The BMD Group shows how personal involvement translates to corporate success
There can be a world of difference in outcomes when interviewing executives of corporate businesses. The gap often comes down to the obvious personal involvement and entrepreneurial flair of some management teams, typified by their ability to make decisions and drive change. This contrasts strongly with more formal management structures where decision making is stymied by corporate control structures and invisible partitions.
A visit to the headquarters of the BMD Group in Brisbane provided a fascinating and very open insight into how this company, formed in 1979, has grown to become one of Australia’s largest privately-owned engineering design, construction and land development contractors.
This year, celebrating a 40-year history of delivering infrastructure which has changed the shape of Australia, BMD is renowned for projects including the $1.5 billion Legacy Way tunnel; the $200 million Victoria International Container Terminal project at Port of Melbourne; Australia’s largest freight rail infrastructure project, Inland Rail in Parkes; Brisbane’s new parallel runway at Brisbane Airport; and Perth’s first smart freeway.
Having grown from a handful of employees working in a house in Brisbane’s Bayside suburb of Manly, BMD now employs 1700 people across every Australian State and Territory, and internationally through operations in the Philippines.
Despite the size and continuing growth of the company, which last year achieved a turnover of $1.3 billion, it’s obvious this business is founded on its ability to not only manage its corporate interests, but also to manage its inter-personnel relationships. This ability maintains the link between all members of staff and recognises their contribution to its ongoing development.
BMD continues to invest in the development of long-term relationships with subcontractors and owner operators. This investment serves to maximise the opportunity for local input with flow-on effects in the training and development of locally-based staff engaged on its projects. Over a decade ago, BMD formed its 20 Year Club to celebrate the significant contribution employees have made to the company and their fellow colleagues. Now comprising over 80 members, the 20 Year Club illustrates BMD’s ongoing commitment to valuing and developing its people.
In the course of its business BMD operates trucks, utes, 4WDs and SUVs in a fleet totalling close to 1100 vehicles. Of this number, 93 percent of the fleet of approximately 64 light trucks are Hino models, covering most of the product range of the Hino 300-Series. In addition to this fleet, the company also operates a separate internal hire fleet of 10 Hino tippers that can be located to any of the internal divisions of the company to satisfy short-term vehicle demands.
The majority of the Hino 300-Series light-truck models are generally under the 4.5 tonne rating. Bodies are supplied through Hino with the assistance of Mini-Bodies.
A significant number are based on Hino factory-bodied tippers, with other models being fitted with electro-hydraulic cranes, tilt-tray bodied units and crew cabs. These have an average life of three to four years before replacement. To better manage the fleet BMD operates its own retail vehicle on-line dealership, turning over 300 vehicles per year and adding a further $1.5 million of revenue to the company’s financial bottom line.
What sets BMD apart from other building and construction companies is this aspect of taking responsibility for fleet purchase and replacement through creating an independent dealership within a company that has nothing to do with vehicles as its core business. Whilst others would not focus on fleet replacement, this higher level of fleet control typifies the attention to detail that has enabled the company to grow so rapidly.
The on-line dealership runs through the company website as a division of BDM, where the acronym has been changed from that of the initials of the founders of the company to reflect this part of the business and trades on the website as Better Motor Deals (www.bettermotordeals.com.au).
“There’s a good second-hand market for these vehicles with logbook servicing completed by the Hino dealer group or through other brand-registered motor vehicle dealership operations,” said Tony Hennesy, General Manager of Corporate Services.
“Our business relationships are all important and all new Hino and Toyota vehicles are sourced through Sci-Fleet Hino in Brisbane. We buy, we sell, we arrange the finance and we prepare and sell the car and ute side of the business as well as the truck component.
“After being fitted with all the necessary equipment or bodywork, new vehicles are sent out to our various fleet operations across the country from Brisbane. At the time of supply we also retrieve the original vehicles to Brisbane where they are returned to top condition prior to resale,” said Tony, who adds the title of ‘Dealer Principal of Better Motor Deals’ to his job description.
National Procurement Manager Joe Joyce and Assistant Fleet Manager Enola Antolini are currently trialling different telematics systems with the aim of tracking running costs, utilisation, vehicle location, driver alerts, maintenance requirements, driver behaviour and the recording of fuel tax credits.
“We also have the potential to track driver fatigue cause and effects,” said Joe Joyce.
“Our entire fleet will be using automatic transmissions within the next year and this results from so many young drivers either not holding a driving licence or being restricted to automatic transmission vehicles only. It is also less stressful on the driveline of a vehicle.
“We have independent front suspension on the Hinos, and the specification includes disc brakes, plus active and passive safety systems, making these a particularly safety-oriented vehicle choice,” added Joe.
BMD maintains an ongoing activity covering the support of the drivers amongst the workforce to ensure that safety standards are endemic throughout the fleet.
“The safety team within the company is developing specific modules for vehicle applications, such as when these are used off road in order to train the driver about the correct way to handle driving in more severe conditions,” explained Enola Antolini.
“Despite our rapid growth in vehicle numbers, our fleet costs have been kept flat which is a tremendous accolade when it comes to fleet management,” she added.
As the largest privately-owned civil construction company in Australia, BMD is very specific when it comes to vehicle registrations with every member of the fleet sporting a BMD personalised registration plate. This places the company close to being in the number-one spot when it comes to operating the largest fleet of personalised number plates, irrespective of the State or Territory in which it is registered.
A final word comes from our discussions with one of the BMD drivers, and who better to ask than Travis Antolini, who also happens to be the brother of assistant fleet manager Enola Antolini.
“From a driver’s perspective every drop is different,” explained Travis. “The Hinos are constantly out working supplying the road crews with anything and everything from concrete pipes to gulley boxes, conduit or anything they require.
“I’ve got the truck set up to handle everything I need to do. The automated manual gearbox makes it easier to drive and less stressful. It’s got all the right safety equipment, so everything is three-point access, there are safety rails on each side, and it’s been designed to make the workplace safer. These days it’s all about designing to prevent accidents.
“The GPS is another safeguard. I run with Google Maps and that informs me if an accident has occurred somewhere in my vicinity and advises me if a change of route is necessary,” added Travis.
The opportunity to discuss all areas of vehicle management with the team at BMD Group highlighted the progressive thinking present within the company. The decision to manage vehicle fleet replacement internally by BMD, while capitalising on the strong ties with Sci-Fleet Hino of Brisbane as the major supplying dealership, make an interesting change that might compel a few other businesses to review how they handle their own internal fleet activities.