Adaptability is the key for the future of manufacturing

While many manufacturers in the car industry are thinking gloom and doom at the moment, history shows that as one door closes another often opens. Val Pavlovic reports.

Designed for underground mines, the SWIFTA allows the driver of a wheel changing unit to actually leave the load handling device (LHD) vehicle and come out and operate the hydraulics panel.

In the export sector, Leussink Engineering has seen rapid success refurbishing steel mills in Kazakhstan.

Despite the present tough conditions for many in the metalworking industry, adaptability still abounds, with examples right throughout industry where adaptive change not only ensures a manufacturer survives in a changing landscape, it sharpens its ability to thrive and become more dynamic.

From being heavily immersed in the BlueScope economic whirlpool in the NSW industrial region of Illawarra, Jason Leussink director of Leussink Engineering woke one day to hear BlueScope was scaling back dramatically.

Bad news admittedly, so why didn’t Leussink panic?

“BlueScope downsizing was never the death knell in our minds; it just allowed us to take a step back and see just how much experience and technical skill we had developed over a long length of time and allowed us to develop new market, much further afield,” said Leussink.

“We created successful new export markets, work closely with other dynamic companies in the region to develop outstanding new technologies and products, involved ourselves in growing networks across the country, regularly bring on board new business streams for stronger diversification and, something on which we pride ourselves, we continue to take on apprentices every year.

“If we can impart simple but valuable advice to other manufacturers, it is basically that strength lies within the experience of management and definitely in your people.

“If ever your industry suffers some sort of setback or downturn, don’t forget that your capabilities are often transplantable into other industry sectors.

“From fabrication, we have branched into developing new mining technologies, solutions for bulk materials handling, refurbishment work and repairs for heavy transport and rail, plus we distribute arguably the best worktables in Australia (Demmeler), and we even have branched out into the recycling game,” Leussink said

Compost worms may seem a million miles from the fabrication sector, but this rather unusual direction illustrates the message Leussink is putting forward; that is, pretty much everything you do arms your company with the ability to adapt.

In this instance, it was during a major construction project managed by Leussink to increase the energy rating of a high-rise building.

Rather than boost air conditioning or thicken windows et al, Leussink all but eliminated recycling skips in favour of composting worms which eat just about anything organic – not just food, but paper, packaging materials, wood etc.

Engineering skills

While Leussink’s innovation skills have been impressive, it’s the company’s engineering skills that have proved the big drawcard. Quite recently, in partnership with nearby engineering firm Soto Consulting, Leussink helped develop the SWIFTA.

Designed for underground mine operators, the device allows the driver of a wheel changing unit to actually leave the load handling device (LHD) vehicle and come out and operate the hydraulics panel on the SWIFTA itself.

This means that everyone associated with the wheel change can see the wheel perfectly without obstructions – which to date has been the industry norm because control has traditionally been done from the LHD.

“But as soon as an operator begins to move from the LHD, the LHD is disengaged with an automatic cut-off and the SWIFTA becomes the control point for the tyre change procedure,” Leussink explained.

“Operators are removed from the potential ‘crush zone’; so operator risk is minimised. They are not exposed to the mass of the wheel because all manual handling is eliminated,” he said.


Leussink said challenges come at the company from all angles.

“A recent example again came from the underground mining sector where the incumbent method was not acceptable.

“It all centred around the susceptibilities of a small lever that activates hydraulic power in the process needed to fix roof bolts. The position of the control lever made it a potential trigger for accidents.

“We looked at the nature of the problem and devised a simple solution to keep the lever where it normally is but to better ensure the safety of workers was heightened,” Leussink explained.

The lever, which activates the hydraulics for power and operation in the process of roof bolting, is mounted on the hydraulic manifold. Because underground mining operates on a relatively low ceiling height, this lever, for practical reasons, is mounted on the manifold at leg level.

This always left the lever susceptible to accidental knocks and bumps by someone’s leg which would cause a roof bolt to release which can fall down from the roof height and land on the finger, foot, or head of a worker and cause a severe crush injury, or even amputation.

Exporting success

In the export sector, Leussink Engineering has seen rapid success in refurbishing steel mills with Corts Engineering in Kazakhstan.

Leussink Engineering sent six of its specialists from NSW to Kazakhstan to machine six rolling mill stands for ArcelorMittal.

The Corts-Leussink partnership can make a complete refurbishment to even the oldest rolling mills (ferrous and non-ferrous) in the world to original specification and extend their lifespan to remain productive and work almost as if new.