ROD AUTON, EXECUTIVE OFFICER, CRANE ASSOCIATION OF NEW ZEALAND
Reviewing the crane industry from the perspective of the economy and technological advances in design.
WITH AVERAGE ANNUAL growth in the economy of 3.5 percent to June 2015 we are experiencing construction growth driven by the sound economy. Statistics NZ has actual value of building work consented in October 2015 alone at $898 million for residential consents and $479 million for non-residential work. This is also reflected in the RLB Crane Index fourth quarter- 2015 with continued growth in the key markets of Auckland and Christchurch.
Growing business confidence has seen growth across the whole construction and infrastructure sector and this has seen huge demand for cranes across the whole industry. The latest BNZ Confidence Survey noted that there was: “Overwhelmingly strong comments nationwide” in regard to the construction sector. The RLB Crane Index states that projects with cranes in the commercial and mixed use sector accounts for 50 percent of all cranes surveyed and the residential sector accounts for 28 percent of cranes predominantly from multi-use residential projects in Auckland.
With the downturn in Australia, large numbers of New Zealanders are returning home and for the first time there have been more worker imports than exports. Even so, there is still a shortage of quality operators in the crane sector that will get worse over the next few years as the Christchurch rebuild starts ramping up.
Advances in crane technology
Advances in crane technology are resulting in improved safety, load handling, reliability and overall performance.
Crane manufacturers are extending the limits that cranes can do through technology and design by increasing capacity, extending the length of booms, reducing weight, introduction of hybrid engine packages, wireless multi-sensor load indicators, wireless anti-two block systems, and interlocking telescopic boom systems. With the gains in technology also comes the responsibility of the operator to remain current and training systems are catching up with simulators being utilised overseas and manufacturers offering training packages to the buyers of the cranes.
Despite the advances in technology and training of operators, many external influences affect the maximising of those advances. For example, poorly maintained infrastructure, particularly underground like water and waste pipes, is in many cities due for replacement. Cranes are big units and with increased compliancing and health and safety, larger cranes are required to lift less weight. This of course has an impact on the infrastructure. So external influences can inhibit those technological advances.
In July 2015, the Crane Safety Manual was launched and has proven to be one of the most comprehensive operator references in the world. The Crane Safety Manual in conjunction with the Approved Code of Practice for Cranes have become the standard in this country.
Legislation changes have mobilised all industries to reflect on their policies and practices and the new Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 has had the most impact. The crane industry recognised early that this legislation would be critical and the Act is reflected in the Crane Safety Manual.
The Vehicle Dimensions and Mass Rule is at the submission stage and NZTA has conducted a number of stakeholder workshops to address likely changes. Those stakeholders have had considerable influence on the rewrite of the rule and we await the review document to ensure that industry’s needs are being met.
Changes are also occurring in the Resource Management Act to reduce costs and time waiting on consents. This can only benefit the economy.
There have been some changes by NZQA to alter how qualifications can be achieved. Unit Standards are now not recognised as the only method of taking on industry knowledge. As a result, more emphasis is being focused on the graduate profile outcomes. These outcomes determine what a trainee will need to know to gain a qualification.
Effectively this recognises that there are other methods of teaching and gaining knowledge and there is bound to be some benefit for trainees for whom the classroom is not a happy place.
All of these factors, the economy, legislation, technology and training contribute to a vibrant economy and for every crane you see on the skyline there is a huge construction infrastructure in behind it and this is why the industry is a key indicator of a thriving economy.