Suppliers a key element to business success

There are many factors to business success and alongside the right equipment, technology and people, suppliers play an important role. WesTrac Building Construction Product Sales Representative ADAM BUNNING explains.

Success can mean a range of things to those in the construction industry. As people’s lives change, and the expectations of customers, families, employees and others, so do the goals of business owners.

What does success look like?

A lot of people think a successful business and big profits flow from increased fleet size and employee numbers, but with those things you also get increased risk, stress and overheads, which doesn’t always mean you’ll sleep well at night.

For most of my customers, success is how easy the days flow from one to the next. It’s about having the right people that invest their work ethic into the business, who are safe and care about one another. It’s about using the latest tech to make jobs easier to manage. It’s about having good people around you who you can trust. That is what leads to better productivity and efficiency.

I truly feel that for most of the blokes I know, especially those with families, maintaining a good work-life balance is what they care about the most.

Real success story: AB-11 Group

A good example is one of my customers who has done it all – Sydney-based earthmoving and landscaping company AB-11 Group.

The owner started out with a ride-on mower and built a custom-made blade to push dirt around – some real Tony Stark ingenuity at work. Then he bought his first Cat® skid steer and mini excavator that he’d tow around on a trailer behind his ute.

Over time, slowly but surely, he built his business up to about 30 pieces of Cat equipment – adding gear at the right time, not just for the sake of it. Every machine purchase was a calculated decision based on a combination of data and advice from suppliers; no guesswork here.

Eventually, as his family commitments grew, he realised he was spending a lot of time managing operators and looking after an extensive equipment inventory, so he made the call to scale things back a bit and achieve a more work-life balance.

Because of the recognised Caterpillar® quality, and the fact he’d been able to keep on top of service and maintenance requirements with full-service histories maintained by him and WesTrac, he was able to sell the used equipment easily and for a good price – ensuring his transition back down was a smooth and easy one.

It’s a great example of the full lifecycle of starting, building then willingly downsizing a business with supplier support nearly every step of the way.

For my customers still wanting to sustain or grow while having a good work-life balance, there are a lot of ways we help make owning easier.

What role does technology play on today’s construction sites?

These days technology and innovation play a big part in helping drive better productivity, efficiency and safety on construction sites.

Tasks that were once very manual, like taking measurements and levels, can now be done wirelessly, which removes trip hazards like string lines, as well as manual handling issues and the risk of putting people on the ground while machinery is operating. In my opinion, if there is technology available to make sites safer, it’s almost negligent not to make use of it.

As an example, factory-integrated grade control systems like Cat Grade with 3D help improve grading efficiency, accuracy and productivity. The system automates blade movements for grading and dozing applications, reducing manual operator inputs by up to 80 per cent. It’s not about doing less work and being lazy, it’s about doing quality work faster, so you can move on to the next job, make more money and be home in time for dinner.

There are also things like onboard sensors that report on machine health in real-time, meaning equipment usage can be optimised and unplanned downtime kept to a minimum. These might sound like the usual buzzwords, but it just means taking away all the guesswork when it comes to keeping your machines operating at their best (so you can make more money).

Team Yellow 

How important is having the right support?

Support from dealers and suppliers is also a key ingredient to success. You need to have a good relationship with those people because the easier business is to do, the more likely it is to be done successfully. It flows on to safety, productivity, efficiency, work-life balance – all those measures of success that matter to business owners.

Different operators require different levels of support. There are the one-man bands who know their trade but might leave the maintenance and repair work to their suppliers. They may only own one or two pieces of equipment, but that gear is the lifeblood of their business, so fast, efficient and reliable support is vital. That’s where things like WesTrac’s field servicing and huge branch network can be very valuable.

I used to get so many calls from customers needing parts in a hurry. However, with our new Click and Collect 24/7 pick-up service, those calls don’t come in much anymore – everyone seems to have caught on because it’s so quick and easy.

In the past, if they needed a part urgently, some of my customers would just stop work and drive to their nearest branch (or send someone else to do it). Then they’d have to wait for the part to be picked from our giant warehouse; this was time that chewed into their profits. Now, they just get out their mobile, order the part and pick it up from their nearest locker after they knock off for the day – no more waiting around.

We’ve also been hard-at-work rejigging our aftermarket service level agreements to ensure there is one for every type of customer – we call them FitFleet® agreements. They cover everything from fluid sampling to parts delivery, all the way up to having us do any maintenance and repairs required so you don’t have to lift a finger.

I’ve got plenty of customers who have taken up FitFleet agreements and are loving it – mostly because we can set it up so you’re only charged per hour when your machine is running, which makes planning jobs and managing cash flow a breeze. Doing this also eliminates bill shock when your machine goes down unexpectedly and needs a costly repair.

Success isn’t the same for everyone

In the end, success can come in all shapes and sizes. It’s not one-size-fits-all. I’ve got customers with one machine on the back of a trailer who are very successful and happy, going from job-to-job with a smile on their face, resting easy at night. While other customers have amassed giant fleets and huge teams, who are equally happy.

I want to see all my customers achieve success, in whatever form that takes, and WesTrac can help make that happen – that's the takeaway here.

author: Adam Bunning

Adam is a Construction Sales Representative based out of WesTrac NSW who services customers in Sydney. He has previously ran an excavation company that had 30 employees and 25 pieces of plant. He has extensive experience with construction machinery.

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