Better by design


    With more than 75 years’ experience, Collier & Miller’s engineering division is one of Australia’s most experienced manufacturers of specialist agricultural machinery. Their extensive product range, all designed and produced in Australia, has evolved over many years to meet the full needs of its farming customers.
    First established in 1946 as WS and MR Collier Engineers by WWII veteran Bill Collier, the company didn’t become Collier & Miller until fellow RAAF veteran Ron Miller joined the business in 1957.
    Operating out of a humble tin shed in Griffith in rural NSW, its early years were spent mainly offering welding services and machine repairs to local farmers, and manufacturing items such as grain silos, stock crates and trailers.
    Fast-forward to now and the business employs over 180 staff and operates a large 14,600m2 engineering workshop, in addition to its highly successful retail arm.
    Chris Miller, Ron’s grandson, joined the business in 2008, becoming general manager in 2014. Miller says the company’s recent decision to add a further 1800m2 to its workshop space is supporting its expansion into larger land-forming equipment, as well as its foray into the cotton industry and its efforts to export machinery internationally. “Our product range includes land-forming and earthmoving machines, cotton trailers and cultivating equipment. Everything our engineering division sells is made and assembled onsite. This ensures we maintain complete control and oversight of the manufacturing process.”
    Engineering division manager Paul Giovinazzo says the fact that Collier & Miller mainly deals with seasonal based sectors means the challenges the business faces are quite different to those faced by competitors.
    “At one time of the year we might be supporting cotton growers and at another time wheat farmers and then rice farmers and so on. A wide range of factors influence customer needs and demand, such as weather conditions, commodity prices and other economic factors.
    “When our customers are harvesting, they can’t afford downtime. Repairs are very important, and everything is time sensitive. About one-third of the work we do is responding to customer repairs and breakdowns.”
    While Collier & Miller stock replacement parts for all major machinery brands and models, Giovinazzo says its engineering capabilities enable it to manufacture replacement parts onsite and produce reproductions of products and parts otherwise difficult to source.

    In addition to the business’s core machinery product range, it also works with clients—many second and third generation customers—to custom design and build niche products to suit specific requirements. This accounts for approximately 20 per cent of its work.
    Innovation lies at the heart of the business, which Giovinazzo says is “constantly” looking at new product ideas and enhancements to continue to improve customer efficiencies.
    Among the more unusual projects the team have been involved with was developing a “moon buggy” implement to unload and move cotton modules.
    “The customer had purchased one of our cotton cartage trailers, which carries nine cotton modules, and wanted a way to move nine modules, rather than the six a standard buggy can move. We’re actually building another one for the same customer at the moment,” he says.

    More recently the firm worked alongside the egg industry to assist a key client in building a mobile poultry shed or caravan to cater to producers selling certified organic and free-range eggs.
    Giovinazzo says the shed can house 5000 chickens, easily allowing them to move site every couple of days to range freely on different pastures and then sleep in their mobile hen house at night.
    “We also create the frames for the local citrus sculptures which form part of Griffith’s annual Spring Fest festival and are a big tourist attraction for our community.
    “We see ourselves as a genuine partner to clients and draw upon feedback and inspiration from our customers to ensure our product offering hits the mark and is best in market. For example, we might spend six months speaking to customers about a particular product they use and analysing all of the feedback they have and where they are having problems and then we’ll create a product that’s better and that also delivers a better experience for the customer.”
    Miller says staff continue to be inspired and motivated by the opportunity to improve efficiencies that support customer success. “For us, we see innovation as essential to our future. We constantly aim to do better and create industry-leading ideas and solutions.”
    For several years now Collier & Miller has been following so-called ‘lean manufacturing’—a production process based on an ideology of maximising productivity while simultaneously minimising waste within a manufacturing operation—to build what Miller calls “a culture of continuous improvement”.
    Building this culture has been incredibly important, he says. “We have several different ways to ensure the team is working together to
    identify opportunities for improvement and innovation, no matter how big or small.”