Livestock handling equipment firm Leichts CIA counts Gina Rinehart’s giant S. Kidman and Co. among its many satisfied customers.
Persuading a 1000kg bull to follow instructions in a cattle yard isn’t for the faint-hearted and brings with it no small amount of risk to handlers.
It’s no surprise to learn, then, that Gina Rinehart’s S. Kidman and Co., one of Australia’s largest beef producers with a herd of 171,000 cattle and pastoral leases covering approximately 80,000 square kilometres, has invested over $1m in quality Australian-made livestock handling equipment from Toowoomba-based Leichts CIA to keep its workforce safe.
Mark Leicht began his steel fabrication business in 1984, accelerating his expansion into livestock handling equipment with his acquisition seven years later of CIA with its established reputation for cattle crushes. Thirty-four years on, the business designs, manufactures and sells a range of livestock handling equipment from demountable mobile and portable systems up to full hydraulic crushes, cattle yards and races with elevated external walkways for operator safety.
Mark is unequivocal about the importance of producing a quality product for strength, safety and durability. He’s equally unequivocal about the role Australian-made steel and a reliable and customer-focused supply chain plays in ensuring the quality outcome of his products.
“We’ve always used Australian-made steel,” Mark says. “I don’t ever recall using imported material. With imported material, there are issues with weldability and the sizing can be variable – products might not fit directly in our jig.
“This would add time delays and labour costs to fix. We operate to very fine tolerances of plus zero to minus 0.5mm and it’s important to our process that our materials meet these requirements to minimise downtime.”
Relationship with InfraBuild Steel Centre
Mark has relied on the Toowoomba branch of InfraBuild Steel Centre for the supply of processed steel and accessories since he launched his business.
“It’s been a really good relationship. InfraBuild Steel Centre does all of the processing for us and deliver product to us that’s cut to length when we need it. We can just drop it into our jigs and begin welding as soon as it arrives,” Mark says. “They work hard with us to ensure we get the product just when we need it so we’re not held up in production.”
Ross Gilmour of InfraBuild Steel Centre Toowoomba says that the firms have developed a partnership based on strong customer service and innovation.
“Our HYDMECH saw is capable of full-pack cutting of RHS (rectangular hollow section) product to meet the critical tolerances required by Leichts CIA.
“It’s fast and cost effective,” Ross says. “To streamline deliveries, we have developed a number of custom-made bins to fit Mark’s specific requirements.”
Ross says he’s seen the business triple in size over the past nine years and the relationship between him and Mark has morphed from a professional one into a personal one.
He adds that Leichts is constantly innovating to improve its products and range to meet the changing requirements of the market. The company specifies Duragal® for its quality and consistency, accuracy and high strength-to-weight ratio in both painted and galvanised finishes.
Earlier in 2018, Ross worked with Duragal® manufacturer Austube Mills to develop a Duragal® pipe with a heavier wall, called Duragal® Z135, which has helped make Leichts CIA’s range of equipment stronger and safer.
Compliance with Australian standard AS1163 C350 and full traceability are other key requirements for Leichts.
“Every length supplied carries a stamp with the mill, date and time of production,” Ross explains.
Demand is strong for Leichts CIA’s range of products and the business is growing to the extent that it has acquired land adjacent to the factory and is in the process of constructing new, expanded production facilities.
“We’re continuing to deliver product to S. Kidman and Co. and we have strong relationships with national rural equipment suppliers including Elders and CRT driving our growth,” Mark says. The workforce has grown, too, from two in 1986 to over 50 now, and includes Mark’s three daughters.
“The girls have grown up in the business and do a great job,” Mark says. “They’re helping me grow the business and will hopefully take over from me in the future.”
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