Over the last 25 years, DRA Engineering has continued to develop the Humma range of pick and carry cranes. Much of this is as a result of customer feed-back. The Freo Group (Freo) embraced the early model Hummas, but after trialling them for some time they were returned. It would be close to two decades before Hummas were back in the Freo fleet.
Freo is the largest crane hire business in Australia with over 430 assets and 23 branches strategically situated around the country. The company also operates the largest fleet of articulated pick-and-carry cranes.
Brothers Mike and Nic Celenza were amongst Freo’s first employees, starting with the business over 40 years ago. Here they discuss the history behind Freo’s relationship with articulated pick-and- carry cranes, including the Humma range, designed and manufactured by DRA Engineering.
Mike is General Manager – Fleet and Nic is Executive General Manager within the organisation. Nic provides background information relating to Freo and to the relationship with DRA Engineering and the Humma product.
“Over the years we’ve seen the Freo fleet evolve from a JEC/BHP mobile known as, ‘Wobbly’ crane, and that’s how we first met the Linmac family; they were manufacturing and distributing the model.
“The Linmac family went on to manufacture a range of pick and carries until they were forced to close their business in 1995. At that time, we had as many Linmacs in our fleet as we did Frannas. When the Linmac business closed after 30 years of building cranes, Franna took the opportunity to develop and quickly became the dominant brand,” said Nic.
“Over the years, we established a good relationship with Linmac’s John Sandstrom. John advised he and a Linmac design engineer had joined the DRA Group and were working on a new range of pick and carry cranes. That’s when we were introduced to the Humma range.”
The Humma project was launched by the DRA Group in 1996 with the first model the Humma 18. At that stage it was referred to as Road Crane (RC) 18.
Peter Dalla Riva, Operations Director for DRA Engineering, takes up the story.
“Freo was showing interest in the RC18 and they took three units on hire for two years. They could see Humma was a good lifter with a long boom but we knew we needed reliability to go with the performance. Each Humma 18 released was better than the previous model and Freo wanted to be part of the development process. Both Mike and Nic were initially involved with Humma 18,” said Dalla Riva.
Mike Celenza speaks about the early Hummas.
“Freo’s association with the product dates back to 1998 when we had Hummas in the fleet over two years.
We liked the first cranes. Although the capacity was only 18t, we were impressed with the Humma’s full powered boom length because, at the time, the Frannas only had a manual extension.”
“We were also impressed with the on- road comfort. There were less drive lines and the air bag suspension technology made it a comfortable drive. But after two years, we sent them back to DRA Engineering and didn’t have much to do with the brand for close to 20 years,” he said.
In 2019, when the first Humma 55 was about to be dispatched, Peter Dalla Riva contacted Freo . There hadn’t been any contact between the two companies for sixteen years. Dalla Riva invited Freo to view the Humma 55.
“Freo accepted the offer to visit our factory and see what we’d been up to. As a result, they hired two Humma 35s for evaluation. The six-month field operation confirmed the cranes performed with low running costs, with increased reliability and safety. The rest, as they say, is history, with Freo since purchasing four 35t and currently have two 55t Hummas under evaluation,” said Dalla Riva.
According to Nic , they immediately noticed a significant improvement in the latest Hummas.
“Over the last couple of years, we’ve had the 35t machines back in the fleet. There has been a vast improvement – they are a totally different machine. In my opinion, they have a number of features which are the best in the industry and the market loves them. We’ve noticed there is a lot of demand for the Humma product, in particular with the refineries and production facilities asking for them by name. They are a great addition to our fleet,” he said.
“When we saw the Humma 35 we knew it was a completely new crane that incorporated several improvements from the previous models we had been exposed to , including technology advancements . DRA had added several unique features, including an impressive load chart and we could immediately see it was a superior lifter to the Franna.
The roadability of the crane was also a key factor. Anyone who has driven a pick and carry knows they can be a bit of an uncomfortable ride. With the airbag suspension, the Humma really is a unique road ride,” said Nic.
Peter Dalla Riva adds more about the specifications included in the current Humma range.
