Adaptability is key to ensuring the survival of a manufacturer in a changing landscape; being adaptable during a period of adversity not only helps the manufacturer survive, but also thrive and become more dynamic.
Leussink Engineering is an example of such a manufacturer, closely working with BlueScope in the NSW industrial region of Illawarra. When it heard BlueScope was scaling back dramatically, the company did not go into panic mode.
Director Jason Leussink explains that the BlueScope downsizing just allowed them to take a step back and absorb the level of experience and technical skill they had acquired over a long period of time. Having created new export markets, worked closely with other dynamic companies in the region to develop outstanding new technologies and products, involved themselves in growing networks across the country, regularly brought on board new business streams for stronger diversification and, continued to take on apprentices every year, Leussink Engineering’s simple but valuable advice to other manufacturers is that during any setback to one’s industry, their capabilities are often transplantable into other industry sectors.
As in the BlueScope phase, Leussink Engineering moved from fabrication, into developing new mining technologies, solutions for bulk materials handling, refurbishment work and repairs for heavy transport and rail, and even recycling.
Compost worms may seem a million miles from the fabrication sector, but this rather unusual direction best illustrates Leussink’s message about the ability to adapt. In this instance, during a major construction project managed by Leussink, the energy rating of a high-rise building needed to be increased. Rather than boost air conditioning or thicken windows, Leussink eliminated almost all recycling skips in favour of composting worms, which eat just about anything organic including food, paper, packaging materials and wood.
In another instance, Leussink Engineering partnered with engineering firm Soto Consulting to develop SWIFTA, a unit designed to minimise risk for underground mine operators by allowing the driver of a wheel changing unit to actually leave the load handling device (LHD) vehicle and come out and operate the hydraulics panel on the SWIFTA.
The SWIFTA not only allows everyone associated with the wheel change to see the wheel perfectly without obstructions, but also ensures all operators are removed from the potential ‘crush zone’, minimising operator risk, and eliminating any exposure to the mass of the wheel.
Leussink has also collaborated with Corts Engineering in the developing country of Kazakhstan on the successful refurbishing of steel mills. Leussink Engineering sent six of its specialists from NSW to Kazakhstan to machine six rolling mill stands for ArcelorMittal.
The Corts-Leussink partnership can provide a complete refurbishment to even the oldest rolling mills (ferrous and non-ferrous) in the world to original specification and extend their lifespan to remain productive and work almost as if new.
A recent challenge came from the underground mining sector where the problem centred on the susceptibilities of a small lever that activated hydraulic power in the process needed to fix roof bolts - the traditional position of the control lever made it a potential trigger for accidents.
The lever is mounted on the hydraulic manifold at leg level for practical reasons since underground mining operates on a relatively low ceiling height. This always left the lever susceptible to accidental knocks and bumps by someone’s leg, which would cause a roof bolt to release and fall from roof height on the worker causing serious injury.
Leussink devised a simple solution to keep the lever where it normally was positioned while increasing the safety of workers.
Mr Leussink attributes the success of the company to its people who have been in the organisation for a very long time. Leussink continues to grow their employee base by training apprentices, opening up even greater market opportunities in mining, rail, construction, shipbuilding, energy, materials handling, transport and general manufacturing.