Sarens turned to Australia Country Manager Luk Roelandts for his insights on the opportunities and challenges in the region-as well as predictions for what's next. Here's an exclusive look at Sarens' presence in Australia:
Could you give us some background about Sarens in Australia?
Sarens is active in Australia since last 10 years. We started our business from the east and gradually expanded throughout the nation.
We currently have two offices in Australia: our head office in Brisbane and an operational office in Perth. Having a presence on both coasts is important because it allows us to support clients nationwide.
We currently have a crew of about 50 people and a fleet of cranes ranging from 20-ton all-terrain cranes to our new LTM1450 and LG1750 SX, which are arriving soon and will be deployed for Sarens' wind projects in the region. Our crawler cranes cover the full market capacity range, from 100-ton hydraulic crawler cranes to the 600-ton capacity CC2800, and we are currently using an LR11350 on a large mining project. Our transportation fleet features 200 axles SPMTs, prime movers, floats and trailers. We also have access to special equipment like jacks, strand jacks, and skids.
What is your business model in this region?
From Perth to Brisbane, we have a very motivated core team of high-tech specialists responsible for nationwide sales and operations. This core team takes the lead on all projects and spreads out across the nation while staying in continuous contact. For each project, we combine the core team with local support and personnel, which is a setup for success.
Distances in Australia are huge, and it's very difficult to manage this as sometimes a crane will go out to a project and we will not see it in our yards for a few years. To manage this, we cooperate with good local subcontractors who assist us with all aspects of the job where needed, in a cost-efficient way.
We also have the support of regional management in Asia, as well as good daily communication with the head office in Belgium, with whom we align on strategy.
In 2016 and 2017, a variety of projects were being executed in the region. Could you tell us about the major ones?
In the last 18-24 months, we have secured and executed several interesting projects within different industries.
In the wind industry, which is currently booming in Australia thanks to nationwide renewable targets for 2025, we have performed the Hornsdale 2 & 3 project for Siemens-Gamesa and installed several turbines in South Australia. We are currently demobilising from this project, and the full project crew and equipment will go directly to the next project in New South Wales, where Sarens will install 75 large turbines starting in October this year.
In the realm of civil construction, we have participated in the construction of the new Perth Stadium, the new wharfs in Newcastle Port, Elisabeth quay in Perth, highway upgrades on the East Coast of Australia, and bridge and railway station installations in Perth. We are also preparing for the first modular 3-span bridge installation which we will perform in Adelaide later this year.
In the mining industry, we are currently installing two large Sandvik machines in Queensland and four ThyssenKrupp machines in New South Wales. We are also starting a major mining project in northern Queensland: the modular construction of the new Rio Tinto Bauxite mine. Sarens' scope includes sea logistics, load-in, land transport and installation of 1.200-ton modules. This is the first time we are delivering a full 'from factory to foundation' solution in Australia.
As you can see, Sarens Australia diversified its operations and is now active all over the nation and covering all industries.
Are there any new projects in the pipeline?
Yes of course! We are starting two new wind projects before the end of this year. Sarens has also been appointed as a contractor to install the largest bridge ever erected in Australia. Also, Sarens has been awarded what's currently Australia's largest mining project, and will be performing the heavy transportation and installation of large modules.
Which strengths have enabled Sarens to successfully execute these projects?
Our strengths are our smart and very motivated local team, supported by the experience of our Australasian hub and head office.
Everything stems from a strong sales force that can think together with the client and find the right technical and commercial solutions for projects. We also depend on a strong operational team to execute and optimise where possible.
Communication within our team during all phases of a project is the key to success! It's of course also important to have the right equipment, and we are proud to say that our head office has supported us in delivering the right equipment for each job.
How do you visualize the existing market and its future outlook?
Australia had a super construction boom from early 2000 to 2013. Because of this boom, a lot of equipment and services came to Australia to enjoy the golden time. Since 2014, however, mining decreased significantly due to global oversupply and the Australian industry suffered as a result.
Over the last three years, we have restructured our local business and repositioned ourselves for better times, which are starting now. There has been a clear uplift in the market now, and more projects are changing status from hold to construction. The Australian government is investing in infrastructure and renewables, resulting in new construction and work for Sarens equipment and personnel.
Which opportunities is Sarens poised to leverage in Australia?
The renewable industry is very active at the moment. To reach Australia's renewable targets, nearly 2.500 wind turbines must be erected in the next 3-5 years. This has been a major focus for us and we have been gearing up for this growth by importing additional equipment to support the expanding renewables market.
Next to the wind industry, we're seeing a real pickup in the infrastructure market and in mining as well. There, things are a little slower but moving nonetheless.
Which sector do you believe drives the growth of heavy lifting and transport activity in Australia?
Australia will always be a source of mining, infrastructure, oil & gas and maintenance contracts. We try to diversify as much as possible to make sure that when one industry slows down for a period we have other industries filling in. In this way, Sarens can position itself in the market and grow market share in the different industries.
What do you see as challenges in Australia's current business environment?
Operating costs are very high in Australia and have to be monitored closely. This is mainly due to many desolated projects that bring large equipment mobilisation and demobilisation costs. But we are prepared and growing our local support division to assist and reduce these costs.
You have been associated with Sarens for a long time. How have you seen the region evolve?
I have been with Sarens for close to five years and it has been a very interesting journey! My focus has always been on Australia: I started in the sales department and gradually grew into my current role.
We have seen everything in the last five years, from a mega-boom to a crash in the market, as well as equipment oversupply and adjustments to business strategy. Quick adjustments to these market conditions have been the key to our success.
Luckily, we are currently in the upmarket and the majority of our equipment is in operation on different projects nationwide.
Have you participated in any community initiatives?
Whenever Sarens is awarded a contract in a region, we try to create job opportunities for local citizens. A combination of local crew combined with our core crew works well on the project sites. I'm pleased to see that the some of the local hired employees can grow into the organization and become part of the core crew as well.
Any final thoughts to share?
Strong people make the difference! Surround yourself with a strong team and make sure that team members can rely on each other. This, together with state of the art technology and equipment, differentiates Sarens Australia from the competition.