An inside look at the largest Cat dealer network in Australia
Legend has it that the opportunity to launch one of Australia’s most impactful organizations occurred by chance: Harold Hastings Deering, a British-based fighter pilot during WWI, reportedly landed his plane in an AEC factory yard and refused to leave until the company had agreed to let Deering distribute their trucks and buses throughout Australia.
Sounds more like a seized opportunity than an optimized occurrence.
Founded in 1932, the Hastings Deering Group has spent the last 80 years successfully navigating the mining and construction sectors by maintaining a similar sense of ambition and vision. Today, with nearly 5,000 employees spread across four countries, Hastings Deering is the largest Caterpillar dealer network in Australia, and one of the brand’s premier distributors across the globe.
This “one-stop-shop” offers the highest quality equipment, parts and attachments as well as support-based services that include maintenance, repair and technical training, to the mining and construction sectors.
Hastings Deering also applies innovative, technology-enabled solutions to these offers so as to help customers improve productivity, safety and profit.
“Our organization is here for a reason, and that is to make our customers better at what they do,” explained CEO Dean Mehmet, who joined Hastings Deering in 2012 with an impressive background that included senior roles at BlueScope Steel and Shell Australia.
Mehmet’s intimate knowledge of the industry coupled with his passion for leading others has proven vital to his role as CEO of Hastings Deering, especially as he and the leadership team work to overcome the negative repercussions that have surfaced as a result of recent industry-based fluctuations.
“A large part of our business supports mining in Australia, and while we’ve experienced more than a decade of sustained growth within that industry, the recent global slowdown has been quite dramatic,” Mehmet explained.
Navigating this industry-wide decline has not been done without casualties: Hastings Deering has experienced two workforce reductions in just 18 months, and an estimated 12,000 jobs have been lost throughout Queensland overall.
According to Mehmet, Hastings Deering relied on the company’s core values to help throughout this time, remaining transparent and preserving integrity through honest and open communication with team members.
“We continue to explain what is going on to our staff – whether we like it or not – and what impact it has on our organization and the individuals we employ. There are no surprises.”
Mehmet and the leadership team at Hastings Deering know that the storm is not over but are stepping up as industry leaders to help prevent another dramatic downturn.
“After reductions, the most difficult thing about this [industry decline] has been trying to communicate with staff and customers that we need to do something different; the super cycle is over and the market is demanding change,” Mehmet admitted. “We’ve spent a lot of time educating our people about the current state of the market and what this means for our business.”
The promotion of capital expenditure is just one example of the comprehensive approach taken by Hastings Deering. While the customer is always the priority, supporting the growth and sustainability of the industry overall is also important to Hastings Deering, which is why the leadership team places emphasis on such an approach.
“For new equipment, capex is very tight and many customers have been very cautious, but there will come a time when the old equipment will need to be retired and new equipment will need to be positioned in the marketplace,” Mehmet said. Many of Hastings Deering’s customers have purchased equipment within the past five or six years, so the company remains focused on maximizing the productivity of those current machines.
“Regardless of how new the equipment is, there is still a requirement for customers to repair and maintain it,” Mehmet continued, “so our product support business continues to help our customers to get the best production from their business.
“At the same time, we have different options to help our customers get new equipment outside of the traditional manner. For example, we’ve implemented additional solutions for invoicing and funding in an effort to help our customers invest and, in turn, support the continued growth of the industry overall.”
The role of smart technology
This ongoing desire to support customers was the primary catalyst behind the implementation of smart technology: It wasn’t until the team asked, “How do we use technology to help our customers improve?” that the idea of connected equipment was given life.
“We have a lot of equipment that is monitored by a core team of people back in our reliability center, and we can give real-time advice to customers when there is an issue with a piece of equipment.
“For example, we had a customer with a large piece of equipment that was being monitored. We noticed a sensor going a bit haywire back in our reliability center, so our condition monitoring analyst phoned the customer to let him know that something was not right. If it hadn’t been fixed, it very well could have resulted in a catastrophic failure that we later determined would have cost around $1 million in unscheduled and lost production,” Mehmet revealed.
A match made in (mining and construction) Heaven
As the largest Caterpillar dealer network in Australia – and one of the top distributors across the globe – Hastings Deering is able to provide customers with the most up-to-date, cutting-edge advancements in the industry.
While originally based on necessity – Cat needed a local company to partner with when expanding into the Australian market – the relationship between Hastings Deering and Caterpillar today is beneficial for everyone involved, especially the customer.
“We are two organizations that act as one for our customers,” Mehmet said. “We take the global strength of Cat and use it to provide our customers with the highest quality products and services. By applying our local skills and knowledge, we have created a comprehensive product/service offering that really is industry-leading.”
Quality products require quality people
Mehmet bases the ongoing success of Hastings Deering on a number of things, including supplier relationships and technological advancements; however, he continues to reference the company’s core values as the true foundation of the culture at Hastings Deering.
Maintaining consistency and alignment across all branches is key to upholding the company’s values, thus creating a positive and culture.
“By communicating the same key messages, we can get everyone to recognize Hastings Deering as one organization with one goal as one team, or oneHD [One Hastings Deering],” Mehmet explained.
The leadership team at Hastings Deering also understands that the growth of organization can only be successful if those supporting the expansion are growing as well. From the Hastings Deering Institutes of Technology, which focuses on future industry leaders, to on-the-job training courses and workshops for current staff, Hastings Deering believes in education.
“We’ve always had a successful apprenticeship program with over 440 apprentices currently working for Hastings Deering, and we train these students to become highly-qualified technicians.
“We also take time to train our employees. Technology is becoming more and more advanced, and we feel that these ever-changing innovations require us to stay ahead of the pack and provide better training,” Mehmet said.
A man who believes that all good leaders inspire others by being an example, Mehmet himself took additional steps to “train” for his new role: He joined Hastings Deering in 2012 as COO before stepping up to become CEO in 2014.
“My initial foray into the business as COO was done to provide me with the opportunity to understand how this business works operationally. To spend a couple of years focusing on the engine of the business before focusing on some of the more functional activities was important to me,” he explained.
Ensuring continued growth isn’t just for individual members of the Hastings Deering team: The corporation as a whole is subject to review in the name of improvement.
“We’ve modified and made improvements to our own business to better serve our customers’ needs,” Mehmet revealed. “We’ve had to use lean methodologies to try to improve the deficiencies in our business, but doing so allows us to provide better quality service to customers. We look to ourselves to see what we can improve to benefit the customer from a quality and cost perspective.”