructure projects include: transport projects (roads, rail, bridges, tunnels, harbours, marinas, parking and lighting); groundworks (residential, commercial, and industrial subdivisions); amenities (telecommunications, water and energy services); mining and energy (wind, thermal, hydro, oil, gas); heavy and civil (parks, landscaping, landfills, dredging and flood control).

This growth brings its own set of problems. Booming activity levels, lengthening lead times, shortages of resources including staff, rising costs and some concerns about the viability of some projects are all indicators of a constrained sector experiencing capacity strains.

The RLB Crane Index for the fourth quarter 2017 states that residential construction has taken up 45 percent of the country’s cranes and the commercial sector has 22 percent. Wellington, Auckland and Queenstown all recorded crane increases, with falls in Christchurch, Dunedin and Hamilton. Tauranga recorded a net crane movement of zero.

Advances in crane technology

Crane technology is getting smarter as manufacturers introduce technological and innovative crane concepts.

Restricted working spaces has meant the adoption of individual crane support systems allowing crane support to extend to arbitrary distances that then allows higher load capacities. Intelligent control technology has advanced to the point that the cranes can operate in extreme conditions and still provide the safety controls required on the job.

Boom technology has changed with proven telescoping boom techniques and advances in control systems that combine to form powerful, flexible boom systems. The advances in boom technology include improved lifting capacity resulting from reinforced lattice booms for crawler cranes that enable cranes to lift weights normally reserved for the next higher class of crawler crane.

New crane development by the manufacturers is catering for specific needs in the construction industry, like cranes that can climb wind turbines, advances in synthetic rope, and cranes specifically designed for working indoors, or in the tight confines of a city’s CBD.

Moving forward

There is a constant battle to ensure best practice is followed in the industry and that the operators realise that undertaking best practice will reduce compliance costs and reduce regulatory oversight.

The Association is constantly adding and updating information on the Safecrane website for owners, users, hirers, operators and dogmen. Many have found it too difficult to look through the myriad of websites seeking crane-related information, and we have put together this repository that contains most of the information and links to many of those sites that relate to the crane industry. You can view it at www.safecrane.nz.

The targeted review of qualifications is now complete. Skills and the industry are now working on the programme material as we move from nine qualifications down to four qualifications. This process now identifies a pathway for crane operators and dogmen from Level 3 to Level 5 qualifications.

The Pressure Equipment, Cranes and Passenger Ropeways Regulations 1999 and the Approved Code of Practice for Cranes, are up for revision, and this will be carried out in the next 12 months.

WorkSafe NZ is instituting a move away from Approved Codes of Practice to Good Practice Guidelines. This enables amendments to be made to good practice in a more timely manner as technology and legislation changes.

Other sectors such as Pre-cast Concrete and Steel Erection will also be making changes to their training, legislation, regulations and best practice and the Crane Association will support these initiatives.

The economic outlook bodes well for the crane sector, but more work means more staff who are trained and competent, and we see a shortfall that is going to be an issue for the industry moving forward. This year is going to be a year where the construction sector will continue growing, and cranes will continue to be a vital component of our nation’s infrastructure and building sector.

This article first appeared in Contractor Perspectives 2018.

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