The global pandemic has failed to halt demand for rail maintenance equipment. That’s the view of Harrybilt Engineering finance and marketing manager Beth Martino.
“We were really lucky with the pandemic, we actually saw business growth,” Martino said.
Harrybilt is a family-owned business based in Ballarat, a town in Victoria. They have been providing highly-specialised solutions to local and national customers for more than 35 years. Their typical customers perform maintenance on rail tracks. The business has continued to expand and now services the rail and utilities sector, along with general engineering projects.
“As much as the pandemic did affect us in some ways, we’re lucky to keep working and growing with our customers and gaining new customers around Australia,” Martino said.
Everything is built in Ballarat, with a doubling of floorspace required two years ago because business was expanding so rapidly.
The Turnkey Solution
An important business concept for Harrybilt is their ‘Turnkey Solution’. This is essentially a solution for converting a wide range of excavator and truck makes and models for rail. According to the company, this includes buying machinery, installing the rail system, building the Rail Maintenance Attachments, as well as supporting registration for any networks around Australia.
The team has partnered with Hitachi to provide the S Series Rail Machine, developed for the operators in particularly difficult working conditions. This package is similarly available with the Hi Brid Rail System, allowing a wheeled excavator to run on both standard and narrow gauges.
According to Martino, the Turnkey Solution is registered for networks around Australia and ensures any machine is rail ready when it leaves the workshop.
“We can handle the purchase of the machine and installation of the rail system,” Martino said.
“Harrybilt has its own wide range of rail maintenance attachments as well.
“Importantly, we manage all aspects of the rail machine rather than a customer having to go through different companies.
“We can manage the whole thing.”
Martino said it had been encouraging to see the market was undaunted by the pandemic.
“We have noticed in the last couple of years, that the market has been expanding for us and our customers have kept coming back.
“It has been great to see their businesses growing as well,” she said.
While their customers are mostly based in Australia, they also do business in New Zealand and Indonesia.
“We have sent rail maintenance attachments there. We have also attended the NZ Rail Conference a couple of times, which has helped us keep up to date with key challenges and opportunities facing the rail industry in New Zealand,” Martino said.
Secrets to success and employment growth
Martino outlined some reasons for success.
“We listen to our customers’ feedback and are happy to work with them to make customised products,” she said.
“For example, we have the Hi Brid Rail System that we designed specifically from hearing customer feedback that by having a machine that has the capability to switch between narrow and standard gauge networks, it would significantly increase their efficiency.
“We seek to keep in touch with the industry and adapt according to its needs.”
Martino said they had been busy hiring across their business and were looking to keep doing so into the future.
Their typical staff are fitters and turners, fabricators, labourers.
A full-time mechanical engineer is also employed, enabling an end-to-end solution for their clients.
With many rail projects around Australia, the outlook for business growth was positive.
“Lots of our customers are buying not just one machine from us with attachments, they are buying a few,” Martino said.
“Everyone seems to be getting ready to make sure they have enough product to get things done.
“Also, to be able to provide our Turnkey Solution, in the future to places like New Zealand will be a positive development.
“We want to really grow our presence there.
“Some of our plans have been delayed due to the pandemic, but in the future, we think that we can really grow our business in New Zealand.”