Ben Lefroy, Kleemann’s national sales manager for Australia and New Zealand, outlines the current quarry industry landscape.
In your opinion, how has the Australian quarrying industry performed during 2023?
I would say that the first half of the year had higher demand with a drop off due to economic position of the country, this is being driven by inflation with both local and federal governments reducing spending and in some cases funding being cut all together for major infrastructure projects.
How are increasing capital and operational costs affecting the Australian quarrying industry?
The cost of aggregate or contract crushing rates haven’t increased to the same level or inline to what other capital costs have, this results in tighter margins/profit for those involved.
What are some of the flow-on effects of increasing costs?
Crushing contracts are being cancelled, there is reduced requirement for aggregates in the road or construction space and potential retrenchment could lead to higher unemployment within this industry sector.
With the difficulties of finding skilled labour, this puts pressure on businesses to retrain or recruit when things turn around.
How is Kleemann working to minimise costs where possible?
As a product offering Kleemann are market leaders in diesel/electric technology and has been manufacturing crushing/ screening equipment with this configuration for more than 35 years. The major benefit of electrical machines is the ability to reduce fuel cost and usage up to 40 per cent of our competitors in varied applications.
The technology in the Kleemann product via the interactive Spective interface allows the operation of machines to be viewed and operated via the Spective connect App, this allows machine health monitoring and operation remotely from the feed FEL or Excavator. In-turn, this reduces personnel on the ground providing a more efficient way to operate the mobile plant.
With our factories’ streamlined manufacturing processes and Wirtgen Group buying capabilities, we are able to produce machines that are price point to the market without substituting quality.
We are committed to producing machines that while maintain quality also provide cost savings to the end user through reduced operational expenditure and competitive capital costs.
We also offer other incentives to support our customer base from the aftersales business with parts and service packaging, these incentives are designed to benefit the end user to assist with the overall cost of operating Kleemann Equipment.
What is the current infrastructure demand like, and how has it changed over the past year?
Obviously, demand has reduced due to major infrastructure projects being put on ice, with the lack of skilled personnel to run and operate equipment this somewhat slows things down with supply demand reduced.
How is the industry reacting to the spending slowdown? What do you think needs to be done to ensure the best outcome for all involved?
Capital spend is always reviewed during slower economic cycles, this changes the way that companies like ours support our client base, we see customers holding assets longer requiring more support from aftersales be it in the spare parts supply or technical support/ repair space.
Higher interest rates that we are seeing at the moment are also a factor with the slow down in industry, this plays into the topic above and also plays a part in slowing down the private residential sector, which in the end also effects the supply of construction aggregates.
How has the supply chain reacted during this period? What potential challenges or benefits do these changes pose?
The supply chain in general is starting to return to pre-pandemic status, however we are still seeing issues with Australian ports and shipping this is putting additional strain in the import of goods and inflated local pricing for domestic movements.
What can be done to ensure organisations retain as many skilled employees as possible?
The skills shortage isn’t new news to anybody and effects all levels of industry, whether you’re a supplier, owner operator or contractor this is an issue that in the short term there isn’t a magical solution. Employee retention is key.
We have seen many creative ways employers have incentivised their work forces to remain loyal, offering continuous development and upskilling people is key to keep Employees engaged.
How is Wirtgen Australia (Kleemann) addressing the skills shortage? What programs/initiatives does the company have to ensure the next generation of workers learn the skills they require?
Wirtgen Australia is committed to industry growth, we have increased our Apprentice intake to ensure an increase in skilled personnel will be coming into the industry however, this is a medium to long term strategy. We are upskilling existing technicians by means of adding additional trades to existing and have increased dedicated product training carried out by product managers and factory-based trainers.
Wirtgen Australia also offers an extensive Employee incentive/ benefits program to ensure we are equally as committed to the employee as they are to the employer.
How do you think the industry will change over 2024?
I feel that the industry although there are challenges it is still in a good place and has a bright outlook in the years ahead. Australia is a developing country with a healthy pipeline of projects.
The next 12 months will be trying, and Wirtgen Australia is dedicated to supporting our customer base, new and old, to ensure we are all successful into 2025. •
For more information, visit wirtgen-group.com