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A detailed history of Boom Logistics

Boom Logistics

Today, Boom Logistics is a publicly listed company, employs over 500 staff and operates one of the largest crane fleets in the country; 25 years ago, Boom Logistics was the joint vision of three men, Allan McPherson, Frank Legena and Jack Hebiton.

In this feature, they take us back to where it all began in a detailed case study of the history of Boom Logistics.

In 1988 senior staff from United Transport were part of a failed management buyout for the United Transport group in Australia, Brambles was the successful bidder.

The Western Australian management team, including Allan McPherson and Frank Legena, had an opportunity presented to purchase the Bell crane assets that had been acquired by Boral Resources. The successful bid for the purchase of the assets saw the formation of Uniway Cranes on 13 April, 1989.

Uniway Cranes, under the leadership of McPherson in operations and Legena in administration, formed a successful crane and transport business that traded until 2002.

In 1999 the Uniway Crane Leadership Team discussed a succession plan for the business. Unfortunately, the children in the family business, who were old enough, were not interested in getting involved in a very tough and competitive crane industry.

At the 2000 CICA Annual Crane conference in Perth, McPherson was presented with the Con Popov award. During his acceptance speech he said that with all the changes that were occurring in the crane industry, including quality assurance, improved safety requirements and enterprise bargaining, it was hard to envisage how medium crane companies could survive.

Construction and industrial companies were demanding larger capacity cranes and capital constraints were channeling crane industry growth towards the larger players, placing financial and operational pressures on small to medium enterprises.

Hebiton and two investors had purchased Alpha Crane company in the late 1990s and they soon discovered it was a pretty tough game.

Attending the CICA 2000 conference in Perth, Hebiton reported back to his fellow investors.

“We’ve got two choices, we either get out and lose a lot of money or we get bigger,” Hebiton said.

They concluded getting bigger was a better outlook. 

“There were two things in our favour,” Hebiton said. “Number one, Brambles had decided to exit the crane industry across Australia and they had obviously been the largest player by far, and the idea of consolidating a number of small crane companies into one large one had the support of a number of businesses.

“These included Frank and Allan at Uniway Cranes which operated 38 cranes, Alpha which had 8 cranes and Midland (20 cranes) all in WA, General Contractors and Sutville Tower cranes which operated 30 plus tower and mobile cranes in Melbourne.”

The decision to join this consolidation of smaller crane companies wasn’t straightforward. The biggest hurdle was that the owners were independent people who had successfully run their businesses for some time and there was an initial degree of pushback when changes came in – but overall, they were very supportive.

In late 2001, Hebiton presented the idea of consolidating a number of small to medium crane operators into a national crane business in Australia to Uniway Cranes’ owners, Allan McPherson and Frank Legena, and he was grateful to receive their strong support for the strategy.

The final consolidation involved five businesses in the Australian crane market, three in Western Australia (Alpha Crane Hire, Midland Crane Hire and Uniway Cranes) and two companies in Victoria (General Contracting and Sutville Cranes).

These businesses formed Australian Crane Company. This was to facilitate the strategy to form a national crane company that would eventually list on the Australian Stock Exchange and this company was incorporated on December 22 2001.

Boom Logistics Pty Ltd officially started on February 7 2002 starting out with a management team led by their chief executive officer Rod Harman.

McPherson and Legena continued to contribute to the development and growth of Boom Logistics – with their confidence in the consolidation strategy ultimately creating the succession plan for Uniway and other crane small to medium enterprises.

The final consolidation involved five businesses in the Australian crane market, three in Western Australia including Uniway Cranes. Image: Boom Logistics.

Over its first few years Boom Logistics carried out a number of acquisitions of smaller companies around Australia.

The initial round of acquisitions:

  • Alpha Crane Hire (WA)
  • Uniway Crane Hire (WA)
  • Midland Crane Hire (WA)
  • Sutville (Victoria)
  • General Contractors (Victoria)

Later:

  • Brambles Perth Cranes (WA)
  • Brambles Goldfields Cranes (WA)

In October 2003 Boom Logistics Limited was successfully listed on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX code BOL).

The listing enabled the successful raising of additional capital to acquire the next group of established businesses:

  • Conmor Cranes (Victoria)
  • Heavy Lift Cranes (Victoria)
  • Port Kembla Cranes (NSW)
  • Purcell Cranes (WA)
  • Holts (Queensland)

The completion of these acquisitions provided Boom Logistics with a broad, national spread of operations and a strong presence across different industries.

The next round of acquisitions up to June 2008 included:

  • Sherrin Hire (National)
  • James Equipment (Victoria)
  • G.M. Baden (NSW)
  • D&D Crane Hire (NSW)
  • Moorland Hire (Victoria)

Hebiton was delighted when Ben Pieyre was appointed CEO and managing director of Boom Logistics.

“Ben is a very successful man in the crane business, and he is also a very fair man, he works hard and builds excellent teams around him. He has worked extensively overseas and was in Canada before he joined Boom Logistics,” Hebiton said.

Whilst Boom Logistics has experienced some mixed results in its first 20 years, it is now well positioned to build on its place as the largest Australian owned crane services business. 

There will be a continued focus on growth, particuarly in the renewable energy sectors, as well as an ongoing commitment to providing quality, safe and efficient services across all major markets in Australia.

To support its position, Boom Logistics has made significant investments over the last few years, in equipment and in its people, encouraging diversity and empowering employees. 

Since its inception, the successes of Boom Logistics have been the result of its people delivering clever and innovative solutions developed through many years of expertise and dedication. 

This commitment to excellence will remain a high priority under the guidance of Pieyre and his team.

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