When Neil Kinder found out his company had won the Australian Bulk Handling Award for Supplier of the Year, he was blown away.
“I had no idea that we would have pulled that off,” he told ABHR. “I had a look at some of the other organisations that were up for the award and thought, ‘that’s pretty stiff competition’.
“When our name was called out, I jumped straight out of my seat.”
The Australian Bulk Handling Awards are an annual opportunity to shine a spotlight on the individuals and organisations that have made outstanding achievements within the industry. They took place at a gala dinner in Melbourne, during BULK2022, and were held in conjunction with the MHD Mercury awards.
Finalists for the Supplier of the Year Award were assessed on their ability to enhance productivity and output levels, save costs, and improve customer sustainability and safety.
Kinder Australia was a worthy winner in 2022.
The company has accumulated more than three decades of experience, expertise, and credibility as a manufacturer of material handling solutions.
Kinder said to win the award was a remarkable achievement for the family-owned business.
“It’s our organisation and our people that got us there,” he said. “Even though my name is on the company, it wasn’t me – it was the amazing talent we have as a team.”
Kinder himself has a sales background. His first job at the age of 18 was as a sales trainee at an earthmoving machinery company, where he learned several important life skills that he implements at his own company to this day.
“I was brought up in the old school, where the manager would have you to knock on the door and tremble. That’s not the way I want to run a business,” he said.
“There are no offices at our facility and few closed doors. Apart from a private room for meeting, it’s all open so that talent can be shared openly.”
Kinder also maintains a very open mind when it comes to the kinds of people that are employed at Kinder.
“They don’t need to fit into a model about what an engineer should look like,” he said. “You have to be totally open-minded, sit back, and accept that there’s a lot of great talent out there.
“I want to lead the business to greatness, not to the grave, and the only way to do that is to employ smart, young people from all walks of life and ethnicities.”
Engineering is the driving force at Kinder Australia, and this has resulted in significant investments in conveyor engineering, prediction, and design software. This technical knowledge base, combined with its on-site field exposure, is what gives the company its understanding of diagnostics and the confidence to recommend a solution.
Marketing is another key part of Kinder Australia’s business. Getting the word out about new and existing solutions is critical to ensuring the products get used in the bulk handling industry.
Kinder believes that you can make the best product around, but it won’t be of much use if nobody has heard of it.
“Our brand – the Kinder ‘K’ – was driven by our company saying we’re not going to promote other companies’ businesses. We want to take responsibility of the products under our own name and provide consistent quality,” he said.
Kinder Australia’s product range has seen dramatic growth over the past five years. While much of its equipment is based on the original products it took to market 30 years ago, there have been several new additions.
The company’s engineering talent has helped this effort, as the equipment undergoes redesigns, optimisations and improvements based on customer feedback and technological advancements.
One of the most significant changes was when Kinder Australia began using polyurethane instead of rubber for its skirting products. Rubber was inexpensive and was the traditionally used material, but the extended lifespan of polyurethane proved to be popular in the bulk handling sector.
Kinder said the company’s high-density polyethylene (HDPE) rollers were another innovation that made sense in the Australian market.
“Before we came along, HDPE rollers were on the market but mostly used overseas. They were promoted in Australia for their non-corrosiveness,” he said.
“We started selling them as a low-noise and low-weight perspective. The safety benefits from an easier-to-handle roller made them an attractive alternative to heavy and cumbersome steel rollers.”
Kinder said safety and reducing the environmental impacts of an operation have also become a much more important part of the industry.
In addition, labour shortages are putting more pressure on bulk handlers to be as efficient as possible, especially in rural areas. Conveyor belts that mistrack, creating spillage or excessive dust, are losing valuable product and will often require someone to clean up any messes that are made.
Urban encroachment is also presenting problems for several sectors, as the new neighbours will complain about excessive dust coming from a nearby plant.
“As people become more skilled, they’re less likely to want to shovel spillage – and it’s a waste of valuable talent,” Kinder said.
“Equipment like ours helps reduce spillage, dust and maintenance, increasing the overall efficiency of an operation and improving site safety.”
The company’s field sales team is a critical to ensuring its equipment can best help customers. Kinder said the team hates to see a plant operating inefficiently with a workforce that’s tired and lost interest in the plant.
“A lot of our customers might not understand the vital importance of their conveyors,” he said. “For the big mining companies, they know their conveyors are the lifeblood of the operation, but smaller businesses might not give them too much thought.
“The field sales team helps them get a better understanding about their operation. They find out what is going wrong and can offer a solution.”
Kinder Australia plans to continue its growth as a supplier, with the aim to expand its international offering. The business already employs people in South Africa and Indonesia, with additional representation in Thailand, New Zealand and Peru.
Customers are beginning to take notice of their brand internationally, which has led to dramatic growth.
“We have been importing and exporting equipment for more than 10 years now and have built up a lot of processes to make it as smooth as possible,” Kinder said.
“It’s all built on trust and relationships that have been built up over years – and we plan to keep developing these relationships for years to come.”