Reaching Critical Mass

A new Volvo FM 10x4 fitted with a Palfinger truck mounted crane is helping extend the innovative vision at MBS Sand and Cement.

Maroubra Building Supplies (MBS) has been supplying Sydney construction and building industries since 1983 when builder Sam Papadakis bought into the suburban hardware store where he had been a customer.

Families and tradies alike trusted and frequented the store, which became an Eastern Suburbs institution that valued old-fashioned service and value for money.

To meet the growing demand for bulk goods, the company finally moved from a small storefront to a much larger facility in Matraville.

Louie Papadakis, the second-generation Managing Director, began working at the shop on weekends and during school holidays, where he sold nails by weight, bagged sand by hand, and gained the knowledge that would eventually inspire him to take over the administration of the company established by his father.

Louie’s vision has always been to not only expand, but also to become an industry leader, offering a broader range of materials and an uncompromising level of customer service.

Maroubra Building Supplies was renamed MBS Sand and Cement in 2008.

The rebranding was done to represent the expanded range of materials available as well as the ability to supply and deliver Sydney-wide with a modern fleet of vehicles capable of providing unique on-site logistics and transport solutions.

“Our doors are open to everyone,” Louie explains, “from ‘mum and dad’ home renovators to builders, tradespeople, and developers. Whether it’s one tonne or a thousand tonnes, whether it’s one brick or a developer looking to acquire a million bricks, we continue to provide premium service. We strive to be inventive at all times, and we’re always looking for new methods to expand our business by incorporating new technologies and service lines.”

MBS owns a fleet of small tippers, primarily Hino and Fuso models, with several equipped with truck-mounted cranes and a Mack Trident tipper with a dog trailer.

There are also Isuzu 6×4, 8×4, and 10×4 flat tops with cranes with reach capacities of up to 21 metres also available.

The Mack and a number of subcontractors deliver bulk materials to the MBS facilities from quarries located throughout NSW at places including Newcastle, Marulan, Albion Park, Taree and Cowra.

“Having our own trucks is beneficial because it allows us to have more control over the transportation, however we also utilise external contractors to deliver to our yard.”

Louis Papadakis.

Customers in Greater Sydney, the Central Coast, and Wollongong are served by the smaller MBS vehicles.

The truck mounted cranes provide a one stop shop convenience for building and trade customers by being able to arrange the product delivery and crane in one phone call.

“They call us, place an order for materials, and they don’t have to call a separate crane hire company and book in a four-hour minimum,” Louie says. “We use our trucks to deliver and place materials where they need them on site. They can also hire the crane only. We don’t have to supply the products, they can simply hire our crane trucks.”

The addition of a Volvo FM 10×4 fitted with a Palfinger truck mounted crane is a recent extension of Louie’s vision for innovation.

This is the first Volvo to join the MBS fleet, and the 31-metre Palfinger crane rightfully makes it the flagship vehicle and differentiates the company from others in the industry.

“We felt it was time to upgrade our crane and take our service and reputation to the next level,” says Louie. “We are really proud of the fact that it is the largest crane truck in the Sydney building and landscape supply sector.”

Characterised as ‘Zeus’, the mythical Mount Olympus King of the Gods, the new Volvo is liveried black and gold, in contrast to the other MBS vehicles which are predominantly green.

The separate branding of this latest crane truck is in line with the company’s plan to operate it as a stand-alone business.

‘Zeus’ combines the flexibility of a table top truck capable of transporting items up to six metres in length with the innovation of the crane’s maximum reach of 31 metres (101 feet).

The crane’s combination of fly jib and cable winch allows it to reach the difficult places that are often encountered at construction sites.

The truck is also capable of handling 20 foot containers.

The Volvo FM13 is a 10×4 configuration with a 5,600mm wheelbase and is powered by the 500 horsepower version of Volvo’s 13-litre engine driving through a 12-speed I-Shift automated transmission.

The tag axle is a non-lift type and is designed to contribute to the carriage of the Palfinger Tec 7 crane which weighs 4,670 tonnes itself, plus the additional weight of the hydraulic oil tank and its contents.

Louie values the relationship with Volvo Group which began when MBS purchased its first Mack more than 12 years ago.

The new Volvo FM 10×4 has been named after the the father of all gods in Greek mythology.

The Prestons dealership provides 24-hour service, ensuring that the vehicles are always operational and on the road with minimum downtime.

The MBS trucks are covered by a gold service agreement.

“Back when we initially obtained our first trucks and dog trailers it was always a surprise when we put one in for service overnight and got a call at 2 or 3 am asking for approval for a $10,000 repair bill,” says Louie.

“Of course, you’ll say ‘yes’ in order to get the truck back on the road.”

The service agreement takes care of that and Louie can now sleep uninterrupted, knowing exactly what his service costs will be.

“This is the first Volvo we’ve ever owned,” he says. “We felt we’d choose a European vehicle for this scale of crane, we didn’t want to cut corners and invest in an expensive sophisticated crane and add it to a second-hand vehicle or lesser truck, so we decided we’d go with Volvo.”

The company has NHVR Mass and Fatigue accreditations. Louie has a great level of empathy for what his drivers do on a daily basis, especially when dealing with Sydney’s notorious traffic.

“I started as a young driver when dad owned the business, so I understand the fatigue they might get on the road which involves a lot of thinking and avoiding dangerous drivers and situations,” says Louie.

“They have a demanding job, and I encourage them to take use of the toll roads to help make their jobs a little easier.”

A strong company culture is very evident at MBS and staff retention isn’t an issue for the team of around 28.

One employee retired after 30 years on the job, while several have notched up 15 years of service.

Louie and his wife Nancy married in 2004 and decided to invest their ‘wedding money,’ a tradition of the family’s Greek heritage, towards a materials packaging machine.

“That’s how we started Australian Sands Pty Ltd and now we have a robot that packages the products,” says Louie.

Bulk and packaged firewood has recently been added to the range which is also sold wholesale to other hardware stores.

In an industry where category killers dominate to the extent that even a well-heeled competitor has tried to take them on and failed, it’s inspirational to observe the growth of a family-oriented operation such as MBS where the team is passionate about what they do and the services they provide, while still finding time to support their local and wider communities by sponsoring junior soccer teams and doing good work by supporting the Starlight Foundation.