David Smale is the general manager of Astec Australia. He looks at the industry’s challenges and the keys to navigating the year ahead for the quarrying sector.
How was 2023 for Astec?
As Astec, we had a solid year across the board, which backs up recent years, which have also been strong. It has been challenging but rewarding in many ways as we found success despite challenges like shipping costs.
In terms of customers, it is interesting that some tell me it has been a record year for them, but there are pockets of differentiation between the states, like Sydney and Melbourne. Overall, it was a solid year with rewarding growth across all our groups.
Astec has strong connections in several markets in Australia. What do those pockets of differentiation look like?
As we mentioned above, there were fascinating pockets of differentiation across several vital markets we found. Sydney was going strongly, but Melbourne was a bit less successful. And that’s talking across a broad range of industries, from multinationals to family-owned independents we also serve.
I predict that the businesses where their business is not diverse or don’t have a wide geographical spread can rely on other regions bringing in business for them; they may struggle just having a single point of income. We’ve got a talented team in all markets across Australia who can help work with businesses to help navigate these issues or open up new areas for them.
What key challenges will the quarrying sector face in the next two to three years?
In a word, inflation. If you read what most are projecting across the market, we may not see inflation reach its target range until 2025, which is a long time away.
This creates uncertainty for the sector.
We need to be acutely aware of the impact this can have on all sector areas, from manufacturers to customers.
We can’t ignore inflation, but we can help customers by understanding their needs and working on lead times to ensure they’re up and running as quickly as possible.
How is Astec helping customers navigate these challenges?
Our key advantage here is our people. We pride ourselves on our core value of meeting the needs and expectations of our customers, and our team makes me proud that they meet this standard repeatedly.
Our customers know that if they call, we will pick up the phone.
We don’t just want to sell them something; we care about their business and wellbeing, our main priorities. We’re there to walk beside them and advise them to help tackle the issue.
It comes down to preparation, persistence, and good planning with excellent communication; our team lives these values.
What were some of the milestones for Astec last year?
We recently delivered a BG Series asphalt batch plant to the Australian and Pacific markets, which has been a great success. The project is a real example of how Astec Industries, our Australian engineers, and our North American and Indian engineering team can work together to deliver a high-quality plant. We’ve been super impressed by how reliable it was and the quality of it.
It was the first time we’ve manufactured a plant outside of North America, and the feedback we’ve heard is that the build quality is exceptional.
Recently, we signed OPS to a new three-year deal as a dealer for all our material handling solutions in New South Wales. We’re thrilled to continue our partnership with them and see it extend in this way, and we have strong faith that they will continue to flourish.
Astec has developed a reputation for delivering on those types of projects. What is the key to achieving this level of success?
We’re really excited by what we’re doing in the digital space. We acquired a company called MINDS about a year and a half ago, and that has been exciting; they are going great.
With the help of their products, we’ll be able to take our customers to factories virtually and see the topography of their site virtually as well with this technology.
It will significantly benefit our customers, and we’re excited about its future.
What is the outlook for 2024?
We’re cautiously optimistic that we could have another solid year. There are headwinds, but we believe Australia is a country full of opportunity and that there is excellent reason to invest in Australia. •
For more information visit astecindustries.com