A business ‘cultivated’ through generations

Nearly 70 years ago, brothers Fred and Frank Vermeeren migrated to Australia from the Netherlands along with their parents and ended up settling in the small town of Keith in South Australia. About 11 years later, they founded an engineering and irrigation business that has since been passed on to the next generation in the family and today employs more than 20 staff and several apprentices.

Since its creation, the Vermeeren Bros Engineering and Irrigation company has proved to be an innovator in design and fabrication of irrigation and farming equipment. One of the company’s earlier designs was the Cattle Crush, an effective livestock handling system which became a staple for farmers across Australia, making its way as far as Alice Springs.

Another popular product designed by Vermeeren Bros was their renowned Minispreader, which facilitates easy spread of snail bait, mice bait, fertiliser and pasture seed from the back of a utility vehicle. The team has perfected the design over the years, adding optional attachments to distribute bait in two rows for vineyard use and a transfer bin to minimise the manual handling of bait and seeds.

Anthony Vermeeren, co-director, is proud of the quality of workmanship and the innovation his team delivers, which has helped the company build strong customer relationships over the years.

“Without quality workmanship we would not have seen returning customers and without innovation our business would not have lasted over 50 years. The importance of customer relations cannot be overstated,” he says.

BSC-Lonsdale sales representative Steve Wilkinson works closely with Anthony and his team to supply a wide range of industrial products for their day-to-day workshop needs. He is particularly impressed with Vermeeren Bros’ support for their staff and apprentices.

“Vermeeren Bros provide continuous onsite training to their staff and apprentices and invest in their education and skills development. Doing so, they are extending their support to their local community and setting a great example for other businesses in the area,” he concludes.

Vermeeren Bros is a Silver Award winner at the Let’s Roll: Australian Business Awards 2020. To learn more about the Awards, click here.

Growing along with the community

Since starting his business over 34 years ago in the small scenic town of Branxholm in north east Tasmania, Bruce Branch has been committed to supporting the agricultural and forestry industries in his region.

Since its inception in 1986, Bruce’s business, Branch Fabrications has grown into a ten-employee company, offering services including steel fabrication, contract labour, equipment maintenance, steel purchases and nuts and bolts to the farming community in northern Tasmania.

Bruce says remaining loyal to his roots is what gives him most satisfaction when looking back at the business’ growth over the years.

“We are a small, progressive company that is very loyal to our suppliers, customers, and employees. Our local area has seen major industries close down or move away. Branch Fabrications, however, has continued to grow with innovation in both equipment and personnel,” he says.

“We have also trained over ten apprentices and have had one apprentice win ‘Apprentice of the Year’ three years in a row. This demonstrates our ability to train, mentor and support young people at the beginning of their careers,” he adds.

Branch Fabrication’s potato trailers are particularly popular among the customers due to their high quality and the additional carting capacity they offer to farmers and contractors. Additionally, Branch Fabrications helps its customers with general engineering and maintenance, sandblasting and spray painting.

A spud bin fabricated by Branch Fabrications

For a number of decades now, Branch Fabrications has been working with the WebsterBSC branch in Launceston to source their required parts and products. Luke Gee, Territory Manager, WebsterBSC says the business is held in high regards by the community for its services.

“Branch Fabrications has done a great job of supporting the local farmers and sawmills in the region. They are well respected by the community for their laid-back and reliable services.”

Bruce says he is a firm believer in quality consistency as the driver behind customer loyalty.
“As a local business, we have a close understanding of the needs of our community and consistently produce high quality products. These factors ensure we stay in business and therefore stimulate the local economy.”

Branch Fabrications is a Silver Award winner at the Let’s Roll: Australian Business Awards 2020. To learn more about the Awards, click here.

Over 100 years of serving the industry

In 1917, when Frederick Knuckey first established his blacksmith shop in Winchelsea in regional Victoria, he wouldn’t have imagined that the name Knuckey would one day appear on nationally and internationally recognised agricultural machines, with the family business still going strong, four generations and over 100 years later.

