Earthmoving News

Service Steps In When Skills Shortage Stings

They may be best known for massive machinery, but it’s Hastings Deering’s delivery of humble hydraulic hoses that is making an impact to Sunshine Coast civil and construction companies.

COVID-19 has seen many companies pivot to stay nimble during these troubled times, and Hastings Deering Operations Manager, North Coast Mario Cadeddu said with projects running leaner and with tighter time and fiscal margins than ever before, service has become king.

“Nothing beats seeing a huge machine on a truck ready to be delivered to a mine or road building project,” Cadeddu said. “Equally no one wants to see that machine sitting idle because it needs a new part. Right now, with so many infrastructure projects underway on the north coast, from Burpengary to Gympie, contractors cannot afford to have a machine idle waiting for critical parts.

“Last year, when we planned to boost this side of our business with mobile deliveries from our North Coast Service Centre, even we did not envisage how much demand there would be. The service delivers critical parts, especially hydraulic hoses that can stop a machine in its tracks. Already we are up 300 per cent on last year’s figures.

“The fully functioning workshop means our technicians can produce customised products with more efficient and faster turnaround times to reduce customers’ downtime.”

Coolum-based Cooper Civil has major infrastructure projects underway in Queensland as well as New South Wales and Victoria. Rhys Cooper says forget the COVID crisis, it is a skills shortage that will impact on the industry more so than anything the pandemic could throw at them.

Cooper said increased servicing from companies like Hastings Deering kept machines moving as the industry has never been more competitive with other companies ruthless in trying to undercut each other.

“COVID-19 most impacted out Melbourne jobs,” he said. “We were lucky to get our equipment out before they really shut things down, so we didn’t have machinery just sitting there. Queensland is walking into a boom: the Government set on powering the economy and while the stimulus helped us get through the quiet times, the biggest challenge facing the industry is a skills shortage.

“The problem across the industry as a whole is not getting guys to work for you but getting that skilled work force, people with experience or understanding of the job or who have been taught the right technique. With that comes the issue of safety if you have green guys who are doing things wrong, they are going to get caught out.

“The shortage is across the board, from machine operators to labourers. It used to be you learnt by making a mistake but in this fast paced and competitive environment, when you make too many mistakes it’s goodbye and they have to let you go. As businesses tender for work, everyone is sharpening the pencil and trying to outbid each other. For plant hirers like us it is getting hard to get high quality staff to drive the machines. There is going to be so much work, there’s just not going to be enough people to meet the demand.

“That’s where this new service delivering parts and often fitting them is critical because we have fewer people operating more machines so we cannot afford a machine to sit idle while we wait for a vital part. Lost hours can equate to hundreds of thousands of dollars at the end of a project. While we follow a maintenance schedule, sometimes things just go wrong – a hose can blow when you least expect it.”

So concerned is Cooper about the skills shortage, he has undertaken a Certificate IV to become a trainer and give back to the industry. “The industry has been harping on about this for ages but unless something is done about it: this is what will slow down projects, not COVID,” he said.

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