16/01/2008 - 22:00

Restructure drives change at Able

16/01/2008 - 22:00

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A Bayswater business that started from the family home just more than a decade ago has joined the growing list of small to medium enterprises across the state to benefit from the mining boom.

Restructure drives change at Able

A Bayswater business that started from the family home just more than a decade ago has joined the growing list of small to medium enterprises across the state to benefit from the mining boom.

Able Bus and Coach was established as a four-wheel drive tourism adventure company with just one bus, and has evolved into a manufacturing company providing a range of four- and two-wheel drive coaches and truck buses to major tour and mining companies across the country.

Founder and managing director Kevin De Bruin said working in the adventure tour industry for a number of years gave him the advantage of knowing what did and didn’t suit the rough terrain.

“Other products around are built on small trucks and try and fit as many passengers on as they can,” he said.

“We do the opposite; we get a bigger truck and put less passengers in.

It may cost a little more but it’s better in the long run, giving a stronger, more reliable vehicle.” Having built its first bus in 1999 to service the tour market, Able Bus and Coach recently celebrated the production of its 100th bus, a 30-seater mine coach for Rio Tinto subsidiary, Pilbara Iron.

Its client list currently boasts major tour company Australian Pacific Tours, as well as BHP Billiton, Leighton Contractors, Nationwide Hire, and BGC Contracting.

Mr De Bruin said the company started actively pursuing mining business in 2003 to diversify from its tourism focus.

“We went into mining area because we didn’t want to be reliant on just one market.

The tour market can be up and down,” he said.

But it hasn’t been a completely smooth ride for the business.

While the interest of the mining companies provided Able with a wealth of opportunities, the structure of the business, which heavily relied on the managing director, was not prepared for the rapid growth that resulted.

After Able lost money a couple of years ago, a consultant was called in to help restructure the business.

Mr De Bruin said increases in labour and material costs were a major factor in the loss.

“We just weren’t keeping an eye on our costs,” he said.

The business implemented better systems and efficiencies to help it cope with the growing demand.

It also brought its costs under control, brought in extra tradespeople, and clearly defined the organisational structure, removing Mr De Bruin from most of the day-to-day operations.

The restructure has since paid off.

The business experienced 60 per cent growth the following financial year, manufacturing a total of 27 buses.

It also put Mr De Bruin in charge of growing the business, instead of working in it.

“I’ve learnt to delegate,” Mr De Bruin said.

The business is on track to grow by a further 25 per cent this financial year, with delivery dates booked out until mid-October.

It is also preparing to open a second workshop across the road in about three months’ time, adding an extra 900 square metres of work space to its 580sqm office and workshop.

Mr De Bruin is confident the business will be able to scale up effectively to service its growing number of mining clients.

“We’ve only just scratched the surface of the mining industry,” he said.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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