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A dedicated service centre for off-highway trucks, on-highway trucks and loaders and excavators marks a significant boost in service and availability for the quarry industry. Photo courtesy of WesTrac.
A dedicated service centre for off-highway trucks, on-highway trucks and loaders and excavators marks a significant boost in service and availability for the quarry industry. Photo courtesy of WesTrac.
 










Dawn of a new service

At a time when the quarry industry is still competing for highly skilled personnel with the mining industry, the opening of a new spare parts and maintenance facility for off-highway vehicles in the Hunter Valley is welcome news for the quarry industry. Jim Hankins reports.
From humble beginnings, the dealership for Caterpillar in Western Australia began operations in 1925. This dealership formally became WesTrac Equipment in 1990. Growth was steady throughout the following decade, and this successful Aussie company brashly bid for - and won - a Cat dealership in northern China in 2000.

By 2004, WesTrac was in a position to successfully acquire the New South Wales and Australian Capital Territory dealership.

In addition to the WesTrac Institute, a sales and administration section and a component rebuild centre, WesTrac’s new Tomago site includes a highway truck centre. Photo courtesy of WesTrac.
In addition to the WesTrac Institute, a sales and administration section and a component rebuild centre, WesTrac’s new Tomago site includes a highway truck centre. Photo courtesy of WesTrac.
The NSW and ACT operations now account for a considerable portion of the group’s business, with 21 of WesTrac’s 33 national branches residing in this region. There are an additional 42 branches in China. Head office and logistics facilities have been essentially Sydney-centric since the formation of the NSW/ACT dealership.

The need for an extensive site to incorporate a range of divisions was first discussed in 2007. After three years in planning, approvals and funding, followed by a year and a half in construction, WesTrac’s Tomago facilities opened for business in July 2012.

For the official opening, politicians from all three levels of government attended, in addition to a range of WesTrac and Caterpillar management. More recently, the Hunter sub-branch of the IQA combined a site visit at the new premises with its 2012 AGM.3 All were impressed that the various workshops, work areas, office areas and even the change rooms were a blend of design, ergonomics and efficiency.

LARGER INVENTORY HOLDINGS

The design of the facilities is the result of extensive research by WesTrac personnel and site visits to Brazil, Canada and multiple United States dealerships, looking at the latest workshop layouts, distribution and inventory control, in addition to specialised tooling, training and implementation.


The results of this intense planning and research are obvious from every angle of the facility. From the picking and despatch of parts, the workshops, the change room and the extensive facilities of the WesTrac Institute, they have all been developed and built with the environment, proficiency and expansion in mind.

Having transferred a significant portion of NSW’s parts, servicing and truck centre to the new facility, in addition to establishing the WesTrac Institute, the new site includes a sales and administration section, a highway truck centre, a component rebuild centre and the renowned WesTrac cafeteria, to round out the hospitality of the centre. The parts warehouse will act as the central distribution centre for NSW. With its state of the art facilities and technology, the warehouse has increased picking efficiency, as well as allowing larger inventory holdings.

At a time when the quarry industry has suffered due to the high wages of the mining industry, the off-highway truck, on-highway truck, loader and excavator markets of the quarry industry will receive a significant boost in service and availability (parts and machinery). In NSW, in the current economy, there is no doubt a facility of this magnitude has to be financed predominantly by and located conveniently close to the local coal mining industry. However, the benefits to the quarry industry, and the NSW economy beyond the Hunter Valley, are extensive.

Aside from mining and quarrying, the heavy construction industry, building construction industry, transport industries and local government sector will all benefit from WesTrac’s extensive investment in these facilities. In addition to the above, WesTrac will focus its imports on Newcastle Port, taking pressure off both Port Kembla and Port Botany.

APPRENTICE AND POST-TRADE TRAINING
With 2900 tonnes of steel and 25,800m3 of concrete, the facility is a major development of construction materials. Over 4,500,000 pavers were also laid.
With 2900 tonnes of steel and 25,800m3 of concrete, the facility is a major development of construction materials. Over 4,500,000 pavers were also laid.
The WesTrac Institute is a licenced registered training organisation (RTO) and has recently begun intense training. Currently the trades covered on-site include on- and off-road heavy vehicles. Other trades are currently presented through local TAFE organisations. Relevant trades will be progressively brought under the Institute’s operation. Stephen Jennings is the NSW/ACT business development manager for the WesTrac Institute.

According to Jennings, the Institute is charged with overseeing all apprentice training for the group. Post-trade training is currently the fastest growing area, bringing existing tradesmen up to speed with improvements in technology. Non-technical training is another growth area. WesTrac has developed a culture of management sourced from within the group.

Trades people are given appropriate training throughout their career, forming a path from the shop floor to upper management. WesTrac proudly boasts that over two thirds of its management team worked their way up through the group, while over 40 per cent of them came from a trade background. A hands-on approach, if ever there was one!

The Institute of Quarrying Australia, having a primary focus on education for quarry industry personnel, has organised preliminary talks to see where the respective Institutes can work together, for the benefit of all IQA members.


From a steady implementation of various departments, all workshops are now fully functional. There are currently 400 staff on-site, while the facility has the capacity to effectively allow staffing levels up to 1200, on a 24/7 roster. The existing Holroyd premises will continue to function, complementing the Tomago facility, with a senior management presence at each location.

The expanded mining products division of the former Bucyrus group is currently maintained in an existing Newcastle facility. There are plans to move this division into a purpose-built facility in the future.

With the opening of this facility, there is no doubt a new day has dawned for the service of WesTrac’s customers in this region.

REFERENCES

1.    About Seven Group Holdings.
2.    WesTrac Newcastle branch opens.
3.    Hankins J. IQA News: NSW Hunter & Sydney Sub-Branch News. In: Quarry 20(12), December 2012: 46.



The Westrac Institute

While the focus is on heavy machinery, the WesTrac Institute also teaches administration and business skills.
While the focus is on heavy machinery, the WesTrac Institute also teaches administration and business skills.

WesTrac established the WesTrac Institute in WA, in conjunction with Caterpillar, in 2000. It is a RTO with one licence covering both the WA and NSW divisions.

The expansion of the WA facility and construction of the NSW centre is part of its initiative to establish a National Skills Training Centre of Excellence.

Both state and federal government funding assisted the expansion of the WA facility and the development of the new NSW facility.

Technical apprenticeships and post-trade courses will be presented at each centre, in addition to non-technical training.

It is estimated that the Tomago facility will be able to train up to 300 apprentices and 4000 post-trade attendees annually.

While the focus is on heavy machinery, administration and business skills are included for the advancement of their workforce.

The facilities at Tomago consist of 14 general classrooms, two computer rooms, a nine bay workshop and a five bay workshop.










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