Innovation, Innovation, Innovation, build a better mousetrap, find a way to steal a march on competitors; these are among the elements of what’s required to stay ahead of the pack and therefore remain profitable and viable in the future.
It’s upon these foundations that SunChip has operated since its inception in 1997. The private company, which is owned by Mark Blackberry, has operations in Queensland and New South Wales including depots at Maryborough and Gladstone as well as Bathurst and Tumut. Mark Blackberry hails from Scottsdale in Tasmania where he cut his teeth as a harvester in the logging industry before seizing the opportunity to expand his horizons on the mainland.
Testament to the company’s commitment to safe and efficient operation, SunChip achieved runner up status in the 2014 TruckSafe John Kelly memorial award. This was the first time a logging company had been a finalist for the award.
Of course, having well trained professional drivers behind the wheel is a major factor in achieving the best outcomes in terms of safe operation, running costs and vehicle uptime.
“I used to do the driver training myself and I’d spend two to three days training every new driver,” says SunChip’s General Manager, Dirk Koeppen. “We now have a dedicated driver trainer who takes care of the driver inductions and we also have Mack’s driver trainer who periodically comes to us and instructs the drivers in how to get the best efficiency from the trucks. This support from Mack is another reason we’ve stayed with the product.”
As for driver retention, Dirk says many of the drivers have been with the company for lengthy periods and are duly rewarded for their loyalty.
“We have the odd driver who comes and goes but generally our driver retention is very good. We have clubs for five, 10 and 15 years of service,” he explains. “After five years of service, in addition to the regular Christmas party we give the driver and their partner a weekend away at a resort. After 15 years of service we give the driver and their partner an all-expenses paid cruise on the open ocean for seven days. It’s our way of saying thanks to them for their loyalty.
“We’re also fortunate to have a number of father and son teams – it’s great to see the sons of some of our drivers joining the company.”
Having loyal, long term drivers and machine operators is certainly a vital constituent of a successful logging operation, and according to Dirk the future looks bright for SunChip.
“The future looks very positive for us at the moment,” says Dirk. “There are lots of opportunities out there but we are very selective with the work we take on, it has to be run correctly and you have to have the right people and equipment to back you up.”
As the conversation regarding the motive power of the operation continues, Dirk pulls no punches with his primary reasoning for choosing Mack: After sales support. The company initially used conventional prime movers of another North American brand, but these days the fleet is comprised almost exclusively of the bulldog breed.
“Mack is exceptional with its service and back up support,” he says. “It doesn’t matter what truck you buy – they all break down at some point – it’s the after sales service that’s most important, which they provide.”
For Dirk, the true mark of a brand is how the supplier gears itself up to manage a problem with its product.
“We have the trucks running on double shifts 23 hours a day. As reliable as they are, like any machine, things can go wrong,” he reiterates, “But Steve Helms and the guys down in Brisbane at Volvo Commercial Vehicles (VCV) truly could not do any more to make sure we are as well placed as possible if one of the trucks hits a snag.”
Dirk explains how the process has been set up to allow the Sunchip fleet to keep the wheels turning.
“We have three mechanics who service our trucks in-house seven days a week, and Steve and the team have always made sure there is consignment stock where we’re based in Maryborough,” says Dirk. “They visit the workshop on a fortnightly basis to ensure the consignment stock is up-to-date, and they do their best to make sure we don’t run out of parts.
“Even the head mechanic has come up to see us, so they really do know what kind of business we are, and what our needs might be. Because they know our business, they know the volumes we haul – more than 1.2 million tonnes of timber a year. For one client alone, we deliver 85 to 90 B-double loads a day. If there’s a problem, the guys at Mack bend over backwards to make sure the trucks get back on the road as quickly as possible, so we can meet our contracts.”