As such, the Vacvator company could be described as a serial innovator, continually adapting and modifying its products in line with customer requests and the latest best-practice designs. This helps ensure the products are always at the top of the tree.
Some 15 years ago Andrew Rowlands identified an opportunity to supply high quality, well priced vacuum trucks to the Australian market. As a result, in 2006 Vacvator was formed and the company has consistently grown from strength to strength ever since.
Essentially a ginormous truck-mounted vacuum cleaner, the vacuum truck plays an increasingly significant role in modern society as ever-stricter environmental and work health safety (WHS) laws play out across construction sites and public amenities all over the country.
The vacuum truck is a highly specialised and sophisticated piece of machinery and it is therefore imperative that companies building them have all the processes and procedures down pat.
This certainly appears to be the case with Vacvator, a privately-owned Goulburn (NSW) based business that has solely engaged in vacuum truck manufacture since its formation in 2006.
When Diesel Workshop visited the company, General Manager, Denis Walker, and Director, Andrew Rowlands, were preparing to travel to Munich for the Bauma Trade Show to suss out the latest developments in vacuum truck design that could be applicable to our local market.
As such, the company could be described as a serial innovator, continually adapting and modifying its products in line with customer requests and the latest best-practice designs. This helps ensure the products are always at the top of the tree.
Denis was also at pains to point out that Vacvator operates in a somewhat different way to other body builders.
“Body builders often get to the shortest point in the quickest possible time and with the least amount of effort, but we don’t approach our builds this way,” says Denis. “We provide a solution, and that means our products are designed and built to do exactly what the customer wants in the most effective way.
“As an ex-farmer, I need things to work and work well, and that’s the way we have designed our products. From an operator’s perspective it must be simple to use and effective, and the general feedback we get from our customers is that the product is simple, works well and looks good.”
Denis goes on to explain that the company identified its target market right from the start in 2006, when there were very few vacuum trucks around and many people didn’t even know what they were used for.
“The products that were available then were either the mediocre, low performance, cheap units or the European-built ‘million-dollar machines’, so called because that’s roughly what they cost,” Denis relates. “So our objective was to slot neatly in the middle, which is why we needed to use a truck chassis that is in the middle so we could keep our costs as low as possible while still providing a high quality product.”
Vacvator by design, adapting and modifying
Somewhat surprisingly in this day and age, Vacvator builds its bodies entirely in-house, making sure each and every component meets stringent design requirements. At current production capacity, a completed unit rolls out of the factory every two to three weeks and according to Denis, plans are afoot to considerably ramp up production to one unit per week.
This is quite a feat considering the company literally started from scratch 13 years ago.
“We started off in a rented premise tagging along with a sister company,” Denis explains. “I’d been involved with building a few vacuum trucks before that but we basically started with a blank sheet of paper and some chalk drawings on the floor.”
It’s a far cry from today where all the designs are now done in 3D CAD (computer-aided design), along with 3D profile cutters and other technically sophisticated machinery. The company employs a team of engineers and also utilises external engineers to ensure the level of expertise in this area is of a uniformly high standard.
“From a business perspective we’ve grown in a very sustainable way,” says Denis. “We’ve highlighted what we wanted to achieve with our business plans and we’ve followed that line to the letter, with the result that we’ve been able to exceed our initial expectations on a consistent basis.
“The same goes for the product, we aim for a target and then work towards getting there. We implement as many standards as possible; we have a QA process (Quality Assurance) which we have always had in an informal sense right from the start and are currently working towards third-party auditing.”
Denis goes on to say that the phenomenal growth of the business has enabled the procurement of increasing numbers of skilled employees in various roles.
“When we kicked off it was just me, then we took on an apprentice, then a tradesman and it kept snowballing from there,” he says.
Andrew Rowlands, the owner of the business, reiterates that the business model has been one of continual improvement since day one.
“Denis has never stood still and it’s always been his goal to keep pushing forward,” says Andrew. “It’s great, as an owner, to see that you’ve got a progressive business, especially in the manufacturing sector which has suffered from a lack of investment and generally been quite dormant in this country in recent times.
“However, local manufacturing is starting to go through something of a resurgence and we are proud to be a contributor to this. It’s also very satisfying to be able to provide employment to a range of people with different skill sets, it’s great for us and them and for the country in general.”