21 February 2019
GROWING BUSINESS ALL IN THE FAMILY
When Seth Irwin fired up the family's new Komatsu PC130 excavator and drove it across the works yard there were cheers from four generations of his family.
Seth is seven. "It's the easiest machine I've ever driven," Seth's dad Rhys, 32, beamed. "A child can drive it."
Geelong's Irwin family has been in the tree lopping and demolition business for 56 years.
Seth and his three-and-a-half-year old brother Levi are the succession hope for a business which is growing even faster than the family.
Irwin Tree Removal does far more than its name claims.
They've become one of the most in-demand demolition operators in the greater Melbourne area, and contract broadly. They've just completed a delicate task, placing traffic lights along Melbourne's Hoddle Street, working with extreme care around underground services.
And they do it as a family. Of the seventeen people on the payroll, eight are Irwins.
Rhys's dad Wayne and Uncle Mark still actively drive along with Rhys. His grandfather Graeme,78, who started the business, is eagerly on call. Rhys's mother Janet and wife Trista run administration and his sister Sarah is the company's job estimator.
Grandmother Lynette, who was a hands-on tree lopper with Graeme half a century ago is still available for advice and, these days, lighter duties.
"People trust us because we're a family business but that doesn't mean you get the jobs," Rhys said. "Winning work comes down to how good you are and how efficiently you provide your service."
The Irwins anchor their business with three Komatsu excavators - two PC 130s and a larger PC220, supported by a range of skid steer loader, trucks, smaller excavators, mulchers, stump grinders, cherry pickers and floats.
The latest PC 130, just purchased, has been purpose built for the task - a longer dipper arm for extended reach, an all-round bang rail for protection and a front window cage and roof cover for safety.
A heavy-duty Embrey HDR100 grapple, fitted by Komatsu, provides additional strength for the unusual and difficult jobs which have become the Irwins' specialty.
Graeme was the first Irwin to use Komatsu equipment - a well-used PC120 which contributed to company profitability through its reliability - and the habit has stuck.
"It's all about relationships," Rhys said. "We rely on our key business partners not just for their equipment but for the service they offer."
It's a full-service arrangement. The Irwins buy their equipment through Komatsu Australia Corporate Finance, rely on Komatsu's service support throughout the warranty period and appreciate the Komtrax remote monitoring system which, so far, they've not had to use.
"We've never been so busy," Rhys said. Servicing Geelong and Melbourne's major development areas, the Irwins average two house demolitions a week and work on multiple land clearing and improvement projects at a time.
"It's all about being skilled rather than formally trained," Rhys said. "You have to be very gentle, very confident and have a feel for your machinery.
"We think you can't train your operators - it's better to breed them." Levi who loves to 'drive' the trucks and Seth who now follows his great grandfather around the yard in the PC130, both agree.
For more information contact:
Australia: Wafaa Ghali
Komatsu Australia National Marketing Manager
Phone 1300 566 287
Komatsu National Aftermarket Marketing Manager, NZ
Phone (09) 969 6704
Left to Right: Rhys Irwin - Director, son Levi, Mark Irwin - Director, Graeme Irwin - Founder, Wayne Irwin - Director, Seth Irwin (Rhys's son) & James Thomas - Irwin staff.