When independent advisory body Infrastructure Australia undertook Australia’s first ever comprehensive infrastructure audit, it revealed some startling realities.
The Australian Infrastructure Audit Report, released in May 2015, found myriad pressures impacting on the nation’s infrastructure sector.
Traffic congestion, demand for public transport and population growth aside, it detailed that “maintaining and maximising the efficiency of existing infrastructure will be critical, and in many cases will be of equal or greater importance as developing new infrastructure projects”. The state of Australia’s existing road network comes into the equation here, with many contractors embracing the challenge and seeking new and better ways to deliver road maintenance and rehabilitation works.
Bitu-mill, a family-run business, has built nearly 40 years’ experience in the Australian road profiling and maintenance industry, and is one such firm at the heart of the push for safety and productivity innovation.
Matthew Graham, Director at Bitu-mill, asserts that businesses such as themselves need to keep up with innovations in machinery, technology and management practices to deliver the best possible outcomes for industry. “We see that the key to success is to strive for continual improvement and investment with people, as the Bitu-mill Group is driven by performing at our best today, while always seeing improvement through innovations for the future,” he says. “That all stems back to our early days, when we were the first contractor to bring a profiler to Australia – innovation is in our DNA.”
The company offers services covering a variety of facets in the construction and rehabilitation of road pavements, including profiling removal and tipping, profiling to design sub-grade, placement of new gravels, laying of wearing course and line marking. “Bitu-mill is changing the focus from purely being a service provider to being a frontline industry partner in a number of pavement rehabilitation projects across Australia and overseas,” says Mr. Graham.
Based on the company’s successful alliance, it has recently invested in 10 new Wirtgen Group machines,taking the company’s holdings to over 60 profiling units throughout Australia. The company fleet also includes material transfer vehicles, shoulder paving machines, trucks, bobcats and heavy haulage equipment.
“All of our compact, mid-range and large milling machines feature examples of the latest in profiler technology that are improving how we deliver projects and services for our clients,” says Mr. Graham.
The company has implemented everything from dual engine technology to increase performance, to a flexible cutting system that allows for quick change options between six, eight and 15-millimetre cutting patterns during milling.
Bitu-mill’s profilers also boast enhanced LED lighting to improve visibility around the working area, a vacuum control system that extracts fine particles through the secondary conveyor and into the transport vehicle, and a discharge management system that ensures safer control of milled material transportation to and from worksites.
The focus on efficiency by way of innovation goes hand-in-hand with the company’s ethos towards safety.
“There’s no doubt that safety is key to the working environment, and through our comprehensive occupational health and safety system, we focus on ensuring that anyone working with us remains free from harm, but also understands the role they play in ensuring their own safety and the safety of those around them,” explains Mr. Graham.
Bitu-mill has, for instance, developed and implemented an Exclusion Zone and No Go Zone package that is fitted to all relevant equipment on site. “Only the approved machine operator and level hands are permitted to work in the designated Exclusion Zone, while the No Go Zone means that operators and all workers on staff can diagrammatically see the clearance they need to maintain from plant and machines,” he says.
The company’s large cold milling fleet is fitted with a surveillance and camera monitoring system that gives the operator 360-degree visibility around the machine.
Likewise, Bitu-mill’s large profiling fleet is fitted with laser illuminated clearance lighting and LED safety display panels at the rear of the machines to ensure the work area is clearly identifiable.
Mr. Graham says industry best practice around reclaimed asphalt pavement (RAP) is becoming increasingly relevant, and is an example of how the company is also embracing sustainability into its services.
“RAP is fast becoming a highly sought-after industry commodities due to depleting quarry life, high crude oil prices, new production technologies and social conscience, which are driving its success,” he says. “We’ve made sure our staff are trained in correct management of RAP with a particular focus on grading and management of disposal at recycling stations.”
Mr. Graham says the focus on technology and desire to put their best foot forward is ultimately the driving force for the company in its efforts to stay ahead of innovation.
“We recently developed and launched a paperless tablet application that integrates the allocations, operations, management system and financial record keeping processes related to each job,” says Mr. Graham. “Out clients see huge benefits in this application as they have direct access to project reporting and management information they need at their fingertips. Innovative solutions such as this are the way the industry is progressing and Bitu-mill is leading the charge.”