By Rod Auton, chief executive, Crane Association of New Zealand
The economy has slowed as the Government’s policies start to take hold with an expected GDP growth of only 2.5-3.0 percent, and we will struggle to keep inflation under the 2.0 percent mark over the medium term.
Financial conditions faced by businesses have dropped considerably over the last two years as current drivers are slowing. This has provided some uncertainty and financial constraints, making some businesses wary about investing.
The annual National Construction Pipeline Report for 2018 states that the total national construction activity is forecasted to rise to $41 billion by 2023, down on the projected $42 billion by 2020 in 2017. The report reflects that there will be a more moderate sustained growth over the next six years.
National non-residential building, previously reported to peak in 2018 is now expecting the growth in the Auckland, Waikato and Bay of Plenty regions, with a forecasted 61 percent in non-residential building value and with high level activity out to 2023.
Infrastructure spending is going to be taken up with mostly transport, water and subdivision projects which will dominate the infrastructure activity.
The Rider Levett Bucknall Crane Index for the 3rd Quarter 2018 highlights the strong growth within our construction industry, with a record high of 140 long-term cranes on the skyline. Residential growth remains the most dominant sector with 35 percent of all cranes nationally and 86 percent of that in Auckland. The retail sector recorded the largest growth in Auckland.
Wellington, Christchurch and Tauranga saw a fall across all sectors and Dunedin and Hamilton remained static.
Advances in crane technology
The most common technology on cranes today are tools that increase situational awareness for the operator, providing the operator with information to increase safety and productivity in real time.
Technology is developing in the industry with companies working on autonomous vehicles for the construction sector including cranes. Virtual and augmented reality are being used in the crane training environment utilising advanced simulations to train crane operators using a virtual realistic work site that has the hazards and conditions that an operator would experience in a normal day.
Computerised monitoring of cranes is here and manufacturers can now monitor maintenance issues on cranes in real time so that crane operators can decide if they need to do maintenance or operate their cranes in a more efficient way.
This technology will monitor the cranes remotely and report back on what is taking place inside the crane, so that operators can make important decisions with confidence and know when a crane needs to be maintained.
OEM telematics systems are commonly factory installed as standard items and these systems are improving safety and operational competency.
Telematics technology can now be customised to the needs of the type of crane and can assist with delivering precise and smooth control of swing movements while giving operators access to real-time information for quick diagnostics in the field.
Wireless cameras are now providing operators with direct line of sight of the load, allowing them to make more informed decisions. Operational processes become proactive rather than reactive to hand or voice signals.
There is a constant battle to ensure best practice is followed in the industry, and operators realise that undertaking best practice will reduce compliance costs and reduce regulatory oversight. Legislation and Regulation is now being recognised as an impediment due to the time it takes to change or amend it.
The Regulatory agencies are pushing practical common-sense applications of Regulations down to Good Practice Guidelines based on industry input and readily changed as the technology and environment changes.
Our 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 myriads 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 crane qualifications are now formulated to create a pathway into the industry as well as developing continuing professional development for crane operators. The first of the Level 3 qualifications commences January 1, 2019 with a basic dogman, truck loader crane, and gantry crane qualifications. The level 4 programmes are currently being written and then we will be looking at the level 5 advanced qualifications.
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. 2018-19 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.