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Articles from LOADERS (449 Articles), BULLDOZERS (200 Articles), BODY BUILDERS - EARTH MOVING/TRUCKS (28 Articles)

Family businesses keep faith with earthmoving equipment

They may be separated by kilometres of coastline but two family companies continue to demonstrate their longevity and durability through decades of service – and their commitment to continuity in their earthmoving fleets.

Menheere Bros has been operating the Ocean Grove Quarry - the last remaining active site on Victoria’s Bellarine Peninsula - for nearly 40 years. The family company’s director Mark Menheere said the family-run business has relied on Komatsu wheel loaders across the generations.

“My father Lofty started the business nearly 60 years ago,” Mark said. “He ran it when I was a boy and I had my go at it as managing director for 30-odd years before stepping down. Now my eldest boy Matt is running the show at our quarry and my other son Ryan runs the earthmoving side of things.

“Dad is a Dutch immigrant who was in the army and also a truck driver,” Mark added of his family history. “He decided he wanted to come and have a go in Australia and started his business.

“I can remember in the early days he had a couple of single-axle trucks, which would be five or six cubic yards by the old imperial measurement [4.5m to 5.4m in today’s metric system]. He didn’t have his own loader then and would sometimes have to load his truck by hand with a shovel, doing so two or three times a day. Now he comes down to the quarry and sees the latest Komatsu WA380-6 wheel loader in action, which goes to show much things have changed just in his lifetime.”

Indeed, the Menheere business has come a long way from shovelling up to three times a day. The manner in which Menheere Bros adopted machinery to work more productively started with Lofty Menheere and continues to this day.

“His first loader was a Fordson and was cable-operated, no hydraulics,” Mark said. “That was a big thing for the business. Then he bought a Hough loader - Hough later being acquired by Komatsu – before switching to Komatsu proper about 30 years ago with his first WA250 wheel loader. We put 13,000 hours on that before selling it. Considering how long we’d had it and the amount of work it had done, we got a really good price for it. That’s one of the reasons we’ve stuck with Komatsu loaders ever since.”

Bashford & Sons’ new Komatsu D155A-8 (left), alongside the older D60A-3.
Bashford & Sons’ new Komatsu D155A-8 (left), alongside the older D60A-3.

Reliability across time

Another key reason for this loyalty is the brand’s reliability across the generations.

“We’ve had a great run with our WA380 loaders,” Mark said. “We bought one which now has about 14,500 hours on it and remains in our fleet as a back-up machine to the new one we bought recently.

“They have been really reliable, which is a huge factor. If you’re in the quarry and you can’t load out because of a breakdown or fault, you’re in real trouble.”

Mark doesn’t readily recall too many occasions when his equipment has let him or the business down. “You don’t so much remember the times when things have gone right as much as when they go wrong,” he said. “If you had to recall sometimes that a machine has let you down, well, you do remember those. Luckily, with our Komatsu loaders, 99 per cent of the time they just start up and away you go. We’ve actually come to take that for granted.”

When it came time for a new wheel loader, Mark’s son, Matt Menheere, who has taken on the company’s reins as director, knew exactly what he wanted. “I was confident in another WA380-6 wheel loader because we’d had such a good run with the previous one,” Matt said. “Nothing much went wrong with it, at all, for a good 12 to 13 years - I think there was a little solenoid problem that Komatsu got right to the bottom of and repaired straight away - so there was no need to change.

“We’ve been really happy with the later model. There aren’t huge differences between it and our older model, but it has more power and is more efficient. It rides more smoothly and is more comfortable.”

Matt also requested on-board scales and an auto-grease system for the new WA380. “We had the same on our other 380 and it makes a difference to our operations,” he said. “The scales allow us to meet changing responsibilities for loading and measuring, both from a sales perspective and for occupational health and safety. And the auto-greaser is handy because it’s time-efficient, providing for weekly rather than daily preventative maintenance.”

With Menheere Bros’ Komatsu loyalty firmly entrenched, Matt could not envisage changing brands. “No, we were happy with our old ones, we’re happy with our latest one and we expect to be happy when rolling over our Komatsu loaders in the future.

“We keep an eye on the market and do some research, but we don’t see value in going to cheaper brands. A reliable machine can save you a lot of money. Conversely, you don’t want to be repairing expensive machinery and facing production loss.

“It’s the old adage: ‘The poor man pays twice’! If you buy a cheap machine that breaks down it very quickly becomes an expensive one.”

The PC138-US is the latest addition to the Bashford fleet.
The PC138-US is the latest addition to the Bashford fleet.

