Flying the flag


A family-owned business in New South Wales is playing its role in lifting Australian manufacturing.

Australia has a global reputation of having hard workers who get on with the job. They’re built tough, to handle tough conditions. 

The same could be said of West-Trans Equipment, a manufacturer of skip loaders and hook lifts, built on a strong foundation of Aussie values and manufacturing.

Australian manufacturing peaked in the 1960s, contributing about 25 per cent to the gross domestic product. By 2005-06 it dropped to 10.5 per cent, according to the 2008 Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Despite cheaper imports entering the market, West-Trans Equipment has stayed the path of Australian made.

“Supporting the Australian economy is one of our biggest selling points,” says Nic Whittle, West-Trans Equipment technical sales representative.  “Our customers do really appreciate it. 

“We would encourage other businesses to try and source local. That’s what is going to keep manufacturing alive in Australia.”

West-Trans Equipment remains the only manufacturer of hook lifts in the country. Parts are sourced locally, including custom-made hydraulic cylinders and laser-cut steel.

West-Trans Equipment owner Jim Whittle

Nic says keeping the manufacturing process “home-based” ensures the final product is tailor-made for the Australian market and there is no downtime waiting for parts to be shipped from overseas.

“They need to be tougher,” he says. “With our climate, they need to be very durable – they’re out in the desert, on rough terrain.”

He says West-Trans Equipment’s hook lifts, based on built-in durability and smart engineering, also are a more “robust” design than imported ones.

While the company has received requests to test parts from overseas, Nic says they “weren’t happy with the quality”.

“The biggest challenge with manufacturing in Australia is to keep up with imports; you have to find a way to cut back on costs without taking shortcuts,” Nic says. “With our manufacturing, we have quality control throughout the entire process – fabrication, painting, installation.

“All our parts are sourced locally in Australia. Hydraulic cylinders are custom made for us to suit our specific machines. 

“Steel is all sourced from local companies as laser cut plates or steel sections – cut to highly accurate tolerances. 

“We use jigs [frameworks], so all parts and machines are consistent.”

Even painting is to exact standards – two coats of high-gloss finish to withstand the toughest conditions Australia can throw at them.

“They [skip loaders] get beat up pretty bad,” Nic says. “Having a quality protective coating is going to be beneficial to customers.” 

Those customers include skip bin hire operators, civil and demolition companies and general waste operators. Many have a long history with West-Trans Equipment.

Nic says building those customer relationships, and staying local, has helped the company maintain a sense of family among employees as it continues to grow.

Family-owned since 1994, West-Trans Equipment employs more than 70 people in five locations Australia-wide, and through its service partners, provides technical and service support in every state and territory.

It became the home of HMF vehicle-loading cranes in Australia in 2009.

The company has seen massive change within the industry in the past 27 years.

“In the early days we rarely put bodies on new trucks, it was nearly always second-hand trucks,” Nic says. “Now it’s the opposite. People are investing more in their equipment with features such as radio remote controls, auto revs, and tarping systems. The emphasis on safety is bigger than it’s ever been, with things such as proximity sensors, underrun protection, and handbrake alarms becoming more and more popular.”

Continuing to embrace change, West-Trans Equipment recently installed three 100kw solar systems at its three main factories in Mulgrave, NSW.

The installation is a step towards a more sustainable manufacturing future. It will generate enough power to run the factories purely off solar straight away.

Nic says the company will introduce robotic welding cells, expected to be operational early next year, to enhance West-Trans Equipment’s consistency and quality of welds and components. It will also result in faster production times.

“The future of manufacturing in Australia, in an industry like ours, will definitely move towards a more automated type of manufacturing,” Nic says. “I think it’s something we see as an essential part of moving forward and keeping up with the world changing around us.” 

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