SAMI Bitumen Technologies is supporting works in some of Australia’s most remote areas through its supply of quality bitumen. Roads & Infrastructure Magazine talks to its customers, F&J Bitumen Services and Roads 2000 to learn more.
With an established national network of bitumen manufacturing and terminal facilities, SAMI Bitumen Technologies has been a mainstay of Australia’s bitumen industry.
Its ability to support customers nationwide as Australia’s only independent bulk bitumen supplier has resulted in the company becoming the preferred supplier for many asphalt production and paving companies, such as F&J Bitumen Services.
F&J Bitumen Services operates in predominantly remote areas of the Northern Territory. As such, the company relies heavily on the rail network to transport and receive bitumen, with many of the closest bitumen terminals being interstate.
Despite the associated challenges with working in remote areas, Karen Lowery – Managing Director of F&J Bitumen, says SAMI has largely taken the headache out of the logistics behind bitumen dispatch and delivery.
“When we started taking deliveries from SAMI, we had to get used to the logistics of the rail system, rather than getting bitumen from road transport,” Lowery says.
“By using the train we’ve got a bit more control over the containers. They can be heated to the right temperature, which I can view on my cell phone. They’ve helped us in terms of man hours – someone doesn’t need to be with the bitumen constantly.”
A family-owned and multi-generational business, F&J Bitumen Services has specialised in car park’s pavement, driveway, asphalt patching, road pavement maintenance, speed bump rounding, saw cutting, bituminous walkway and bituminous sealing across the Northern Territory for 14 years.
Lowery says an essential component of the business has been its ability to establish meaningful relationships, not only with its customers but also its suppliers.
“Our business is about great customer service and collaborative relationships. We’re all working together to solve issues because a lot of what we do is in remote locations. They’ve been very helpful,” she says.
Samuel Wright, Project Manager – SAMI Bitumen Technologies, has worked closely with F&J Bitumen Services since the company was introduced to SAMI’s products in July 2022. Wright says his professional relationship with the team at F&J Bitumen Services goes back multiple years.
“I have known Karen for a while,” he says. “When SAMI improved their fleet of containers, it created a new supply opportunity for F & J Bitumen Services.”
The remoteness and lack of road delivery options did make initial deliveries difficult, but Wright says SAMI was more than willing to take the challenge head-on.
“It took some time to get our heads around the rail logistics, getting the containers from Victoria and South Australia, up to Northern Territory. There were some teething issues to get it all lined up and working, but we’ve nailed that process now,” he says.
“If [F&J Bitumen Services] give us a call, we can have bitumen to their doorstop within four to five days still with some heat, which helps with the speed of heating them to the required temperature.”
For works in areas such as Humpty Doo, Katherine and Tennant Creek, SAMI will often set F&J Bitumen Services up with a ‘container farm’, a large concentration of bitumen containers to support works of varying scale.
Apart from assisting with the logistics, Lowery says the biggest benefit of SAMI’s service has been the jump in product quality. This includes PMBs, emulsions, additives and sustainable binders. And when it came to changing suppliers, she says it was seamless.
“It’s really easy. We’ll have a schedule because we might have a few jobs in different locations. My son and I love it because we just turn our burners on,” she says. “We can call, organise containers and save time when someone comes and picks them up. We don’t have to do anything; it’s a circular process.
“Their customer service has been exceptional. The guys at SAMI have worked really hard on this relationship. We’re unique in terms of the movements of containers without the option of road transport.
“They help us to manage solutions, with minimal delays and a good quality product. So far we haven’t had any major delays, there’s always been a solution.”
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Wright says problem solving is just a part of life in remote Northern Territory and says SAMI’s eagerness to problem solve helps to ensure that customers can receive high-quality products with minimal delays.
“We have a ‘can do’ attitude. There’s always a solution somewhere, so we’ll sometimes throw as many people and resources as it takes to solve any issue,” he says.
“I’ve never worked for a company that’s so invested in trying to develop the very best across the board.”
Flexibility and reliability
Roads 2000 is another SAMI customer and one of the largest locally owned and operated independent producers of asphalt in Western Australia.
The company provides a variety of services, including asphalt production and sales, metropolitan and regional services, government, commercial and residential projects, civil construction, project management, road construction and more.
CEO Corrinna Politis says the support provided has been one of the standout aspects of SAMI’s customer service.
“They’ve given us multiple bitumen types. They can provide anything that we need, whether it’s a polymer modified bitumen, specialised crumb rubber or straight run bitumen,” Politis says. “Their ordering system is great. It’s really state of the art.”
Politis says another standout feature has been SAMI’s ability to support ‘container farms’ to streamline works on major projects.
“We had a 26,000-tonne asphalt project in the Gold Fields. SAMI established a portable container farm and they managed the product for us,” she says. “That meant that we could finish the project in a really short time frame. It really blew everyone away.
Roads 2000 accepts all of its deliveries via road trains. Politis says the current delivery arrangement ensures bitumen is available for both metropolitan and remote projects.
“We can bring in massive loads of bitumen and have the product on site, at the right temperature and always available for us. We can manufacture as much as we can in a day, rather than being constrained by how much bitumen we have readily available,” she says.
The support and confidence provided by SAMI are also enabling Roads 2000 to trial and implement products that are new to the company.
“We’ve got a big project coming up that we’ve modified our production plant for. We’re going to be using a bitumen binder that we haven’t used previously, a type of crumb rubber asphalt,” Politis says.
“SAMI will help us with their expertise to greater understand and manage the product. We’ve been preparing for a year, so we’re really excited to see it laid down.
“We’ve been a family owned and operated business for 25 years, so we’re always looking for suppliers that we can count on and rely on. [SAMI] have certainly been great on that side of things,” Politis says.
“We have confidence that they’ll provide us with any particular type of bitumen that we need.”