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Interview

with John Rush, General Manager, Transtank

24.03.2011 / Energyboardroom

Mine sites, oil and gas fields, are of course renowned for the volumes of resources that they produce. As the onsite fuel storage solution provider that powers these projects, I can see how your industry can get overlooked as “unsung heroes.” What are the main qualities in your offering that we should know about?

What we try to pride ourselves on is that we are solution providers, not just a seller of storage tanks. One of the critical solutions our customers expect from us is compliance standards. Our tanks are fully compliant and we regularly review the latest standards to ensure we maintain our high quality of compliance. Additionally protection of the environment and ensuring ‘no fuel to ground’ is high on the priority list for all customers.

Secondly we pride ourselves on what we call ‘Turnkey’ solutions.

Beginning with a discussion about our customers’ concept, we then present a proposal, develop engineering and design work, further managing this process through to manufacturing, installation and on site commissioning.

This ‘Turnkey’ solution package requires the dedication of an expert team plus the Project Manager who is assigned to each customer, regularly communicating with key stakeholders, ensuring each step of the project is on schedule.

Whilst our business has experienced consistent growth over the past two years, so have our team of Project Managers. We now have Project Managers with specialised skills in engineering and fuel management systems.

Our customers want to be reassured that their project will be on time and that we are capable of meeting their requirements.

Transtank recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. What has formed the foundation of the company’s success from which it will grow to new levels going forward?

As mentioned in our earlier discussions, Transtank products are in great demand due to their ability to be transportable, they are an above ground solution that protects the environment, and additionally are double bunded. All of these benefits put together ensures there is no ‘fuel to ground’ which is of paramount importance to our customers.

The transportable ability of Transtank products on mine sites is of particular interest to our customers. As the project site moves and machinery needs refuelling, so too can our products be relocated to service this machinery, saving on time and relocation costs.

As the Transtank business has grown, we have invested our energy and expertise into developing customised pumping solution packages, including high flow rate systems to ensure our customers limit their down time for refuelling on site and further saving them money in transporting of fuel to site, again protecting the environment from ‘fuel to ground’.

With an increasing global footprint throughout Asia, Africa, and the Americas, what is the role that each region plays for Transtank?

Australia is our head office and location for engineering and R&D. Our facility in Parkes NSW conducts our R&D which has provided us with innovative solution outcomes that can be aligned with our customers’ needs.

All engineering, and global compliance standards are conducted and assessed here in Australia.

Our Chinese fabrication plant provides us with our standard range of tanks, allowing for volume production and competitive pricing that is passed onto our customers.

Canada, Henderson WA, and Johannesburg locations focus on fit out and specialised customisation, for our solution packages. Every one of our locations has these abilities.

Our customers are invited and welcomed to our manufacturing sites, to see and feel their product and are assisted in understanding how these solutions will provide maximum cost and time savings in the field.

Our innovative engineering developments are shared around the globe with our Transtank agencies that provide additional abilities for us to service remote locations.

We strive to build local presence and relationships where we are operating, ensuring our Business Development Managers are always in contact with customers and resources to provide the best possible solutions in the field. Our Business Development Managers foster close working relationships with customers, understanding their needs and always going the ‘extra mile’ to provide outstanding service that is solution based.

Considering Australia’s strict HSQE standards I imagine that once a product is compliant for Australia it is malleable and applicable around the world…

Yes, Australia does have strict compliance standards, however Canada and the USA have stricter standards than Australia, hence Transtank exceeds Australian standards due to meeting the Canadian and USA standards.

What do you consider Transtank’s best examples of turnkey services and most important projects in its body of work?

Some of the best examples of ‘Turnkey’ solutions we have provided are with major mining companies in Australia. These solutions have spanned Australian mine sites along with international mining and exploration sites. All of our solutions are created from concept through to on site commissioning these days. Our customers want the whole package and for every part of the process to proceed without delays.

We recently sent our Sales Management team to the USA to discuss concepts, engineering requirements, and site layout with one of the world’s largest project management companies, to assist them in the quoting process for the overall project. We are considered the experts in fuel management, distribution and storage by many of the worlds leading mining and project management companies.

What is your best strategy for overcoming the operating and logistical challenges that come with the tyrannies of distance working on remote Australian basins?

We place a high priority on having our people on the ground when projects are occurring; this is part of our overall solution package process. Our Business Development Managers are located across Australia, travelling constantly, and are very familiar with the mine sites and logistical challenges that can occur.

We also find that as our customers become more familiar with our products and what solutions the product can provide their project. The customer concept can evolve and the project has unexpected changes. Our expert Sales Managers take on board these changes and adapt rapidly to implement to ensure positive outcomes. These changes are a lot easier to action if communicated earlier in the manufacturing process, hence the importance of regular customer communication.

Who do you consider your main competitors in this market?