“Pick and carry means the ‘load is dynamic,’ not constant, and the structure, booms and componentry must cope with these variables. Our competitors still do not take this feature into consideration, which affects reliability and operating costs, and increases downtime and repairs. With 20 years of proven field results, Humma offers 15 year/15,000hrs for the first major inspection and a proven ‘life cost’ of between 20-25 per cent of the MAC25,” he said.
“Standard footprint: all Humma models have the boom in the centre, not on the side, because stability is best achieved in this position. When articulating at 42 degrees, the load on the structure is even on both sides of the chassis, eliminating weld cracks and fatigue.
“The cabin is full width and modular and not part of the crane structure so it is isolated 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 on-road at high speed and when operating. Both our competitors have half cabins with boom obstruction.
“A crane must have the longest possible booms designed to withstand damage by flexing when moving loads. Loads are dynamic and pick and carry crane boom designs require a high safety factor. Humma cranes have the longest boom in the industry up to 2 meters longer than competitors,” he said. “Suspension is critical with pick and carry cranes as it is required to move at normal traffic speed, up to 95-100km, on arterial roads and at the same time reduce road vibration which can damage sensitive crane componentry hence increasing repairs and maintenance,” said Dalla Riva.
Mike Celenza discusses the importance of safety when it comes to pick and carries operating on mine sites and Tier One construction sites.
“Safety has rightly so become a major focus. The objective of zero harm is industry best practice. For example, most mine owners in the Mining and Resource sector view pick and carries with a clear focus on i safety and compliance. Initially Franna was a little slow off the mark,
and then TIDD entered the market with safety enhancements as a key feature. With focus on risk mitigation and the desire to improve the overall safety of the machiness, DRA has engineered the Autoleveller System technology into the new Humma,” he said.
“The issue of derating crane lift capacity when operating on uneven surfaces led DRA Group to develop the Auto leveller System for its high-capacity Humma 55T pick and carry crane. The patented Auto levelling technology can be fitted to all models of Humma”, says Dalla Riva.
“The system ensures the chassis is kept horizontal when the crane is operating on uneven surfaces of up to 5°, without having to reduce the crane’s SWL. Slope deration is not necessary, although all Humma models have a dynamic load chart fitted with slope deration. In my opinion, DRA’s Autolevelling system, which is built into our Humma 55T crane, makes slope derate look like old technology.”
“When the Humma is set on Auto levelling it keeps the chassis level even when operating on slopes and uneven surfaces. This removes the need for slope deration and the possibility of operator error. Auto levelling is managed by theHumma 55t machine operating system. For this reason, it has been classed as the safest pick and carry crane available.
“DRA Group continues to invest in the latest technology and Auto levelling along with the introduction of robotic crane manufacture. Such innovations are designed to see Humma remain ahead of the competition as we continue to develop the safest available pick and carry crane,” he said.
Nic Celenza summarises why he and Freo have been impressed with the Humma’s evolution.
“In our view, the Humma product has come a long way. At the top of the capacities you can’t compare the Humma 55 with the Franna AT40 – they are totally different machines. With the Humma side Auto levelling System, no matter what the angle of the ground, the crane doesn’t derate. This means the Humma 55 is a true 55t capacity craneeven if you are picking up 20t and operating on a 3° angle.
“It can actually lift and carry more than any other crane on the market. We’ve been impressed with other features including the new LMI and computer systems. It has a better capacity and a full boom with more power which makes it excellent for facilities work. You can pick up heavy valves and jib them right out and all the way back. Before, you would have to use a ‘slewer’ for that type of work. The Humma is ideal for this sort of work and related applications”.
“The support from the DRA team is 100 per cent. We have their fitter’s direct number and we can call 24/7; they are always there for us. When we had a few little issues with a compensator, they said to bring the crane in immediately. We did and they fixed it. There are no delays; they are 100 per cent focused on support and they’ll work late to ensure the crane is there for you the next day,” he said.
“It makes a difference when you are working with the business owner and the manufacturer. The Dalla Rivas recognise it is imperative to provide that level of customer service. This is especially true when they are operating on a relatively small scale at the moment. As they build the business and the profile of the Humma range, I’m sure they will continue to make customer support and service a priority,” said Nic.