Feature: the construction industry that was

By: Phil Means, Photography by: Supplied

Phil Means takes a look back the evolving construction industry

Some Hidromek HMK310s are using less than 22L of fuel per hour

I’m a 50-year-old heavy diesel mechanic whose claim to fame when working on the tools was that I could swing a sledgehammer left- and right-handed. I had a passion for excavators and the ‘work hard, play hard’ attitude expected in the construction industry.


I’ve worked for them all—the little, the big, and the most in between. I’ve escaped many times, but she keeps reeling me back. Over the years, I worked with some amazing mechanics, men with a real feel for machinery, men who in another life probably should have been rocket scientists.


I, alas, did not possess those talents, and while I worked hard, did the basics well, I did not possess their genius. However, I had good chat. It was often mentioned by customers that I should be a salesman, so when the opportunity presented itself, I started down that long and windy path.


I was fortunate to have some incredible mentors; men now, long retired or who pursued more family-friendly roles, generally in other industries.

Their key messages to me were:

  • Know your product, know your own brand, and know it well.
  • Know your competitor brands and know them well. It was often mentioned that if you knew more about the opposition machine you could possibly know more than the opposition rep.
  • Listen to what the customer wants—don’t chat
  • Ask quality questions to obtain knowledge
  • Qualify your customer, i.e., if the guy is digging in rock, he’s probably not going to be productive with a tilt hitch, or he may want to run an attachment that requires more oil than your machine can produce.
  • Be honest and recommend other models or brands that will save them costs, as this will save trying to make something work that’s not fit for use—your honesty will be appreciated, and you will get a chance the next time.
  • The final piece of advice: always go to the delivery. Even if you lost the deal, show up a week later and compliment their new purchase, load a few trucks, chat about the industry, or hunting, fishing, motorsport, children. Take an interest and take good notes. Remember important details. This is what relationship selling is all about.
Hidromek machines are designed to work in robust conditions

But that was nearly 20 years ago. Fast forward to present day and I feel like I’m stuck in the past. Many corporate-focused companies have lost touch with the people aspect of the business for the sake of efficiency. Automatic e-mail responses to an account query are usual.

Logging phone calls and complex CRMs (customer relationship management) are the norm. GPS in vehicles—for your safety of course. It’s like banking nowadays: fewer people dealing with people, no grey areas, everyone is meant to fit into well-defined boxes.

Selling has become the same. Most salespeople don’t know the products they are selling; they certainly don’t know the opposition machines. More and more customers don’t know what they are buying.

I used to sell cycle times, productivity, running costs, cost of ownership, then price. These days you hear: "Mate, I’m too busy. E-mail me through a quote." Why are we all so busy?

Isn’t technology meant to have made us more efficient? Has price become more important than performance? Does it not seem weird to spend more than a quarter of a million dollars and not want to meet someone to discuss your potential purchase? Instead, all the buyer wants is an electronic message with a price.

Or you make an appointment only to be left standing in a paddock alone. You leave messages and e-mails, but now you’re starting to feel like a stalker. You still get no reply.

Are they rude or scared they will hurt your feelings? I, for one, appreciate the honesty of being told I’ve missed out on the deal; it helps me understand where our perceived weaknesses are and gives me a chance to thank the old mate for an opportunity to present my product.

It can be tough putting a new brand into the market—hard work and expensive. It takes time to create dealer networks and to establish parts support for a machine and company that has only been around since 1978.

Two models of Hidromek single drum rollers are available in NZ

Hidromek is a baby compared with the big boys. In comparison, Caterpillar has been around since Thanksgiving Day in 1904; Hitachi was established in 1910. Even though we’re the new kids on the block, Hidromek machines have been winning design awards and accolades in Europe.


And the brand has the best of Japanese tech with Isuzu engines and Kawasaki pumps and a build quality that puts a lot of others to shame. Hidromek excavators are built for tough environments; they grew up smashing rock in Turkey.


It would only take a quick walkaround to understand how well made Hidromek machines are. The unseen qualities, such as EMS bushes, are graphite impregnated to increase front attachment life and save on maintenance costs.

Factory auto-greasing is an option on every machine and standard on all models over 23 tonnes. There’s also optional remote real-time machine reporting; these are but a few of the Hidromek features. I could go on and I generally do.

Just quietly, I’m told that Hidromek HMK 230s currently working on a big job locally are averaging less than 16 litres per hour, and the Hidromek HMK 310s are using less than 22 litres per hour. This is only more relevant by the current well-documented fuel price increases. I know what your machine uses, do you?

For more information, visit magnumequipment.co.nz.

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