When Malcolm Azzopardi and Luke Mateljan took over the reins of Western Plant Hire (WPH) in November 2020, they were fortunate to be inheriting an already successful business of some two decades’ standing.
As a solution-focused plant hire and fully maintained fleet provider, WPH already had a reputation for excellence and reliability. However, for the new duo in charge, the change in ownership was an opportunity to instigate some fresh strategies and growth across the board.
For Mr Azzopardi, the financial executive director, it was an opportunity that had taken some ten years to come to fruition.
“I’ve been with WPH since 2011 working with the then owners and executive management team, and alongside Luke,” said Mr Azzopardi.
“With private equity led by Peter Hutchinson, Luke and I arranged the purchase of the business.”
The inclusion of Peter Hutchinson as Chairman gave the newly minted board significant heft; with significant experience in business particularly in the public arena, where he has overseen the successful growth of various companies over the past 30 years.
“Since we took over, our focus has been to invest more capital into the business, to continually build the fleet,” said Mr Azzopardi. “Luke and I both have different areas of expertise and work extremely well together.”
Luke Mateljan has been with WPH for over a decade in various capacities and describes the deal to purchase WPH as ‘one of those deals where everybody came out happy’.
Mr Mateljan oversees the operational, maintenance, and business development side of the business while Mr Azzopardi controls the finances and other back-office functions.
“It’s an equal partnership together, which is a little unique – a partnership controlling the business as opposed to a single CEO. We were fortunate that WPH was doing a great job prior to our ownership and we are proud to offer the same level of service to our clients as before but we have now rebranded the business (including a new website) and positioned ourselves for a period of growth.”
The duo is actively pursuing opportunities which perhaps were not possible previously and is actively embracing the company’s new carbon-neutral status.
“With the assistance of Carbon Neutral, WPH had its carbon footprint measured and a report produced, to show the impact on the environment, from an emissions perspective,” said Mr Mateljan.
“With this information in hand, we were able to focus our attention on reductions and have started investigating ways to reduce our highest impact areas such as diesel and power use.” In addition, we are now able to offer hire equipment with carbon offsets included, so clients can rest assured that the impact on the environment from their use of the machines has been minimalised.
Unlike many businesses, the impact of COVID-19 over the past 18 months has had a minimal effect on WPH to date, apart from some shortages in supply from manufacturers overseas.
“Despite the inconvenience of lockdowns, we don’t have a huge reliance on large quantities of people as a business,” said Mr Mateljan. “We are considered an essential service and feel fortunate to have been able to continue trading consistently during the ongoing pandemic situation.”
The pair have an eye to diversifying their client base to include companies working in different resource sectors of the market and in different regions of WA and the NT.
“Our clients – like the major iron ore operations in the Pilbara – have experienced extremely strong results over the past year, so from the production side of things, our mining clients keep on producing – and as a result, require access to reliable and well-maintained plant hire,” said Mr Azzopardi.
“We are building up our fleet where demand is, and trying to pre-empt demand, rather than being reactive. We are also ensuring that we operate as green as possible and align ourselves with client and community expectations. –This is reflected in our desire to reduce our carbon footprint and allows us to get ahead of the game compared to our competitors.”
“We’re right in the middle of a boom,” said Mr Mateljan. “The future of the world’s success will be built on the back of the mining and construction sectors so we must maintain a strong set of foundations in the future.”
WHP also works closely with local Indigenous groups through the Barrooghumba WPH JV, a fully incorporated 50:50 joint venture between WPH and NEMMS (Nyiyaparli Engineering and Mine Maintenance Services.
“Our vision is to turn the JV into a leading, WA-based Indigenous solution-focused plant hire and fully maintained fleet provider,” said Mr Azzopardi. “Through close collaboration with traditional owners and their communities, the JV is allowing many Nyiyaparli families and their dependents to benefit from the mining activity conducted on their traditional lands.
“It’s already a 10-year relationship built on trust and respect and we’ve made sure we always do the right thing and will continue to do so into the future.”
To find out more about Western Plant Hire, visit wph.net.au