Number One in Civil

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-By John Boley

Will Dewar is not the boastful type. So when he says the company is “in an enviable position in southeast Queensland,” one suspects immediately this is not just wishful thinking.

Some might consider southeast Queensland an enviable place in itself, but that’s not what he means. Will is product development manager of Tellam Civil Products, a leading manufacturer of precast concrete, civil and building products for customers throughout Queensland. The company was established in 1989 on the Sunshine Coast, and is now one of the largest independent companies operating in the precast concrete industry in Queensland with three locations: the Sunshine Coast head office, Brisbane and the Gold Coast. Business administration, including accounting and credit control, are conducted from the company’s head office.

The big-name precasters, Will explains, tend to produce on a larger scale – they will have a limited range of items, or core products, that they turn out in large numbers. “They are not interested, nor are they geared up, to be able to deal with the smaller items or runs, which is where we fit in.” When Will started with the business “hardly anyone outside Sunshine Coast knew of Tellam, but now we sit in an enviable position in southeast Queensland.

“We hear from other companies who try to get into the civil market in southeast Queensland that they have done their market research and that shows them that we are the people they should be trying to distribute their product through, because of the strength of our brand. That’s encouraging for us.”

Tellam does stray from the locale occasionally, having sent products as far afield as New Guinea and Western Australia, to say nothing of Mount Isa and regular shipments as far south as Coffs Harbour. There have been projects in South Australia and Dubbo, too.

The name of the business is Tellam Civil Products; a change in 2001 from the original Tellam Concrete Products, to better reflect the scope of the business – “it’s not just about concrete. A lot of what we do is not concrete; it’s other types of fabrication.” Tellam keeps generous stocks – standard manhole covers, steel gratings, etc – the kind of products, as Will says, that are in constant use on standard subdivisonal-style projects and commercial and industrial works. Beyond that, “we do a lot of mild steel metal fabrication to make to whatever specific requirements there are on any such projects, such as special security grating, truss racks or extended head walls or simply childproof grating to cover up a pit or to cover access from a particular area.”

There is a definite community element to Tellam, says Will. It’s a family owned company “so it’s important that we put more back into Queensland and the local community. We use local contractors and local suppliers so I think that is appreciated by civil contractors that deal with us. A lot of the people we deal with know the managing director: they always ask about David Freyling. He is the driving force and has very much got the vision to drive this company forward.”

TCP was involved in a modest way in the project to build the underground rail link to Brisbane airport. It was not a large project for TCP because the overall work included an on-site precasting base near the river, limiting the company to whatever items that facility could not turn out itself. However, the work involved a variety of large storage tanks, lintels, stormwater gulleys and numerous items. A highlight of the job was that it actually involved the tunnel boring machine.

Gantry Support Beams were used for the tunnel boring operation from Toombul to Lutwyche. The 4.5m beams were delivered to site after meeting a tight schedule to play a vital role in the dismantling of the cutting head and tunnel boring machine (TBM) inside the tunnel at Lutwyche. Once the cutting head broke through, the tunnel boring machine required a form of “railway track” in order to keep moving forward and exit the tunnel into the cavern area. Tellam specially manufactured the 4.5m Gantry Support Beams to assist in this process. Tellam also manufactured a series of wall and roof panels specifically for this project. These panels create an underground cavern beneath the road surface of the tunnels, allowing service people to gain entry to carry out maintenance and inspections of the services housed beneath the road surface.

If Tellam has a ‘secret for success’, it’s knowing how to position itself in a niche, coupled with making sure it has a wide enough range of products – either made in-house or marketed on behalf of other manufacturers – to become a ‘one-stop shop’ for medium sized contractors in the region who can buy all their requirements for a project.

But there is another important facet to Tellam – its ability to design special precast items in-house. Will says “we have a team that has been involved in the construction industry for a very long time so we have a broad knowledge of how things happen on site. We take that experience – we have a lot of people who have been here between 10 and 15 years with a lot of experience of precast and most of them come from the construction side. We also have in-house engineers that have experience in the field and not just precast – it always helps to be able to look at things from a different perspective.”

“We believe the future is very bright in Queensland.” There has been a lag in projects coming through the pipeline – I think everybody in this industry has noticed that – but there is a lot of potential work out there. TCP has a lot of quotes out there at the moment and when it all starts to come through, Will says, “I think we are going to be busy. We are all very excited about the prospects that will be coming in the near future.” Funding has been delayed for many projects, people in the industry say, partly due to banks’ general reluctance to lend.

Partly for this reason TCP seeks to diversify and “the obvious place to look was the mining industry. A lot of the contractors that we have as a customer base have, as a consequence of the downturn in the sub-divisional market, turned their attention to the mines and I expect we will see new business there.” But that will not alter the focus of the company on its one-stop-shop status in the region’s industry. That’s what got Tellam its position – as Will points out, “the words ‘number one in civil’ form part of our logo – and not for nothing!”

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’?

July 10, 2020, 9:55 AM AEST