As we are considered the leaders in this field, we find many competitors who try to copy our product with limited success, even using our images on their web sites claiming them to be their own.

We are not just tank providers, we are solution providers, and this is something that cannot be copied.

Our facility in Parkes NSW is ultimately what separates us from the competition as it provides us with expert engineering advice, customised manufacturing and on site project management, plus the ability to allow customers to see, feel and test their products prior to site operation.

With the development and maturation of the Asian supply chain how has your China fabrication center proven to be a stimulus for business?

China provides us with the ability to produce volume in our standard tanks that is cost effective. If a customer needs a larger quantity of tanks, we can quickly deploy our team in China to produce these in a cost effective manner, allowing us to pass these savings onto our customers. This facility also allows for flexibility and diversity in production. We have an onsite quality control employee who ensures our tanks meet our strict compliance standards, no matter where it is manufactured. No tank leaves without being through quality checking.

What are the implications for your manufacturing operations in Australia since you enjoy enormous cost-savings in China? Will they inevitably be phased out?

No, we would not phase out our manufacturing in Australia as this is where we build our “Turnkey” solution packages, and also conduct our R&D. Our expertise lies within this facility, and defines us from our competitors.

You seem very full of “stressed exuberance.” Exuberant because of all the growth potential for Transtank, yet stressed about just how to control it and decide exactly where to expand…

There is no doubt that the acceleration of growth provides challenges to the organisation in the departments of finance and resources. However we are firmly focused on getting the right people in the right jobs to provide even better service levels to our customers.

Our African team are an excellent example of this plan, doing an outstanding job in providing complex solutions and keeping our customers happy in a demanding market. There is a clear indication of business growth opportunities in the South African market. Our challenge is to double the current business in this location which we think is achievable.

Our Australian business is our consistent achiever as it has been established and grown with emerging markets. In the beginning we were just supplying tanks, now we work with customers to provide customised solutions. The excitement in the team about selling these solutions is apparent with every sales person, as it is now a more personalised process rather than selling ‘off the shelf’ products.

We have a new General Manager in Canada who we have great hopes for in taking the Canadian business to new heights. The seasonal challenges in Canada provide opportunities for new solutions to be developed.

We are in the early stages of strategic planning to enter the Asian market with a vengeance. We have experienced recent growth in this region and plan to eventually set up our own sales and manufacturing facility to take advantage of this growth.

Forecasting industry needs, what are your R&D priorities to stay ahead of the curve?

Our R & D is focused on providing solutions for pumping and filtration packages for fuel cleanliness. This is becoming more critical due to the equipment we are manufacturing, for example; many of the new Diesel engines require cleaner fuel, so our solutions provide filtration while still maintaining optimal flow rates, in order to minimise down time. Our solutions are not just about the transfer of Diesel, but the dispersing of oil and in providing a multi compartment solution for waste storage.

Geothermal and other clean energy initiatives are picking up momentum to provide base load power for remote basin energy and mining projects in Australia. Does this pose any medium term threat to traditional fuel storage?

We still consider that Diesel will be the chosen fuel for mine sites and machinery operation, and that there will not be any short term shifts away from this.

The skilled labor shortages in Australia place a lot of human resource challenges on companies. Your engineers are perhaps being approached by competitors or even customers. Has your greater emphasis on project management been driven in a way by a need to challenge your staff more and increase retention?

Absolutely, I think it is a two fold answer; Project Management and the complex nature of some of our solutions provide our team with extra challenges. Competitors find these skills attractive as we invest time and expertise in up skilling our team; hence they will always try to poach our staff.

On the other hand Transtank has the right support structure in place, and a manufacturing facility, with expert engineers who have years of experience that cannot be bought, our customers find this very attractive and feel secure in the knowledge they will be given the right advice.

We strive to create an environment for staff where they feel like they are contributing to the company’s success.

What is down the pipe for Transtank in 5-7 years? Will you still be the market leader in fuel storage solutions?

Yes, we expect to still be the market leader in providing tank solution packages. As I have said we are experiencing positive growth and see no reason why that would change in the next 5 to 7 years. We will probably see expansion in sales into the Asian markets, producing as many if not more sales than Australia and Africa. I see our African and Australian regions continuing to grow, and expansion into power generation, transport and some aviation growth. We are not just about oil and gas, these other markets represent a lot of synergies that can be leveraged to provide even better solutions going forward.

Are there any last topics you would like to discuss or final messages you would like to convey to our readers?

Our focus is firmly on our customer and listening to them to provide what they want and a complete solution package. We want to provide value to our customers and be recognised as a partner in their project development in not only tank solutions but the overall outcome.

Our innovative products are proven, and we are firmly focused on our Project Management abilities to ensure delivery on time and positive outcomes. Our customers get a lot of satisfaction knowing that they have the whole Transtank team working toward providing them with their solution.

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