News

THE SKY’S THE LIMIT: FIFO COMES TO THE TWIN TOWNS

by
April 17, 2017

Bitu-Mill FIFO workers onboard their flight to work. Glen Deverill, Jo Kent, Jeremy Harman, Clint Sime, Craig Law, Andrew Monaghan and Alex Dehne. Photo by Luke Hemer.

Bitu-mill FIFO workers returning home after a week's work in a far flung corner of the state were (front to back) Glen Deverill, Jo Kent, Alex Dehne, Craig Law, Clint Sime, Jeremy Harman and Andrew Monaghan.

BITU-MILL is revolutionising the road maintenance industry from its Echuca base with a FIFO strategy covering south-east Australia.

Fly-in, fly-out has been the exclusive hunting ground of the mining industry, especially across the Pilbara and Kimberleys in WA.

But every Monday morning in Echuca two chartered planes lift off from Echuca Aerodrome in the direction of wherever the latest projects take them.

The workers from Bitu-mill’s micro stabilisation team, a spot-fixer for individual patches of roads in desperate need of immediate attention across south-east corner of the country.

The teams remain on location until Friday afternoon, then it’s back on the planes and home to Echuca.

Bitu-mill manager Des Smith trialled FIFO five years ago when working with another company, before employing the strategy on a permanent basis late last year.

“It is quite unusual in our industry. I don’t know anyone else doing this,” he said.

“But I look at it like this: you take six hours to drive to Gippsland. It takes 45 minutes to fly there.

“You put yourself in the team’s situation. Do you want to drive six hours to get somewhere and then start working?

“It’s economical for us to do it this way. And, seriously, you get the boys home to their families in one piece.”

Bitu-mill has a satellite depot in Bamawm where its fleet of vehicles and equipment lives between projects.

So far the projects have taken the workers to various corners of Victoria and NSW, including the Great Ocean Rd, Gippsland and Lake Jindabyne.

But the sky is the limit for this little band of FIFOs and Des is now eyeing off projects in Queensland and northern NSW.

He said the ability to quickly and easily transport his workers through the sky made business sense for the company.

“You’ve got five working days in a week,” he said.

“If I was to waste one day driving there and one day driving back, that only leaves me three days to try and accumulate five days worth of work.

“This way I’ve got them there in an hour and they still do a day’s work. It just makes us competitive.”

The team has nine members and most hail from Echuca-Moama and surrounding towns.

Although they are local and highly trained in their industry — and despite constant complaints about the state of roads in Campaspe Shire — Bitu-mill has found it difficult to find work within this region.

“People think we can’t do it here, but we can,” Des said.

He said very few could match the team’s expertise and experience.

“We stick with our local guys here because my team is one of the best at what they do,” he said.

“It’s taken years to get them to where they are.

“You can’t just bring in local people from wherever we’re working and say, OK, let’s train you up.

“Our team is the best for a reason, so that’s why we fly them in.”

It has only been a few months, but the FIFO strategy has not been without its colourful stories.

“The boys get a bit worried when they get to the little plane,” Des laughed.

“I don’t know if you’ve seen road workers — some of them aren’t the smallest lads on the planet. When they are climbing in I just shake my head.

“But you hear some stories. The funniest one I recall was when I first started getting the boys into it.

“The pilots said, ‘look, we need to know the weights of all the team’.

“So I said to the guys, I need to know how much you weigh, because the pilot needs to know.

“One of the team leaders has gone: ‘Really? You need to know how much I weigh? It’s that important?’

“He went on a diet and lost 9kg. He said: ‘If it’s that important how much I weigh, I’m losing some weight’.”

Bitu-mill has a satellite depot in Bamawm where its fleet of vehicles and equipment lives between projects.

So far the projects have taken the workers to various corners of Victoria and NSW, including the Great Ocean Rd, Gippsland and Lake Jindabyne.

But the sky is the limit for this little band of FIFOs and Des is now eyeing off projects in Queensland and northern NSW.

He said the ability to quickly and easily transport his workers through the sky made business sense for the company.

“You’ve got five working days in a week,” he said.

“If I was to waste one day driving there and one day driving back, that only leaves me three days to try and accumulate five days worth of work.

“This way I’ve got them there in an hour and they still do a day’s work. It just makes us competitive.”

The team has nine members and most hail from Echuca-Moama and surrounding towns.

Although they are local and highly trained in their industry — and despite constant complaints about the state of roads in Campaspe Shire — Bitu-mill has found it difficult to find work within this region.

“People think we can’t do it here, but we can,” Des said.

He said very few could match the team’s expertise and experience.

“We stick with our local guys here because my team is one of the best at what they do,” he said.

“It’s taken years to get them to where they are.

“You can’t just bring in local people from wherever we’re working and say, OK, let’s train you up.

“Our team is the best for a reason, so that’s why we fly them in.”

It has only been a few months, but the FIFO strategy has not been without its colourful stories.

“The boys get a bit worried when they get to the little plane,” Des laughed.

“I don’t know if you’ve seen road workers — some of them aren’t the smallest lads on the planet. When they are climbing in I just shake my head.

“But you hear some stories. The funniest one I recall was when I first started getting the boys into it.

“The pilots said, ‘look, we need to know the weights of all the team’.

“So I said to the guys, I need to know how much you weigh, because the pilot needs to know.

“One of the team leaders has gone: ‘Really? You need to know how much I weigh? It’s that important?’

“He went on a diet and lost 9kg. He said: ‘If it’s that important how much I weigh, I’m losing some weight’.”

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