A lifetime of bulldozers

Further north, another family company – J&M Bashford & Sons – has acquired a new Komatsu machine for its heavy equipment fleet.

John Bashforth is a fourth generation farmer, quarry and machinery operator in the Byron Bay region of New South Wales, and tends not to turn over his heavy equipment often. He is the CEO of J&M Bashforth & Sons, one of the NSW northern coast’s renowned and most prolific operators, with more than 30 machines and a like number of operators working across three primary sectors - quarrying, development and general machinery for local farmers and builders.

John bought his third Komatsu bulldozer at the end of June, almost half a century after his father Jack purchased the family company’s first. The three machines have seen continuous service.

The original, a D60A-3, which John believes to be only the second Komatsu bulldozer sold in Australia, saw a relatively “brief” 18 years of action on the family’s quarry. The second, a 155A-1, is the long service record holder, with 31 years’ hard work before it was replaced only recently by a high technology Dash 8 version of the same machine.

The core of the family company’s business is its “near to unique” quarry, set just 12 kilometres inland from Australia’s most eastern point – the Byron Bay lighthouse.

John’s father Jack discovered the quarry in the mid-Sixties while clearing for the farmer that owned the property. The quarry’s chert resource – a hard, fine-grained quartz silica with unique self-compacting properties that make it highly prized for base material in building developments and on-roadwork – has long provided certainty to each of the Bashforth company’s divisions.

Jack supplied the first machinery to start the new Ocean Shores Development, and was awarded a contract to produce roadbase from a quarry on-site for the road infrastructure. It was in 1970 that then 16-year-old John, underaged and unlicensed, operated the first Komatsu D60A-3, to win and load material to, back then, one of the state’s largest residential and lifestyle developments, Ocean Shores.

“Fifty years on, we’re working on what could be the last phase of the Ocean Shores development,” John said. “The on-site quarry closed years ago, and returned to nature. The roadbase we use today is produced from the Myocum operation and the same equipment, somewhat upgraded.”

Father and son Mark and Matt Menheere with the Komatsu WA380-6 wheel loader.
Father and son Mark and Matt Menheere with the Komatsu WA380-6 wheel loader.

‘Mechanical therapy’

The Bashforth company today has permission to extract 100,000 tonnes of chert per year from the site and each year it comes within 5000 tonnes of its allowance.

“In fact, for the last two years we’ve been within 1500 tonnes,” John said.

It’s a fine balance made achievable by a number of operational rules that John, and lately his son Luke, have put in place.

“We have our machinery serviced on-site by its supplier to ensure continuity of mechanical knowledge and as much as possible we assign one operator exclusively to a machine,” John said. “The driver on the new Dash 8 was on the Dash 1 before that and he knows how to achieve the best result while treating the machine like he owns it.”

Extracting chert is an exacting process and John says the weight and size of the D155A-8 is well suited to the task. “There’s no need for a larger machine and the hours we need to fulfil our quota are well within the dozer’s capability,” he said.

According to John, the two machines are similarly productive but the Dash 8 does it with substantial improvements in driver comfort, vision and safety.

“I receive Komatsu’s monthly KOMTRAX report which enables me to understand the operating functions, like idle time, and how much time has been spent ripping and dozing, and how it can improve,” John said. “The good news is that it’s pretty much in-line with what my operator is doing.”

John literally grew up with machines, as his father Jack, grandfather Edgar, his brother Norm and great-grandfather Alfred all operated woodcutting, sawmilling and dairy farming operations in the Brunswick Heads region of northern NSW. “I can still recall the old Cletrac 22 tractor that they used to snig the logs to the mill with,” he said.

John was driving machinery well below the legal age and can recall as a 10- or 12-year old working to the mettle on some Saturdays and Sundays. “Bill Simpson, who was a tip truck driver that subcontracted to Dad, would pick me up at 4:00am in the morning, take me out to a farm pit where I would push material all day. There was no need to go to a gym in those days,” he joked. “The stick shift machines and the steering sticks weren’t power assist!”

Today John still enjoys getting on the equipment when business pressures permit. “I call it ‘mechanical therapy’,” he said.

John tried to point his son Luke in a different career direction. “I gave him a ballpoint pen and said: ‘That’s worth $1.50 and it will earn you as much as that excavator over there’,” John said.

However, Luke, with a bachelor degree of civil engineering, went onto work in the extractive industry. After two years with a multinational company, he returned to the family business and enjoys his machine time.

“We’re mirror reverse,” John said of his son. “He’s an engineer who enjoys time operating and I’m an operator performing an engineer’s job.”

Source: Komatsu Australia

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