West-Trans Equipment’s Andrew McKinna explains how the company’s locally manufactured hook lifts and skip loaders are built to last in rugged Australian conditions.
On the outskirts of Sydney about 50 kilometres northwest of the central business district, artisans bend and fabricate steel.
Hydraulic control valves are fitted, and hydraulic tubing is bent into shape, as craftspeople are hard at work building and assembling a range of components. Sheet metal is cut and formed into shape as tradespeople build load boards, decks, arms and other components to detailed specifications.
It’s just another day at West-Trans Equipment’s factory in Mulgrave, NSW. For more than 25 years, West-Trans has manufactured specialised truck bodies. Over this time, the company has responded to customer demands for tougher, more durable and focused pieces of equipment.
The journey began when owner Jim Whittle bought the business as a custom-truck body shop. Before long, demand for his hooklift and skip loaders escalated, and appreciation of the quality Jim was known for became more widely known. For the past 15 years, West-Trans has made building tough, reliable and well-engineered components its specialty.
Customising elements such as deck length, tie down points, hand rails, hook or chain unloading systems, West-Trans works with a range of small, medium and large enterprises to continually develop its products to meet the ever-increasing demand for quality and reliability in the waste collection industry. Adding finishing touches like custom colours, work lights, toolboxes, beacons or mesh in-filled load boards aims to add to the customer experience.
Andrew McKinna, National Sales & Marketing Manager, explains that West-Trans Equipment builds all major components in-house at the Mulgrave factory to ensure they meet the high standards its customers expect. He says West-Trans continually develops and refines its products to suit rugged Australian conditions.
The Mulgrave manufacturing hub comprises sections for manufacturing and fitting, with customer fit-ups, service and maintenance also available interstate.
At Mulgrave, once the bodies are fabricated, they travel across to the finishing and fitting section, painted to a customer-specific build colour or standard white. Customer-specific accessories such as hazard beacons, work lights, toolboxes and water tanks are also then fitted to specification.
“One of the things I try to convey to people is that when a hooklift is mounted onto a truck, it doesn’t look that heavy and substantial, but the hook alone weighs about 20 kilograms. They are really solid,” Andrew says.
The building of the sub-frame on a jig sees the start of the assembly process. All components are laid into the jig to ensure they remain in the right place to start fabrication.
“That does two things. It means that the product that you’re going to build is always the same because the materials are all held in the same place during fabrication.
“It’s also then faster for the fabricator because the materials are already square and the correct height so they can drop the components in and start welding, rather than having to check and measure. This improves quality and production efficiency,” Andrew says.
“We’ve innovated some of our manufacturing processes over the last two years. Each body was a one-off. What we’ve tried to do is standardise and streamline production.”
He says that to improve the accuracy and cleanness of the end product, West-Trans now uses a one-piece laser-cut and pressed load board that used to be fabricated from a number of pieces. It is now faster to build, more accurate and presents better. Andrew says that the backboard carries West-Trans branding as part of its stamp of quality.
“Our cylinders are manufactured to our specifications to meet our specific requirements of quality, and durability. One of the defining things with our gear is that our cylinders and hydraulics are very solid,” Andrew says.
West-Trans Equipment offers a range of hooklifts, skip loaders, tarping systems, in standard and customer builds and colours under the West-Trans brand.
Its skip loaders range from the small four-tonne lifting capacity DS 40, which is low in tare weight and high in workload performance, through to the six-tonne lifting capacity DS 60, eight-tonne lifting capacity DS 80s ideal for eight cubic metres or two-by-two cubic metre skip bins. There is also the heavier 12-tonne capacity DS120 and 15-tonne capacity MXS 150. The hook loader range extends from the small but ruggedly built four-tonne capacity HL4, through a range of sizes up to the heavy weight, articulated hook HL20a model.
West-Trans touts the MXS 150p as the industry standard for high-lift-capacity hard-working skip loaders. With a 15-tonne lifting capacity, they are ideal for up to a 12 cubic metre, or multiple, smaller bins and are highly popular. According to West-Trans, the HL20a is the hooklift of choice for all of the major scrap and waste contractors nationally.