Building Better Communities

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-By Aleisha Parr

Specialists in small but complex infrastructure projects, Abergeldie Complex Infrastructure takes an adaptable approach to project planning and management, paying close attention to minute engineering details. The company is something of a one-stop-shop, providing specialist services in dams, bridges, marine, process, and rail, electrical, mining and steel fabrication. Its emphasis is on building better communities across eastern Australia.

Explains Mick Boyle, Managing Director, “­The major contractors in Australia focused on larger projects and I felt that there was an opportunity for taking on the smaller, but still significant projects, especially the complex ones that call for a more adaptable approach, where the engineering detail really matters and specialist expertise can make all the difference.”

Established in 1994 by Mr Boyle with one local office in Sydney, the company has since expanded – through natural growth and acquisitions – to offer its complex engineering services across Eastern Australia. It now has offices in Brisbane, Newcastle, Mackay and Canberra, and is licenced for building as well as demolition works in New South Wales, Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory.

The first of its acquisitions was in 2007, taking up 100% ownership of Ardent Underground Pty Ltd, a blind bore shaft drilling company. This strategic acquisition helped Abergeldie Complex Infrastructure enter the bourgeoning mining industry under the banner of Abergeldie Mining. Next, in 2008, the company acquired John Young (Kelvinhaugh) Pty Ltd. Abergeldie Complex Infrastructure had been nurturing this relationship over the ten years prior, so the transition was a natural one, bringing in-house expertise in civil process engineering. Now contracting as Abergeldie Young Process Engineering, the arm provides design, supply and installation services to clients in the wastewater treatment, water supply, fuel, food and materials handling industries.

“We had been doing this kind of work ourselves on a reasonable scale, but we wanted more depth to our capabilities to and take on a broader market,” says Mr Boyle. “John Young Kelvinhaugh had long been a very well respected process engineering operator. With that acquisition we can now do a lot more, larger scale work, especially in the water treatment field.”

Abergeldie Complex Infrastructure also seized the opportunity to enter the steel fabrication industry, having for several years sub-contracted out a lot of high value work on many projects. In 2009, the company acquired 50 per cent of ASM Fabrications Pty Ltd, which specialises in the fabrication of aluminium, mild steel and stainless steel.
All of this growth has proven incredibly beneficial for the medium sized company, which has remained small enough to offer personal attention, but has become large enough to offer specialist services in multiple areas. Recently, the infrastructure industry in Australia has been booming, with government funded projects handed out in large parcels, primarily to larger companies. However, the past year has been quieter than expected, with many of the BER stimulus projects reaching completion and new projects being delayed by Federal and State elections, as well as by discussion about the mining tax. While most smaller organisations would see this as a disadvantage, Abergeldie Complex Infrastructure has capitalised on its strengths, focussing on winning tenders for smaller, specialist works packages within much larger projects. These kinds of works sometimes require nuanced skills that are just too complex for some of the larger companies to tackle.

“A project worth hundreds of millions of dollars would usually be seen as beyond the capabilities of a company like ours, and we might not even be given a chance to tender,” says Mr Boyle. “But there are often opportunities for five, ten or twenty million dollar contracts within those bigger projects.”

Blind boring of ventilation shafts for major mine developments is one of those specialist areas where Abergeldie’s unique expertise has been in demand. Explains Mr Boyle, “We have the equipment, the personal and the methodology to blind bore shafts deeper and of bigger diameter bigger than can anyone else in the world. “

Blind boring offers particular benefits to new mines as it does not require underground access throughout the process; you simply begin from the surface and drill down into either an existing mine or the proposed location on the new mine face. This is particularly advantageous in difficult ground conditions. “A real benefit of the technology, says Mr Boyle, “is that we can create a shaft and at the same time provide a high-quality shaft liner without anyone having to work inside the shaft itself during construction. Compared to conventional methods, it takes a much smaller workforce and it is much safer. Everyone is up on the surface.”

The shaft’s composite steel/concrete liner is cast in segments at a temporary, outdoor factory on the site. Once the liner segments have cured to the required strength, they are lowered into the bored-out shaft. Throughout the boring and lining operation, the shaft is filled with water. This enables the bored out spoil to be pumped out and stabilises the entire process, increasing safety and project success. The process water is recycled, as might be expected of Abergeldie Complex Infrastructure, which has a strong commitment to strict environmental standard. “Ours commitment to building sustainable communities goes beyond merely providing the infrastructure,” said Mr Boyle.

Abergeldie has also purchased its own earth pressure-balance tunnel boring machine (EPBM). It has been put to good use on several pipe-jacked tunnel projects, some of them on challenging sites. “On the Burrows Road pipe-jacked tunnel project at Alexandria, our team really showed what innovation means when it comes to engineering,” says Mr Boyle. “The soil was so wet that they had to create their own original mix of drilling fluids to stabilise the soil and stop the machine from sinking into the mud.” When the drilling machine broke through at the end of the tunnel, it was bone dry and just 7mm off the target alignment.

Abergeldie Complex Infrastructure operates a Third Party Certified management system which incorporates a Quality Assurance System to AS/NZS ISO9001:2008, an Environmental System to AS/NZS ISO14001:2004 and an OHS&R System to AS/NZS 4801:2001. The company also maintains an active membership, at each state level, in the Civil Contractors Federation Association. Membership helps Abergeldie Complex Infrastructure to maintain an association with the Local Government Associations, the minister for Local Government and the Minister for the Environment.

As focussed as Abergeldie Complex Infrastructure is on nurturing productive relationships externally, the process of delivering quality outcomes begins from within, with its staff and workforce. “I think that the important thing is to keep doing interesting projects, because that is how you keep skilled people with you,” says Mr Boyle. “A core of good people is Abergeldie’s greatest competitive advantage.”

“We do complex projects that require a lot of planning, and that means you need high-calibre people,” continues Mr Boyle. “When you have that kind high-calibre team, you can meet and exceed your clients’ expectations; and we do.”

Indeed, the company far exceeds industry and client expectations, with significant wins in numerous industry awards. While part of Abergeldie Complex Infrastructure’s success in winning awards may be attributed to its focus on highly complex and specialised projects, which typically are more impressive to clients and award competition judges, for Abergeldie the keys to success are dedication to quality outcomes which meet or exceed client expectations, and commitment to building better communities.
“A large part of the how and why of winning awards is about your clients’ perceptions of your performance,” says Mr Boyle. “Simply,” he says, “do a good job that the keeps the client happy and the awards should logically follow.”

Home Automation

Call it ‘domotics,’ and you are likely to receive a blank stare, but refer to it as ‘smart home’ or ‘home automation,’ and you will get a nod of acknowledgement. For the past few years, consumers have heard the word ‘smart’ attached to countless products and services, from food and drink to snacks like popcorn and mobile phones, which no one seems to refer to as a ‘cellphone’ anymore. Yet what, exactly, constitutes ‘smart’?

January 27, 2021, 2:23 AM AEDT