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Australia, C&L, Features, Products

Humma’s 25 years of innovation

It has taken 25 years of constant innovation and evolution for the Humma pick and carry range to really hit its mark.

The success of the Humma pick and carry range is due, in no small part, to the vision of DRA Group and the innovative approach it has always taken to the design, engineering and manufacturing of its products. Peter Dalla Riva, operations director for DRA Group discusses the heritage of the business and the milestone achievements it has seen.

“1996 was a memorable year for DRA Group. We celebrated 25 years of trading and Construct Engineering, a DRA Group subsidiary, which had been launched in 1984, had completed the construction of the largest sheep processing facility in Europe which had a daily throughput of 4,000 sheep.

“In the twelve-year period Construct Engineering had been operating, we completed turnkey projects in Qatar, Botswana, India, New Zealand and Australia and was exporting purpose- built machines to Europe and middle eastern countries when quite suddenly new projects dried up both in Australia and overseas. The business was left with an engineering team with a wide range of design and manufacturing skills with no projects on which to utilise these skills,” said Dalla Riva.

“When we faced with this situation, we decided preservation of the company was paramount and the only solution was to reduce operating costs to match the reduced sales revenue. We did not want to lose the experience and skills of the engineering team so we set out to find a project where the skills could be gainfully used in a research program which would lead to design and build projects in the future,” he said.

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During this period, a number of small and medium engineering companies were suffering financial stress with some forced into liquidation. Dalla Riva was looking to find one such company where the Construct Engineering skills could be utilised. The opportunity arose when Linmac, the competition to Franna, was forced into liquidation, leaving Franna as the only supplier of pick and carry cranes.

With a 30 year history, Linmac had developed the tractor crane to a point where it was producing 300 units per year. In the sixties and seventies, the crane hire industry was in its infancy and the tractor crane was not suitable for commuting on the road so the crane hire industry was ready for Franna when it released in 1980. This was later followed by Linmac’s competitive product. Unfortunately for Linmac, the release was too late and although the Linmac road crane had many good design features, Franna was proved more cost effective and became the pick & carry of choice.

Dalla Riva immediately saw the opening for his engineering team to design a new generation pick & carry crane and recruited a crane design engineer and senior technician from Linmac to join the Construct Engineering team. This recruitment added thirty years of pick and carry experience to his research and development team. Project “Road Crane” (RC) was launched in 1996.

“The engineering team and I basically knew the specification we wanted for the ‘RC’ but decided to conduct a survey of Franna owners to better understand their experiences with the brand and to understand any inherent issue they had with the Franna models. In 1996, Franna basically had three models, the AT15, AT18 and the recently released MAC25. Our survey revealed owners had issues with reliability most would welcome a competitor into the market,” said Dalla Riva.

In 1996, the original specifications for the HUMMA were based on where the Construct Engineering team expected the ‘RC’ would be in 20 years’ time said Dalla Riva.

“We took into consideration that cranes would be expected to lift heavier loads in the future and our engineering teams were very aware that a pick and carry crane required a different set of design features when compared to truck cranes where the load is supported by the outriggers.

“Pick and carry means the ‘load is dynamic’ not constant and the structure, booms and componentry must cope with these dynamics. Competitors today still do not take this feature into consideration which affects reliability and operating costs, increases downtime and repairs. With 20 years of proven field results, Humma offers 15 year/15,000hrs for the first major inspection and proven ‘life cost’ of between 20-25 per cent of the MAC25,” he said.

Dalla Riva takes a look at the 1996 specification for the Humma.

Standard footprint: All Humma models have the boom in the centre, not on the side, because stability is best achieved in this position and when articulating at 42 degrees the load on the structure is even on both sides of the chassis, eliminating weld cracks and fatigue.

Cabin: Full width and modular, not part of the crane structure, need to isolate it from road vibration and noise. Humma cabins are the quietest in the industry with cabin noise at 65-70 decibels compared to Franna where drivers should wear ear protection. The wide cabin is safe for driving at high speed on the road and when operating. Both competitors have half cabins with boom obstruction.

Booms: A crane must have the longest possible booms designed to withstand damage by flexing when moving loads as loads are dynamic and P&C crane boom designs require a high safety factor. Humma cranes has the longest boom in the industry and is 2-3M longer than competitors.

Suspension is critical with pick & carry as it is required to move along the road at traffic speed (95-100km) on arterial roads and at the same time reduce road vibration which damages sensitive crane componentry, increasing repair and maintenance. The specification of ‘RC’ was established and included:

  • Modular construction
  • Air bag suspension
  • Fabricated booms
  • Standard footprint for all models
  • Only well proven componentry used

“Apart from the structural design of the chassis and booms, the performance and reliability of a pick and carry depends on using quality componentry proven in plant such as loaders where loads are lifted, articulated and moved on rough surfaces. Bearings and axle selection is important as is the engine. Humma is the only crane with ADR 80/02 automotive diesel engine with low emissions and fuel usage of up to 25 per cent lower than industrial diesel engines.