Today, Knuckeys Agricultural Engineering employs 17 full time employees and several casual staff at its Winchelsea facility, from where it supplies a wide range of farming equipment throughout Australia – both from its own range of in-house developed agricultural machinery and as an authorised supplier for leading international brands.

Knuckeys’ two latest released products, the Air Seeder and Precision Sowing System, have received wide-spread attention from farmers across Australia, as well as globally. The Knuckey Precision Sowing System earned the title of The Australian Agricultural Machine of the Year at the 2019 Elmore Machinery Field Days.

Warwick Knuckey, who operates the family business along with his brother, father and uncle, believes the secret behind the success of Knuckeys’ products is that they are developed in collaboration with the farmers.

“We value the opportunity to work side by side with farmers in our region to understand the challenges they are facing so that what we produce is not just a machine, but a complete solution,” says Warwick.

“Throughout our journey as an agricultural machinery producer, we have always enjoyed challenging the status-quo and coming up with products that are innovative and cutting-edge. Some examples of these are the 12-metre wide Knuckey Southern Seeder and the High Capacity Dual Pickup Front, which is the first of its kind in the world,” he adds.

Jonathan King, branch manager at CBC’s Geelong branch, says CBC has enjoyed supporting Knuckeys’ engineering and manufacturing work for over 30 years.

“CBC is proud to be supporting Knuckeys’ with chains and bearing for their equipment, which include the Timken spherical roller bearing solid-block housed units,” he says. “Knuckeys’ harvesting equipment provide solutions for real world applications and they are built to the highest standards of quality.”

Knuckeys Agricultural Engineering is a Silver Award winner at the Let’s Roll: Australian Business Awards 2020. To learn more about the Awards, click here.

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Rolling ahead with Kingsway Welding solutions

Kingsway Welding is no ordinary welding and repair business. Based near Minlaton on the Yorke Peninsula of South Australia, the family business has been manufacturing unique farming equipment for the past 30 years that address some of the most common problems for farmers in their region and beyond.

Snail contamination in grains is one such headache that the company is helping farmers with. Yorke Peninsula was in fact the first region in Australia where the slimy invaders first emerged nearly a century ago, slowly finding their way through other parts of the country. Kingsway Welding produces single and double snail rollers capable of crushing up to 80 tonnes of snails per hour.

Manager Nicholas Cook says Kingsway Welding’s snail rollers are simple to use and very user-friendly.

Kingsway Welding’s snail rollers crush up to 80 tonnes of snails per hour.

“We’ve been making snail rollers for the past 10 years and currently supply to customers in South Australia and Western Australia. With the problem becoming more serious in other states and the silos rejecting the contaminated grains, we plan to broaden our reach to help more farmers deal with this problem.”

Kingsway Welding also specialises in the repair and manufacture of heavy-duty rollers, including stone rollers and triple farm rollers.

Workshop manager Craig Piller says Kingsway’s triple rollers are among the largest and the most heavy-duty rollers in the industry.

“Our rollers are extremely heavy-duty and can be made to order in sizes ranging from 9 metres (30ft) to 15 metres (50ft). Some of our rollers have been working in the field for over 15 years without needing any major repair. We also use hydraulic transport wheels in our designs, which makes them easy to move around without damaging the bitumen.”

Brenton Jones, senior sales representative at CBC, says CBC has enjoyed supporting Kingsway Welding through its growing phase, supplying them with parts and consumable products required at their workshop.

“Kingsway Welding’s products are manufactured to a very high quality of workmanship and just like they helps farmers in South Australia, they have the potential to solve similar problems for farmers in other states.”

Kingsway Welding is a Silver Award winner at the Let’s Roll: Australian Business Awards 2020. To learn more about the Awards, click here.

Staying a ‘cut’ ahead

How Midwest Fabrication, a Queensland-based manufacturer of grain harvesting equipment, grew from building the first machine for their own farm to gaining national recognition for their products in just over two decades is the material great Aussie success stories are made of.

