Company profile: Atlas Heavy Engineering

By: Ron Horner

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  • Earthmovers & Excavators

Atlas Heavy Engineering, based out of Narangba just north of Brisbane, has been making and supplying premium earthmoving buckets and other attachments to the world since 1985. RON HORNER recently caught up with general manager Rex Vegt.

Company profile: Atlas Heavy Engineering
Atlas Heavy Engineering general manager Rex Vegt and Ron Horner at Bauma China.


Set up in one of the main buildings of the Bauma China civil and earthmoving exhibition, amid the whirlwind of 3000 exhibitors and 200,000 visitors doing deals, Queensland’s Atlas Heavy Engineering is holding its own on the world stage.

Heading up the Atlas assault on Shanghai is general manager Rex Vegt, who is only too happy to spend some time with us to share the story of how this Aussie company could go from a relatively small and troubled operation to Asia’s largest earthmoving exhibition in just over a decade.

Rex tells me that the company had fallen on some awkward financial times some 13 years ago and was taken over from the original owner. At that period Atlas was generating about $3 million in turnover, but within a 10-year period it increased this to a fantastic $30 million.

The business model that Atlas has in place to achieve this must be the envy of many companies, not only in Australia but worldwide.

Rex says he credits the company’s success to the quality of the product and its people — there are employees at Atlas who joined when manufacturing commenced way back in 1985, and are still there through reciprocated loyalty and respect.

As far as the products go, I have personally been in the earthmoving game in Australia for over 40 years and I know Atlas has always been held in extremely high regard for the quality of the buckets, rippers and other attachments it makes. Australians regard Atlas as making a pretty handy bucket, so it’s no surprise that the company is now exporting its premium product to Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and many other countries.

To be successful, Rex says, one has to provide a good quality product, good pricing structure, good delivery and good backup service, build good and trusting relations with your clients and be in the top 10 percent of your industry.

"Many overseas companies just don’t understand about building relationships and gaining trust," Rex says. "They are quite happy to sit back and provide a cheap product, push their website and do business with a click of a button and no face-to-face discussions. This industry is still about people and we must never forget that.

"Atlas has always stood behind its products," he adds, "and has never had a warranty claim in its history. We absolutely commit to our products withstanding anything in the field."

Rex goes on to say that the company policy is: "If you don’t innovate you stagnate, and if you stagnate you die." To this end, Atlas has a huge research and development program filled with dedicated engineers who look at customers’ problems and provide a solution.

On its Bauma stand the company is displaying its interlocking quick hitch, which is designed to make sure the bucket can’t come off once the coupler is secured, and the tilting utility bucket, which is made of hardened steel with easily replaceable bolt-on cutting edges, and used for battering side slopes and trimming to grade.

This bucket and the quick coupler are big sellers in Australia but not the rest of the world. This, Rex says, is the next challenge —conquering the world through education.

Atlas has no such problems with its more standardised general-purpose buckets as they are readily accepted as being of better quality than their competition and are used in all locations throughout the world.

At the time of our chat Rex has just arrived back from Egypt where a client has 300 excavators working on the Suez Canal. Those machines just dig all day, every day and have no use for a quick coupler or tilting utility bucket, opting instead for the well-designed and constructed Atlas GP buckets.


Growth through co-operation

Atlas can’t always just go it alone, Rex says, so it strives to link up with companies who are like-minded and want to grow: "We help them grow … they grow, we grow."

One of these companies is Victoria’s Metronom Pacific, represented on the Atlas stand at Bauma by Linda Gilbert, who is demonstrating the HandyScan 700 portable 3D laser scanner made by Creaform, a Canadian company.

Creaform scanners are based on simplicity of use, affordability and high accuracy for reverse engineering and inspection purposes. The HandyScan 700 scanner can be taken into the field and physically scans the bucket, ripper, adaptors, pins or bushes in real time, supplying exact dimensions and measurements.

While in the field the 3D scan mesh data file can be emailed back to head office so the engineering department can begin the design process, thereby streamlining development lead-time. This information is collated to determine the exact measurements for designing, manufacturing or fabricating a bucket or attachment, or to investigate an on-site technical issue which may have arisen on the client’s item of plant or another manufacturer’s bucket.

Rex says that while this information could once only be completed manually by a few guys and could take up to three or four weeks to get a result, with the HandyScan 700 the task can be completed in a matter of hours by one person in the field, with a response within a couple of days.

"This is one of the best investments we have ever made," Rex tells me. "Having the HandyScan 3D laser scanner also helps in building trust and a relationship with the client. We can prove that we are able to be efficient and productive in real time and it also enhances our reputation as a legitimate leader in our field in research and development."

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