Heath Shipard has stared disaster in the face and bounced back stronger than ever. And his local Cat® dealer WesTrac has been there every step of the way.
Since founding HAS Earthmoving in 2004, Heath Shipard has experienced all the highs and lows that the earthmoving industry has to offer.
In 2015 alone, he rode the wave from career highlight to near disaster – recognised and awarded for his achievements as a Western Australian 40 under 40 one minute; ripped off by two clients to the tune of more than $2 million the next.
“This was the hardest time of my career to date,” Heath says. “We had to dismiss more than 100 staff members as a result and effectively start up again from scratch.
“But it was also one of the most valuable experiences education-wise. As a business owner, you always learn more on the way down than you ever do on the way up.”
Despite this monumental setback – or perhaps in defiance of it – Heath’s determination to keep learning and growing has seen him rebound, adapt, and build back stronger.
Part of this resilience can be attributed to Heath’s willingness to think outside the box and diversify his interests. HAS Earthmoving has been his bread and butter, but he has also had his fingers in a variety of industry pies, from street sweeping to aviation to trucking.
He’s also learned to evolve and adapt to the trends and demands of the industry.
“We used to be a standard contractor that tendered and won work,” Heath says. “But in 2020 we decided to pivot and become a service provider to Tier 1 clients, giving us opportunity to provide a service and back it up with management assistance where required.”
This transition meant HAS Earthmoving turned one-time direct competitors into clients – another example of Heath’s willingness to adapt.
“Currently we perform works including road, rail, civil, bulk earthworks, and more,” Heath says. “As well as wet and dry hire services, several current clients have also engaged us for management, project engineers, and site supervisors.”
This shift in focus has already led to some career highlights for the HAS Earthmoving team. From 2020 to 2022, these included work on Perth’s Claremont Train Station Upgrade Project, as well as several packages of work for WA’s Public Transport Authority.
“The projects have really assisted our growth into the rail sector,” Heath says. “We’ve also been working on the Armadale Line Upgrade Alliance (ALUA) project since late 2022, performing early enabling works in preparation for the November 2023 rail shut on the Armadale Line, which is the largest rail shut and rail project in Western Australian history.
“On the back of these ongoing works, HAS Earthmoving is looking to further support the Alliance with the project’s civil and earthworks delivery during the 18 month closure.”
Living in the Cat lane
With all that’s keeping Heath and his team busy, HAS Earthmoving requires equipment that can keep up. And for nearly 20 years, Heath’s equipment of choice has been Caterpillar.
“Our relationship with Caterpillar and our dealer WesTrac started in 2004 when we purchased our first Cat 301.8 Mini Excavator,” he says. “And the relationship with WesTrac has been excellent. We talk very openly and honestly, and if we have an issue, we voice it. They’re very good at listening, and they will take any of our feedback on board.
“And I’d have to say, 99.9 per cent of the time they’ll find a solution to whatever problem we might have at the time.”
Heath says this is a big reason why you’ll see a Cat logo on around 90 per cent of HAS Earthmoving’s fleet of roughly 85 pieces of plant and equipment.
“The Cat machinery that we purchase and operate in our fleet includes motor graders, loaders, dozers, excavators, and more,” he says. “And we have roughly 38 machines on order for delivery over the next 12 months to cover our clients’ growth.
“We also run a lot of technology, so we are spending heavily into the technology range. We order our machinery with 3D machine control from the factory. This enhances the abilities of our operators, and speed of delivery for our clients is so much better as well – we can perform more works and complete more tasks.”
The sky’s the limit – or is it?
Trevor Hearne, Machine and Product Specialist for WesTrac’s Perth dealership, has been Heath’s go-to Caterpillar expert since 2006. Heath says Trevor has been instrumental in the ongoing success of the WesTrac and HAS Earthmoving relationship.
“He works with us to learn and understand where the business is now, and where we want to take it in the future,” Heath says. “We feel he’s as invested in the business’ success as we are.”
One of the most recent acquisitions facilitated by Trevor is a new Cat 306 CR Next Gen Mini Excavator.
“We purchased the Cat 306 around four months ago after having a meeting with Trevor to discuss our future needs,” Heath says. “He was listening to us, and he suggested that the 306 would be a very good machine to complement our rail division in particular, especially given the smart technology and the Ease of Use system that’s on the machine.
“So, Trevor presented the machine to us and told us the pros and cons. And we decided it was a machine that would fit our business model and our clients’ requirements quite well.”
Trevor says the Cat 306 CR Next Gen Mini Excavator was introduced to replace the previous Cat 305.5 model, and takes integrated technology to a level not seen before on excavators in this class.
“A lot of these features have now filtered down from the larger machines in the range, and will continue to be introduced further down the line too,” he says.
Trevor points to the Ease of Use suite of features as a particular advantage for businesses like HAS Earthmoving. Comprising Indicate, E-Fence, as well as Swing and Bucket Assist, these features are designed to simplify operation, enhance jobsite productivity, and improve safety.
“Having the Ease of Use features available on this smaller machine suits Heath’s business perfectly,” Trevor says. “With all the work HAS is doing with rail, the added safety benefits made a lot of sense for their current workload.”
Heath says the feature set has been a big hit with his operators, who appreciate the extra peace of mind it provides.
“We do a lot of work around rail and other critical assets, and E-fence allows us to set predetermined parameters for swing, depth, and height limitations,” he says. “This helps to ensure we don’t swing or dig into a rail, road, pedestrian area; over-dig into a services corridor; or lift into exclusions zones on rail projects. And as the machines move around, the parameters can be adjusted very easily by the operator in a live environment.
“Indicate is also a great tool for when we’re excavating footings or trenches, as it allows us to free up a person performing ‘boning’ duties to assist elsewhere, effectively dropping our manpower costs for our clients.”
Heath says that above all else, the reason he keeps coming back to WesTrac and Cat machinery is the level of after-sales and backup support.
“Their support is, in our experience, second to none,” Heath says. “We have tried other brands of machinery over the years, we found they lack the level of support and parts that we require.
“If we have downtime, then it costs us and our clients money. And WesTrac’s backup makes supporting our clients that much easier.
“The ability to look live into WesTrac’s parts system through the Caterpillar app, and see costs and availability for any part is an essential feature for us. And the desire from Trevor and the WesTrac team to support us – however and whenever we need – is impressive.”
Ultimately, Heath says, it’s about treating people the right way, and surrounding yourself with people that will do the same – whether it be your staff, or your equipment dealer.
“At HAS Earthmoving, everything we do is for family,” he says. “And we support our staff with the genuine belief that a ‘family first’ attitude will empower all parties to feel valued, and not just a number.”