Martin Schutt, a second-generation grain farmer started Midwest on his family farm north of Moonie in Queensland. After purchasing his first combine harvester in 1998, Martin was frustrated with the performance of the imported cutting platforms and thought he could improve the design to gain better efficiencies in the field.

Starting from a basic sketch drawn around the kitchen table, the Schutt family were able to develop their first cutting platform in the workshop and test it in the field. The platform soon received national recognition from the contract harvesting community for its simple and efficient design. Orders started pouring in forcing the business to relocate to Dalby to be able to meet the increasing demands.

The company is renowned for its innovation winning multiple awards including Best New Innovation Award, Best Australian Agricultural Machine, Best Manufacturing Business and Business of the Year.
Martin says Midwest was the first manufacturer in the world to build a 12 metre (40 ft) front in 1998, and the 15 metre fronts followed a decade later. The advancements in innovation continue to set the standards and benchmark leading the world in grain harvesting technology now producing a whopping 18.3 metre (60 ft) harvest front, another world first.

But Midwest Fabrication’s innovations did not stop there. Over the years, the company has grown its range of draper platforms to suit different applications and fit all major combine harvester brands. Additionally, the company also produces a wide range of accessories and spare parts for its cutting platforms, including cutting knives specially designed for Australian farming conditions.

Midwest’s sole goal is to help increase harvesting efficiency for farmers and contact harvesters while reducing overheads and running costs. The wider drapers mean customers are working their harvesters to maximum capacity, saving time, fuel costs and receiving better return on their investments.

Midwest Fabrication has built a highly successful Australia wide dealer network consisting of 92 Agricultural dealers supporting our product nationally and are currently in the process of developing a one-acre factory in Dalby to bring its engineering and manufacturing facilities under one roof.
Martin believes such a rapid growth by a family business would not have been possible without dedication to continuous improvement and innovation.

“It’s only through constant improvement and being innovative that we’ve been able to achieve what we have achieved. Ever since we built our first unit, we’ve been up against some of the largest global agricultural machinery manufacturers; but through constant innovation, we’ve been able to remain ahead of the competition.

Over the past 16 years, Midwest Fabrication has been working with CBC Australia – as the largest supplier of bearings and industrial parts in Australia – to source components for its in-house designed products.

Martin says the collaboration with CBC has enabled Midwest Fabrication to refine its products further, making them more efficient and durable.

“We are continually improving the mechanical design of our products. In one example, CBC helped us replace the original four-band ‘B’ type v-belts on the main drive with the Gates high-strength Predator belts, and more recently we improved the design again and introduced the Gates Polychain carbon belts, providing a more efficient, quieter and cooler running drive belt.”

Warren Beale, CBC’s Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) manager for Queensland, says apart from being a key supplier, CBC also offers engineering and design supports to Midwest Fabrication where required.

“After so many years of working with Midwest Fabrication and holding regular meetings to understand their requirements, we now have a very clear understanding of the products they need each harvest season. This allows CBC to maintain the right stock level for Midwest Fabrication to meet its requirements when their demand is at its peak.

“Additionally, we also help them with engineering support and application-specific information. This might be helping with product improvements as it was in the case of the Gates Polychain belt upgrades or suggesting alternative components to make the designs lighter and more efficient,” he says.
Commenting on winning the Gold prize for Motion Asia Pacific’s Let’s Roll: Australian Business Awards 2020, Martin says the win is a result of hard work put forward by the team, as much as a result of engineering excellence and innovation.

“This award is also a recognition of our staff’s skills, their dedication to the business and their pride in their workmanship. If not for them, we would not be here today,” says Martin.

“As business owners, it is easy to get lost in the day-to-day running and focussing on keeping the wheels turning and not celebrate the successes when they come along. This recognition is a great reminder for us to reflect on what we have built over the years from that sketch around the kitchen table, our significant growth, and the exciting future ahead of Midwest.”

Midwest Fabrication is a Gold Award winner at the Let’s Roll: Australian Business Awards 2020. To learn more about the Awards, click here