Making the big move

Luke Brownlee from Newcastle Earthworks tells us about his business and how WesTrac helps him maintain a healthy, stress free work-life balance.

"within two days i had heaps of work"

Luke Brownlee has always worked in earthmoving. When he first started out he used to work on housepads before moving into the mining industry – following the job trail to where the work was. However, he always wanted to get back into prepping land for houses. “It was really hard to get back into, so I just kept biding my time,” he says.

A sole contractor since around 2011, Luke set off on his own after managing an earthmoving business for another company. Luke set up Newcastle Earthworks, and started sub-contracting to Daracon and John Holland while keeping his eye out for opportunities in the housepad business.

“A friend put me in contact with a local company who said they already had a few guys working for them, but asked me to fill in the subby pack,” Luke said. “The first job they sent me out to was a really hard one – that they needed doing asap. So I just got in and did it and the guy said to me ‘mate, that’s awesome’ and within two days I had heaps of work and now I’m doing it full time.

"i'd rather spend money on good technology"

Moving from minework to working for McDonald Jones Homes didn’t just require a shift in attitude, it needed a whole new upgrade of equipment. “I slowly sold off my stuff and each time I sold one, I traded it on a different piece of machinery,” Luke says. “Now I’ve changed trucks, excavator, possie truck and truck loader.”

Luke’s latest piece of machinery is a 308 compact excavator, and, like the rest of the gear, he’s bought it from WesTrac. “I didn’t want to go too big, because house block sizes are getting smaller. This one’s just the right size for housepad work – not too big, and not too small. Before buying it, I knew the machine and its capabilities.”

Luke doesn’t skimp on his machinery – he wants Caterpillar quality and he’s prepared to pay for it. “Being a one man band now that was more of a choice for longevity – there’s less headaches and it’s hard to get good help. I’d rather spend the money on good technology that helps me get the job done.”

Luke’s got a triple GPS system in the excavator – something that gives him, and his family, a sense of security. “A lot of the time I’m out on a brand new subdivision and there’s no one within cooee, so that really does give you peace of mind.”

It’s the durability of Caterpillar that appeals to Luke, and the quality of the steel that he prefers to the Japanese and Korean brands. “The cabs and operator environment seem more comfortable than other brands, and since I’m going to sit in it all day I want to be comfy. I’d also be confident that if I was going to tip a cat I’d be okay.”

“I’ve always been around Caterpillar gear. When you’re in the mining industry you’re exposed to a lot of different gear,” Luke says. “When I left the mining industry we didn’t have any Cat gear at all. I always got WesTrac to quote on new purchases, but the Directors of the company always went with the cheaper option. When I went out on my own, I knew I wanted to get Cat Gear.”

"I'VE NEVER HAD TO PARK A MACHINE"

If he needs parts Luke prefers to order them via Parts.Cat.Com (PCC), “I find it easier to whip out my phone, log into the MCC app and place an order for parts via PCC. Most of the consumable parts I know, so I find it pretty easy to buy them in a couple of clicks,” Luke says. “I don’t think there’s ever been a part I've tried to order that they haven’t had in stock.”

For a busy sole-operator like Luke, downtime for his machinery isn’t an option. “I’ve never had to park a machine. I’ll order a part online on a Saturday night then drive past and get it when it’s convenient for me.”

Having just recently signed a Customer Support Agreement (CSA) with WesTrac on the new 308 Luke’s keen to see how the scheduled servicing helps him save time. “I’m flat-out, with work coming out of my ears, and, with three young children I don’t want to spend my weekends servicing machines. This frees up my weekends to spend with my family.”

Luke’s worked out a maintenance and servicing schedule that fits in with his life and his workload. “What I used to try to do was wait for wet weather to service a vehicle. Now I’ll drop the machine off after work, they’ll service it overnight and then I’ll pick it up the next day. I don’t even have to schedule a day off.”

“If I’ve got a problem I bring the machine in to the guys to fix in the workshop. With WesTrac you know you’ve got a lot of support, with a lot of fitters in the team.”

“At the end of the day, it’s better the devil you know,” Luke adds. “With WesTrac I know what I’m going to get, what I’m not going to get and how to get what I need in between.”

"I'll GO CATERPILLAR EVERY TIME"

“It’s taken 10 years to get to that position and I know there’s some good people in their general construction workshop that can help you out with anything you need.”

Luke’s made the decision to turn his vehicles over every three to four years – preferring to put his money into repayments than repairs. That’s another reason why he chooses WesTrac, knowing that spending more upfront means the machine retains its value for resale. But, ultimately, he says prepared to pay for the quality and peace of mind that Cat equipment offers. “When there’s a choice, I’ll go Caterpillar every time.”


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