Profile: Ian Howe Concrete Pumps

By: Lyndsay Whittle, Photography by: Lyndsay Whittle

Deals on Wheels meets two young minds, who, with sheer grit and determination, are working their way to the top at Ian Howe Concrete Pumps

Ian Howe has been pumping concrete for 37 years, and he and his partner Harriet Wells knew they were onto a good thing when they started training their son Trent to be active in their business back when he was only 16.

Ian Howe’s concrete pumps can reach up to 47m

Encouraged by Trent’s raw enthusiasm, they also could see potential in the 15-year-old son of one of their operators, Dave Taiapa.

Dave’s son Justin just didn’t seem to have much interest in going to school, however, Ian and Harriet were prepared to take him on as a general hand in the business and as the saying goes, he’s never looked back.

This introduction of young blood into the business took place back in 2012, but skip forward to current times and you see two highly experienced concrete pump operators who are in charge of some expensive boom pumps, pumping concrete into some of Auckland’s most expensive pieces of real estate.

Deals on Wheels recently had the opportunity to follow Trent and Justin in their trucks around Auckland and into some extremely tight worksites with boss man Ian as our guide.

Justin Taiapa is in charge of some expensive kit

One of the first things that grabs your attention is the fact that not only are these sites hellishly tight but another consideration to take into account is that the pump needs to be placed in an exact position so as to allow a concrete truck to be backed up to the pump’s hopper.

In the case of the larger-capacity boom pumps, at times, room has to be accounted for in order to accommodate two concrete trucks feeding one hopper at the same time.

And just to add another level of excitement to these manoeuvres, even more room needs to be allowed for the correct length of spread on the stabilisers to counteract huge volumes of concrete being pumped up and over multi-storey buildings to a height/length of up to 47 metres when the company’s largest boom pumps are employed on-site.

Plus, when you factor in three and in some cases five-section booms that need to be unfolded and slewed into position amid a bunch of multi-million-dollar high rises, one would imagine there’d be a certain amount of ‘pucker factor’ on the part of the person running the rig.


"One of the attributes of an efficient boom pump operator is the ability to multitask"

Naturally, Trent, who’s now 23, and Justin, who’s 21, had to work their way up through the ranks before they’d gained enough experience to be able to run the big rigs on the larger jobs.

Harriet explained that in order for a new employee to get a foot in the door at Ian Howe Concrete Pumps, they generally start out as a hose hand, assisting the pump operator with set up and knockdown.

The next rung on the ladder is a progression to operating line pumps, firstly on trailer pumps, typically working on domestic and smaller commercial jobs. Once the experience has been gained on the smaller trailer pumps, a move is made to larger truck-mounted units.

Ian says it’s important that everybody in the company is conversant with every configuration of pump in the fleet, so the step up to operating the truck-mounted line pumps provides good grounding for anyone wanting to move up to the boom pumps. With each progression, he says, there’s an increase in pump size, along with increasing pressures and distance capabilities.

For instance, the Australian-made W Win WP60 pumps mounted on the two Mitsubishi Fuso FK1225 trucks in the fleet are capable of pumping concrete to distances of up to 300 metres and up to 10 stories at outputs of 30–60 cubic metres per hour with ease.

With concrete weighing two tonnes per cube he says, there’s an awful lot of pressure in the lines so it’s extremely important to make sure those joints and connections are secure.

The 47m boom pump is capable of pumping 200m3 per hour

Both Trent and Justin have ‘been there and done that’ in the company, hence the fact that they’ve earned the right to operate the big stuff where those previously-mentioned line pump outputs pale into insignificance when compared to the company’s latest purchases, with their 47-metre boom pumps having a theoretical capability of pumping 200 cubic metres of concrete per hour. In case you hadn’t already figured it out, that’s 400 tonnes per hour.

A further mind-leveller in that previous calculation is that even if the practical capability of those pumps is say, 80% of the theoretical, they could still consume the contents of approximately 10 of New Zealand’s largest concrete trucks per hour, as long as the concrete layers and line hands could keep up the pace of course.

Upskilling on the job

Ian and Trent Howe

Trent says that quite a bit of his time over the years has been spent in the classroom, paying attention to things such as health and safety issues and gaining certificates.

He said that as the buildings become taller, the trucks become bigger, as do the licences required to operate them. A recent step up for him has been from his rigid five-axle DAF with a 38-metre boom for which he only needed a Class 4 licence, to the semi-trailer-mounted 47-metre Putzmeister boom pump, which requires him to have a Class 5 licence.

Qualifications and certificates, it would seem, are the name of the game in most businesses these days and to that end, Trent has recently obtained a BESS (Bridge engineering self-supervision) licence.

Justin is the first to admit that before starting work at Ian Howe, the future for him wasn’t looking all that bright, probably because he didn’t consider himself to be all that bright, but he was about to prove himself wrong.

While he may have not seen it in himself, Ian and Harriet could see the spark of a bright and intuitive young man in young Justin who would occasionally work as an offsider for his pump operator father, Dave.

It wasn’t long before they had him working full-time in the firm, initially as a hose hand—a position he wasn’t bound to remain in for long.

Just like Trent, Justin had the skillsets and temperament to be trained up to operate a pump of his own, so he also progressed through the ranks, and today he’s in charge of a DAF-mounted 32-metre Jun Jin boom pump.

Clearly, one of the attributes of an efficient boom pump operator is the ability to multitask, as both Justin and Trent somehow managed to temporarily shut down their respective operations for an interview with a magazine reporter asking inane questions.

Shannon Brewerton

All this happened seamlessly without interfering with the job at hand and was done with big smiles on their faces, with Trent going the extra mile by sharing some of the photos he has on his phone of some of the recent pumping jobs he’s working on.

Later in the day, we chatted with foreman/operator Shannon Brewerton, who spoke of the commitment to the job not only by Trent and Justin but also by the rest of the Ian Howe team.

His closing comment was interesting; he said that the job requires some pretty early starts and that it doesn’t end when the pumping’s done: "There’s typically a one-hour washdown and grease back at the yard, all ready for an early start tomorrow."

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