CEA, Earthmoving Culture, Earthmoving Machinery, Excavators, JCB, Safety

Always digging deeper: iLHA and JCB

Two of iLHA's JCB excavators

Norman Bartie is always trying to give back to his community – whether through his earthmoving business, charity work, or his way of life.

Not many people in the Australian earthmoving industry can count themselves among the list of Guinness World Record holders – but Norman Bartie is one exception.

In early 2019, Norman – Managing Director of iLH-Australia Group (iLHA) – claimed the record for the longest journey in an excavator or digger, when he took a JCB backhoe loader 5649km from Brisbane to Parliament House in Canberra.

Norman holds the Guinness World Record for the longest journey in an excavator or digger.

An impressive feat, but more importantly, one that helped raised $17,000 and generated some important publicity for his charity – It’s Not Your Fault 4 Kids Incorporated – and spread the word of his cause across Australia’s east coast.

And while this achievement certainly helped raise the profile of Norman and his business, his story starts much earlier.

It’s all connected

In 2014, burnt out by a culture of depression and suicide, Norman walked away from his decades-long career in the earthmoving industry. But it wouldn’t be for long – he’d soon return to the industry with a newfound clarity as to his place in the industry, and how he could use his skills to make it better.

After spending his time away focusing on supporting at-risk children, Norman returned to the tools in 2017, when he started iLHA.

Norman describes iLHA as a holistic, traditional indigenous lore-based earthmoving business in the environmental and civil infrastructure space. The business provides construction, plant and labour hire services, but also runs workplace wellness workshops, as well as cultural awareness training.

Using JCB’s machinery gives Norman and his team the peace of mind that they can get their work done without worry.

In fact, the latter two have become an integral part of the business’ offering, whereby engaging iLHA on projects requires participation in what Norman calls ‘toolbox sessions’ each morning.

In these sessions, Norman shares learnings from his culture to help workers from all backgrounds appreciate and connect with the environment and people around them. He says this is a key requirement for any project iLHA works on, because it encourages everyone to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. This also means checking on your co-workers, and making sure they’re in the right frame of mind.

“You never know what the people around you might be going through,” Norman says. “One of your work mates might have seen a bad road accident on the way, or maybe his wife’s just left him, and now he’s operating a concrete saw. And if his mind is wandering anywhere but on the task at hand, that’s how someone loses an arm.”

This is the essence of the message that Norman endeavours to spread on every job, in the hope that it will creative positive knock-on effects throughout the industry.

“It’s about bringing a mindful approach to your everyday work,” he says. “We’re not making people read a book, or knock off early to go see a psychologist.

“I just encourage people to lower their heartrate, raise their frequency, and learn to put their hand up when they need to.”

This is further supported by iLHA’s ‘Wellness Diggers’: hire machines branded and decorated to spark conversation around working mindfully and thoughtfully.

“Throughout the day, when you see one of those machines, they can be real conversation starters,” Norman says. “If you’ve got stuff going on, you’re more likely to want to be around that positive energy.”

For Norman, it’s all connected to supporting children in the community – by fostering a happier, healthier workforce, workers have a better shot at supporting a happier, more nurturing family.

“And that positive cycle is something children need,” Norman says. “Kids need it, families need it, all human beings need it – especially in our current world of misinformation and disconnect.

“It’s about connection, the storytelling around that connection, and passing it onto the next generation – that’s what we need to get somewhere as human beings.”

Norman says JCB CEA understands how iLHA does business.

Partnership of understanding

Norman has a lot on his plate day-to-day, but that doesn’t mean he can’t spare a little time to get excited about machinery. He is an earthmoving guy, after all.

And throughout his years in the industry, Norman has developed a loyalty to JCB machinery. This, he says, is down to several reasons. But a big factor is the level of support he’s received from distributor JCB CEA – not just in terms of support for machinery, but for Norman’s way of doing business.

He says the JCB CEA team has demonstrated compassion for his cause, are always looking for ways to provide a platform for his message.

“The team at JCB CEA have great insight and an understanding of what we’re trying to do,” Norman says. “They’re always asking how they can help with the charity, and they’re sensitive to our cultural differences as well.

“They don’t make it about money. If someone just wants to talk to me about money, if it’s about greed, then there’s a disconnect in that for me. We all have to make a living, but there’s a right way to do it.”

This has resulted in a fruitful relationship for both parties. The iLHA fleet has become very JCB-heavy, and Norman is always more than proud to talk up and show off his machines.

“JCB’s machines are just in a league of their own,” Norman says. “They’ve always held up really well.”

The two newest pieces of JCB gear in the iLHA fleet are the versatile Teleskid, and the reduced swing 245XR excavator.

“Normally zero-swing machines are a pain,” Norman says. “Without the counterweight, when you’re trying to trim and you go to reach and grab something, you’ll end up with a little dip in your final trimming. But not with the 245XR – it’s just so good. It makes an average operator look great.”

Norman says his partnership with JCB CEA will continue to play a role in his company’s growth over the coming years.

“I’d like to get some of our JCB machines and operators onto larger government projects as a social enterprise,” he says. “That’s my ultimate goal for iLHA. That way, I can run the plant hire side of the business without competing with other big players in the hire space. And the money goes to looking after kids – there shouldn’t be too much opposition to that.”

Of course, none of this is possible without machines you can trust – and this is where Norman says JCB CEA can provide that peace of mind. If he and his operators don’t need to worry about the reliability of their gear, then it frees them up to focus properly on their work.

“Not only are these, in my view, some of the best machines on the market for their safety standards, but their comfort really helps bring operator fatigue down,” Norman says.

“This all contributes to a safer workplace, and that’s one thing we’ll never compromise on.”


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