Prime Mover Magazine

A poultry sum

A poultry sum

Multiquip has emerged as an innovator in the road transport industry partnering with Scania trucks to provide superior solutions for its many customers across a dynamic range of poultry, construction and quarry operations.

The Mikosic family were originally poultry farmers who realised there was a need for specialised transport services dedicated to their industry. In 1982 Steve Mikosic commenced delivering feed to chicken farms. Today the multi-faceted Multiquip enterprise has over 200 vehicles and has expanded into other areas including the supply of construction materials. It was Steve who combined his agricultural and engineering expertise to develop the company that now has his son Jason in the role of General Manager, overseeing a diverse and ever-expanding operation from the company base at Austral in Sydney’s west.

Jason sees the organisation as a service provider to the poultry industry and transport is just one aspect of what Multiquip can offer.

“Transport is the link that ties it all together from the feed deliveries to the live bird pick up, where we are sending people onto the farms to catch and load the chickens into crates before taking them to the processing plants,” Jason says. Multiquip handles more than four million live birds each week – around one third of Australia’s total consumption. It also has its own hatchery, which is the second largest in the country producing meat birds. The feed division delivers over 1,000 tonnes each day, significantly more than the two eight tonne loads per day Steve was realising when he started out.

Multiquip now provides end-to-end transport solutions to the poultry meat industry. The first step in the process is the delivery of the eggs from farm to hatchery before the day old chicks are moved from Multiquip’s own hatchery. For the duration of the birds’ growth periods on the farms, which can be from 35 to 55 days depending on the ultimate size of the birds, Multiquip’s feed delivery fleet supplies the food.

When the birds have reached their intended size Multiquip flat bed and drop deck trailers are used to transport the birds in crates to the processing plants. Multiquip also provides teams to catch the chickens as well as off-road forklifts to handle the crates and modules.

“In a way the transport task is secondary to the primary process of picking up the birds from the shed and putting them onto the trailers to go to plant,” says Jason in reference to the labour intensive catching phase.

“It’s a good market with high volume so that’s where we have to bring the efficiencies in to do the best by our company and our customers,” he says. “We continually look for what are the best technologies to adopt. It’s not just about being efficient cost-wise, it’s about being safe on the road. That’s one of the reasons we went with the Scania trucks: because of the technology they have.”

Multiquip has recently taken delivery of some of the first Scania Next Generation Trucks to be delivered in Australia. The flat bed trailers for transporting live birds are mostly built in-house in the expansive and well-equipped workshop.

“We’re building smart trailers that interconnect with the truck’s braking and stability control systems. With the NGT Scanias even the turntable tells you when it’s locked in correctly which is a good advancement. A lot of the ideas I come up with myself and work through them with our own team. It’s a pretty big task and there’s still a long way to go with that because there are ideas coming all the time on how we can be more efficient at what we are doing.”

The Multiquip fleet is quite mixed with Scania and Kenworth brands dominating.

“I see different benefits in each of the two styles,” says Jason. “Both are good products and the mix just works well for us in terms of the product, the service and the relationships. We have a really big operation in Griffith and the service from the local Scania dealer is great. Our Scanias are on service contracts and the person that handles it down there is doing a really fantastic job. Our drivers like the Scanias so we weigh all that into the mix.”

As safety is the priority at Multiquip, Jason is in the process of fitting every truck in the fleet with Seeing Machine cameras to guard against drivers losing concentration despite rigorously complying with fatigue regulations.

“The Scania people put me onto them and we’ve fitted around 120 so far. I think it’s the best thing you can have in a truck and all fleets should have it,” say Jason. “Some drivers may be coming to work and setting the machine off and it makes them realise that maybe they should have a bit more rest before turning up.”

The Multiquip in-house engineering and manufacturing division has the capabilities to construct items ranging from semi-trailers to equipment for the poultry industry such as incubators and farm equipment. The division also manufactures components for the transport industry such as tubular mudguard brackets and mudflap brackets that feature a flexible length of wire rope to prevent the flap from getting caught over the wheel when tipping or damaged when going over a kerb.

Another element in the Multiquip enterprise is the supply and transport of construction materials including sand and cement. Pressure tanker trailers are utilised for the cement and a variety of PBS-approved tippers handle the sand which is extracted from the company’s own quarry at Bungonia near Goulburn in NSW. Following the approval process which took a number of years and involved widening of some local roads Multiquip has continued to explore more efficient methods of delivering the sand from the quarry to meet the increasing demands of the construction industry in the greater Sydney metropolitan area. The advent of Performance-Based-Standards (PBS) vehicles has presented Jason and his team with the challenge and opportunity to make the transport task more efficient.

“We’re refining it all the time and looking for ways to do things better,” says Jason. “It took us seven years to get the quarry approved and that included widening 18 kilometres of road. When we got approval in 2009 we were looking at taking 32 tonne loads but with some of the PBS combinations we have developed in conjunction with Muscat Trailers we’re now taking out 39 tonnes in quad axle truck and dog combinations and 51 tonnes using A-doubles. This makes a big difference in reducing the number of potential truck movements.”

Jason has been working in the family business since he was 16 years old. He initially completed his trade as a sheet metal worker and then gained his Batchelor’s Degree in Technical Management for Manufacturing. Younger brother Daniel Mikosic is a qualified diesel mechanic and is the workshop manager for the Multiquip fleet service division.

Jason relates how the delivery of bulk poultry feed has been through a number of evolutions with the original set-up using a blower driven from the truck’s Power take-off (PTO) to unload the feed into farm silos.

“The jackshaft would fail so dad put auxiliary motors onto trailers to drive the blowers. That worked well for 20 years until we looked at the weight penalty and at the improvements in blowers and PTOs as they are now. So we have gone back to using a truck-mounted blower driven by the engine’s PTO. That saves a lot of weight and the efficiency is now pretty good.”

A small door at the rear of the trailer is the location of the switch panel that controls the engagement of the PTO as well and the engine’s revs, meaning the driver can operate everything safely without going back to the cab. Quad axle PBS-approved semi-trailers are now the unit of choice for feed deliveries and they are able to carry much the same payload as a 19-metre B-double but are far more manoeuvrable and contribute to the driver spending less time on the farms.

In a business that runs 24/7 Jason appreciates the efforts of the staff.

“We’ve got great management staff and allocators. Some of them have come up through the system and started as chicken catchers. That’s good to see because they truly understand the process. As General Manager I just want our whole fleet and staff to be as safe as possible. That’s a real focus for us: to increase the safety for our people and other road users. Again that just comes down to looking at everything we are doing all the time and not sitting still. We’ve always got projects on the run looking constantly at different ways of doing things.”

Jason regards the diversity of the Multiquip business as a source of opportunities and the observation of factors that work in other industries leads to his questioning of how they can be beneficially applied to the operations in which Multiquip is involved.

The demand for chicken meat continues to escalate in Australia and Jason sees Multiquip’s relationship with customers and suppliers as akin to partnerships.

“It’s important to keep those partnerships strong and we’ve all got to be doing a good professional job.”

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