“1997 saw the first crane RC18, an 18 tonne using aluminium tanks and plastic mudguards. It was not accepted by the market because it did not look robust enough and the tanks were considered exposed to damage. The next model had steel tanks and guards were fitted,” said Dalla Riva.

“It’s Interesting to note that 25 years later, the Franna AT40 has an exposed aluminium tank and yet the Franna customer accepts them. From 1997 to 2000 a number of RC18 were built with Freo Group taking three on dry hire for up to two years. Tony Canci was impressed as he said they were good lifters but needed to be more reliable and wanted to be the sole distributor which we rejected. The ‘RC’ later became Humma as we thought it looked like the American Hummer,” he said.

By 2003, Humma 20 had been released and a select number of units were in the market and it was clear a major review of the design was required. Sales were suspended and the entire structure was subjected to a full Finite Element Analysis investigation. This established the position of the structural areas needing strengthening. To take control of field performance DRA established a “project dry hire” division for the 25T & 35T models. This allowed Construct Engineering to monitor field performance and carry out upgrades as necessary.

“Humma, with an ongoing commitment from its engineering team, incorporating changes from Humma owners Gary West who purchased the first Humma 20 in 2000, Dave Lewis who purchased the first Humma 35 in 2010, and Mike Hanchard who in 2013 established the reliability of both Humma 25 & Humma 35 by subjecting the 35T to 2,000 hours of taxi hire in the Brisbane region. Acceleration, top speed and fuel usage was recorded and proven to exceed the competitor by a considerable margin,” said Dalla Riva.

“Reliability, maintenance cost and down time for Humma 35 was rated highly. This extensive testing laid the foundation for Humma 55 to be launched in 2017. The world’s largest and safest articulated pick and carry crane. The field results after years of operation on both the 25T and 35T have confirmed Humma is a low cost, high performing, extremely safe pick and carry which is comfortable on the highway at 95kph or on site lifting and moving loads,” he said.

Dalla Riva highlights how the R&D program continued unabated.

2005 – Humma 18 modified into rough terrain 14T fork for harvesting tomatoes in Victoria, moving 10T bins in paddocks from trailers to trucks. This work tested the resistance of the chassis to distortion when working in paddocks.

2006 – Dual winch developed for Humma 20 lifting and positioning large pipes. Humma is the only P&C having a dual winch as an extra.

2008 – Release of Humma 25 by incorporating a slightly longer length, axle weights were reduced to 23T and eliminated the removable counterweight allowing the crane to carry 1,000kg of rigging gear.

2010 – Release of the largest capacity pick and carry crane at the time, Humma 35 with removable counterweight.
2011 – Humma Dry Hire operation used as a means of obtaining operational data on Humma 35 and using the data to carry out design upgrades.

2013 – Entered into collaborative agreement with Hanchard Cranes for testing of 25 and 35T in the taxi hire market, assessing reliability, fuel usage and performance.

2016 – Release of Humma 35 Mk3 incorporating six years of component testing and design performance. Based on proven results Humma is the only crane that comes with 2yr/2,000hr warranty and first major inspection at 15yr/15,000hrs. A major inspection at 20,000 hrs did not require line boring of pivots or articulation with no weld cracks.

2017 – Humma 55 developed using the same footprint on all previous models which incorporated the design upgrades. Humma 55 is the world’s largest crane in its class and is also the safest with the patented auto-leveller.

2018/19 – Field testing undertaken and debugging of Humma 55.

2019 – Release of Humma 55.

“You may ask what has Humma contributed to the industry over the last twenty five years. I would ask the market to consider the following points,” said Dalla Riva.

“When Humma was launched in 1996, Franna was marketing the AT15, AT18 and MAC25. By 2010 Humma had released 18t, 20t 25t models, carried out extensive design upgrade on the design in 2003/4 and released the world’s largest crane in its class, Humma 35. In those 14 years, Franna were still marketing the AT15, AT20 and MAC25,” he said.

“During the period 2010-2013 we subjected Humma 25 & 35 to extensive testing replicating field operations and upgrading where required. 2016 saw the release of Humma 25 Mk2 and Humma 35 Mk3 with proven performance data, high reliability, lowest operating costs, lowest fuel usage, 2yr/2,000hr warranty and 15yr/15,000hr for first major service. No competitive product has been able to achieve this performance. 2018 saw the development of the Humma 55, a world first in pick and carry, the largest capacity and safest crane. It is safest because of how it is configured and how all Hummas are configured, they are difficult to turn over, they have unobstructed frontal vision making them safe to operate and drive,” said Dalla Riva.

“We are producing a range of pick and carry cranes, which are manufactured in Australia by an Australian company using only proven quality components. Humma is the only 21st century designed and built crane incorporating current technology with proven performance data. Our crane is proven to perform efficiently in the field as a pick and carry crane with minimal maintenance. We are challenging the market to put Humma to the test,” he said.

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