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THE EVOLUTION OF PLANTMAN Plantman celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. Founded by Michael Elliot in 1991, Plantman has become a staple provider to the Western Australian resource sector, serving mining, earthmoving, construction and civil. During this time, Plantman established itself as a leader in offering customised, high specification mobile earthmoving and mining equipment for […]
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Plantman celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. Founded by Michael Elliot in 1991, Plantman has become a staple provider to the Western Australian resource sector, serving mining, earthmoving, construction and civil.
During this time, Plantman established itself as a leader in offering customised, high specification mobile earthmoving and mining equipment for sale and rental.
Together with maintenance, parts, engineering and fabrication services - Plantman built a reputation as pioneers of custom-built service fleets.
Mining has long been a cornerstone of the Australian economy. Through booms and busts, the entire Plantman team feel nostalgic to reach this milestone while servicing an industry that is the backbone of Australia.
According to The Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia, WA mining and resources contributes $100 billion to the Australian economy, and Plantman plays a significant role within it.
Michael Elliot’s experience in sourcing world-class equipment started in his position at the Caterpillar dealership and held him in good stead to go out on his own.
In 1990 Michael started ‘Plantman’ with the business management support of Shaaron Whitton, first opening the head office and workshop in 1991 in Perth, Western Australia.
“In the first five years, we had a small group of key personnel (some of which are still with us today) and a hand full of machines in our fleet".
"We focused on importing equipment from Europe and North America for re-sale, which quickly developed into forming our own rental division for dry hire of machines with maintenance contracts, Australia wide,” says Michael.
The resources boom saw a worldwide shortage of equipment, a pivotal time for Plantman who opened its doors to a workshop and service department to maintain its expanding rental fleet.
By 1998, Plantman had become a fully equipped one-stop-shop offering a wide range of services to meet high demands.
In the early 2000s, prices for commodities like iron ore, nickel, gold, oil and gas began rising, driven by increased demand from China. Australia had previously low commodity prices for more than a decade and companies like Rio Tinto and BHP had been under-investing in creating new supply.
No-one anticipated the surge in demand and the swift rise in prices. Plantman was ready to scale up its business.
Plantman’s success can be attributed to their ability to achieve a return on their investments. While competitors were having to replace end of life machinery more often, Michael followed Caterpillar’s second life philosophy of implementing high quality repairs and maintenance overhaul of equipment, resulting in lower operating cost per hour and longer life for expensive capital assets.
Plantman capitalised on this demand for businesses who did not budget to buy new equipment, offering the option to rent high specification machines instead of purchasing outright.
While maintaining a highly productive and reliable fleet of earthmoving equipment, Plantman sought out an efficient method of helping maintain productivity on client sites.
Plantman’s custom built Service fleet is a prime example of innovation and the offering that would set them apart in the late 90s.
Unique to the earthmoving industry at the time, the service truck was the first standardised and production-based service vehicle in development.
“We watched clients come up with makeshift solutions, such as drums and tanks of diesel and lubricant thrown on to the back of tray trucks, operating in remote conditions to service their equipment fleet. There was a range of issues around capacity, design, safety and environment.”
Reorganising the inadequacy of this approach, in 1997 Plantman developed specialised service modules specifically designed for the maintenance of earthmoving fleets. These modules would maximise efficiency and improve the quality of fuel and lubricant cleanliness during the storage, transport and transfer process.
Plantman produced its first P5000 Service truck, a multi-purpose on/off-road vehicle capable of carrying 5000 litres of diesel fuel and multiple types of grease and lubricants suitable to maintain a range of equipment, among other unique features.
This soon caught the attention of mine/maintenance managers and orders flooded into the office.
“We set up a production line to ensure we had a range of choices available to meet the demand. The high specification product far exceeded what was currently on the market… we had found our niche.”
This division flourishes today with more than 26 models designed and manufactured at the Bellevue facility including service trucks, diesel tankers, water trucks, crane trucks, drill support trucks and much more.
Fast forward to today and Plantman has 75 employees and a 200-strong rental fleet to support the mining, earthmoving, construction and civil industries, with strict upkeep policies to keep equipment current.
Like every business, Plantman has persevered through the ups and downs. “We downsized during the GFC as necessary and managed our way through COVID needing to introduce new health policies for employees and cope with the affected availability of equipment, labour and parts".
"However, we expanded our facilities in times of economic growth. The future will bring high interest rates, inflation, experienced labour shortages but we are prepared for anything that comes our way,” says Michael.
Family remains at the core of its culture with both Michael's sons, Jordan and Ashley Elliot, who take on new responsibility and opportunity that come their way. Jordan, a seasoned veteran with over 20 years of experience in sales and rentals and Ashley a future driven individual with a vision for innovation and technology.
Michael considers the committed, long-term employees as integral to this family culture, valuing the hard work, high quality customer service and dedication of the entire team that has helped the business grow over 30 years.
With such leadership and commitment, Plantman is well positioned to handle the challenges of another 30 years in business.
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Now that I’ve found Plantman and they’re local which is a bonus, I won’t need to look elsewhere. They also have an extensive range of equipment that suits our requirements for servicing the mining industry. I have no hesitation in recommending Plantman to any of our clients. Well Done!!!
Steve Kuklinski Owner Operator
From the start working with Frank regarding setting up a different style of service body was more than helpful, and this enabled us to get a truck that meets our requirements. Pricing was good and there were no issues when we made changes when they were requested. The response was excellent, I have made multiple requests to have other things added and modified from learnings here on-site and these were done to a great standard. The delivery was good even due to the Covid restrictions. We were very happy with the result and will be recommending Plantman if requested and hopefully dealing with Plantman in the future when we upgrade trucks again. Thank you again for the work put into the truck and body.
Rob Mclean Mine Maintenance Foreman
The flatbed has been very well received across the MEM department. As expected it was delivered in a clean and ready-to-go condition as promised and all facets of the truck have been put to good use. Overall everyone is impressed with the truck and having it on-site has allowed for work to flow a lot smoother.
Steven Nixon Field Supervisor
Happy to getting Plantman involved in Future opportunity.
Eugenio Martinelli Mine Services Utility Superintendent