This year - 2018- JLG proudly celebrates 35 years in Australia, so we thought we would take you back to where it all began by talking to four members of the JLG Port Macquarie team
With JLG now a leading presence across Australia through our nationwide branch network and extensive Ground Support network, it's hard to imagine that picturesque, coastal Port Macquarie in NSW was once the beating heart of local JLG operations. Yet it was - and to this day still plays an important role.
JLG's first headquarters was established there in 1983 to provide a central location between Sydney and Brisbane and also in response to incentives offered by the government for decentralising industry and providing employment in regional areas.
Things were very different then for those who staffed JLG's fledgling Australian base, as we found when we spoke to four men who have spent the majority of their working lives serving JLG and our customers. Men who not only helped build the early machines in Port Macquarie, but who also helped build JLG's local presence, reputation and position as leaders in Australia's access equipment industry.
Back to the beginning
Speaking to Alan Rayward, who started as an Assembler and is now Production Manager; Bechir (Bech) Taslida, originally an assembler and now a Technical Support Technician; Graham Munro, who started as an Electrician and now is a Technical Support Technician; and Graham Smith, originally a Welder and now a Ground Support Project Manager, the conversation was fascinating - and also hugely entertaining, as the four are lively characters who reveal the dynamic nature of JLG's first operational base.
"We've forgotten more than we ever knew!" was their joint response to initial questions about their experience with the company, however it soon became clear that the four are an amazing font of knowledge on all things JLG - not surprising when you consider they jointly have over 120 years' of extensive experience with the company.
"In the early days we actually built and assembled the machines here in Australia, so we had a big facility in Port Macquarie including two fabrication shops and two machine shops, a separate electrical section, a very big R&D section, an engineering department and the big main assembly shop where we built everything from 20' scissors to 80' booms, " Bech said.
The highly experienced Port Macquarie team, who can "still build a machine from head to toe", remain a valuable asset to JLG in performing training and Major Inspections and also in fielding crews which travel overseas to support JLG operations worldwide.
Putting the 'Custom' in Customer
Another interesting role which the Port Macquarie headquarters played at the time was in producing custom-built, one-off machines to suit customer needs, such as for railways, to work in smelters, and even a fleet of hybrid scissors to assist QANTAS with their airport operations.
"QANTAS wanted electrical scissors with a secondary diesel source because they had to run long hours on the tarmac, so we put our thinking hats on and came up with a design which QANTAS accepted; there was nothing in the market that could go near them," Graham Smith said. "We built those here about 25 years ago; they were unique in the day and I believe they're still using them to this day."
"Back then few of those options were available from the factory, so we really had the choice to design and build those things ourselves," Graham Munroe said. "It still happens that customers want to customise machines, however now that is guided by JLG USA. They appreciate that machines can be used for specific operations and they have options and accessories available which generally fit what the customer needs, so we liaise with the uS in such instances to provide the best solution."
While JLG worldwide is now renowned for collaborating with customers to create exceptional equipment, there's no doubt JLG Port Macquarie's initiative in those early days helped build JLG's 'can-do' reputation here in Australia.
Technology through the years
As time passed, the Port Macquarie team were the coalface of chane as the technology of JLG machines forged ahead, as Graham Munro explained.
"Because we initially built and assembled all the machines here, we've always had extensive knowledge of the machines and as a group have seen massive changes in technology over the years."
"The machines all started out being basically relays switching controls on and off, then as the machines became more complex it went to Advanced Design Electronics (ADE) version, so over a period of 10 or 12 years they went from basic controlled machines to computer driven machines with modules and so on ," Graham Munroe said.
"The biggest change would really be the electronics now incorporated into machines. Now you have an analyser you plug into a machine and it will diagnose issues and show a history of fault codes, as well as change the operating parameters of the machines. The machines have actually become less complex in that you can now diagnose whats happening with the machine far more simply, and the same with the engine controls which are now all Electronic Control Modules (ECM) and so on."
JLG Port Macquarie today
While Port Macquarie's manufacturing is now focused on producing JLG Lighting Towers and the new JLG TSL2000 scissor trailers, their experienced support for JLG customers continues through their provision of Major Inspections which keep machines in safe working order, and also training that supports their safe operation.
"Some newer machines have been transported here for training purposes and we have trainers that come out from the US. In fact we had a month of training late last year for JLG personnel and staff from many customers," Alan Rayward said. "JLG always puts safety first and foremost, so we're pleased to be supportingthat through the training and Major Inspections we provide."
"Port Macquarie was where it all started for JLG Australia," said Bob Mules, JLG General Manager - Australia & New Zealand. "Prior to 1983 we had a dealer network and now 35 years later we operate from seven locations throughout Australia and New Zealand, all with major workshop capabilities and with over 200 passionate employees dedicated to providing industry-leading support and service to our customers."