A trailer maker, known for its rugged trailing equipment for Queensland and the Territory, has found a new home, taking it away from its core market and widening its base and activities. The new Haulmark Trailers facility is in the Adelaide area, more precisely in Edinburgh. The facility opened earlier this year and has seemed to hit the ground running, picking up plenty of trailer maintenance and as well as truck maintenance work at the facility.
The investment by Haulmark is around $15 million which is quite a commitment considering the company has not been active in this region in the past. Darryl Smith, Haulmark Branch Manager in South Australia sees this as a serious commitment showing the intention of further developing the Haulmark business in the region.
Over the next few years the business will be trying to find its place in the local workshop ecology, finding niches which are a good fit for the business and growing the niches it has already targeted.
Adelaide is also a good jumping off point to look west into Western Australia and east towards Victoria to seek out further expansion opportunities. The market in WA does have a similar set of preferences to the Queensland market so there may be some opportunities to build trailers for WA.
“This branch is about the future, where we need to be in the future,” says Darryl. “Our intention is to be a one-stop-shop. We are a BPW agent, we’re a Hendrickson agent. If people have got problems with genuine axle product we are happy to talk to the manufacturer for them and see if we can get it sorted. We have chosen to stick with genuine brands, sticking with those who support Australian manufacturing.”
The current workload in the Darwin facility is divided about 60/40, trailer and truck, for the new Adelaide branch that split is more 80/20, but Darryl can see the business maturing to run at similar proportions to the older Darwin operation. The truck business is expected to grow as trailer customers make use of the dual capabilities of the business rather than move into an area of just servicing a customer’s trucks.
Getting and retaining staff
Accessing staff for the business has been an uphill battle. Advertising for technicians often does not get a response. “You struggle to get bad technicians applying for jobs,” says Darryl. “That’s how bad it is. Boilermakers and welders have not been quite so bad and getting people to do administration work is no problem.”
“I am lucky to have recruited some excellent technicians. A lot of them I have known for a number of years, and I’m quite happy to have them in the Haulmark business.”
Two of the boilermakers are on apprenticeships. One is an adult apprentice and the other is a youngster, with more coming into the pipeline both as diesel technicians and on the body building side of the business.
Darryl is aware of the attraction for trained technicians to head out to the mines, but has developed a strategy to try and keep them.
“A lot of it is about work conditions,” says Darryl. “People will always chase money, but it is not the ultimate. If you work in a good work place where there’s a good environment, you have a better chance of holding onto your people. You let people work a few extra hours when they can. It is a bit of extra expenditure, but it can be a bit of a magnet to keep those people in the business too.”
Darryl remains confident there is room in the Adelaide market for a new trailer and truck maintenance facility. The trucking industry in South Australia seems to be going OK at the moment.
“I’m not hearing a lot of doom and gloom,” says Darryl. “We haven’t really gone to the market yet to advertise our product, but will start to mark our presence soon. Even without going to the market, we are getting a lot of enquiries, asking us about our product and what we do.”