In each magazine issue, Roads & Infrastructure profiles a member of the Australian Asphalt Pavement Association. In the February issue we speak to Dante Cremasco, Downer Executive General Manager, Road Services.
Q: How did you start your career in the road construction industry?
A: I started in the local government organisation in the Riverina as an asset manager. I then moved into a works manager role where I ran day-to-day maintenance crews and minor construction crews. I went on to become a project manager on the finalisation of the Federal Highway duplication between Canberra and Sydney for the Olympic Games in 2000. In this role I helped produce and lay asphalt for those key links. From there, I became the Southern NSW Manager and then the Melbourne Metro Manager for Emoleum after Downer bought the business. It was during this time I helped deliver the rumble strips program across unsignalised rail level crossings in rural Victoria following multiple fatalities from vehicle and train collisions. This program was secured through out-of-the-box thinking and delivered with our innovative rumble roller purpose-built for the job.
Q: What is your current role and what does it involve?
A: My current role is very much a leadership role – I can be more like a spokesperson for the day-to-day business activities. The days of project managing and putting tenders together are behind me. Now, it’s more about reviewing tenders and ensuring career paths are well established within the business. I am fortunate to be involved with cadet programs where we prepare the next generation of people to make change and lead. I’m also very heavily involved in Downer’s Zero Harm ethos and culture.
Q: What is the best thing about your current role?
A: The ability to influence, challenge and provide a different point of view. It’s great to be able to leverage more 20 years’ experience with the organisation, provide insights to the business that wouldn’t otherwise be known and use forward thinking based on experience.
Q: What would you say is your biggest achievement in the industry?
A: I think one of the most important things I work on is the cultural shift in the Zero Harm space. This has involved everyone in the business from the grassroots level – in the field, all the way up to senior executives. Seeing the way that the organisation has embraced this direction is certainly something to look fondly back on. The latest Zero Harm national roadshow we completed focused on how to get better outcomes for crews working in live traffic. There are three things that could potentially injure people on our worksite. These are the interaction between workers on machinery and people on foot, unrestrained mobile machinery with people and the travelling public with crews on our worksites. We have to ensure everybody can always avoid those interactions.
Q: How has being a member of AAPA benefited you in the industry?
A: Having a position at the table of influence, as an AAPA board member, for the body that represents the outputs we seek, has great benefits. Ultimately, it is a small cohort of companies that are very important to the DNA of the Australian fabric. The fact that we are able to come together on a regular basis to discuss changes, improvements and opportunity to continue to benefit the Australian economy means we have a point of focus. It creates clarity for the client when you have the authority of AAPA behind a project.
Q: Where do you see the industry heading and how do you or Downer hope to meet the challenges ahead?
A: I see the industry heading towards lower energy use, less reliance on virgin products and increased cost effectiveness. The industry will no doubt continue to innovate and change. There are a lot of scarce resources that have been excavated and repurposed from various places all over the world and we are now probably moving towards a long-term maintenance phase. We have to work out how to ensure that when assets come to the end of their serviceable life, the materials are not thrown away or devalued. Downer is very heavily investing in technology to prepare for more recycling and take advantage of learnings from our R&D in the future.
Q: What are your goals for the future?
A: I would like to be able to start the re-education or changing the culture of the motorists that drive on our roads as they approach worksites. I don’t think we are responsible enough as drivers around worksites yet. At the same time, we need to make sure that our worksites are set up in a way that facilitates a respectful environment for workers and the travelling public.