Countryman - - FRONT PAGE - Cally Dupe and Jenne Bram­mer

CBH’s new leader has ruled out dis­pos­ing of in­ter­na­tional as­sets in the short term as he looks to slash costs at the grower-owned co-op­er­a­tive.

For­mer BHP iron ore boss Jimmy Wil­son took the reins at CBH on Oc­to­ber 1, with pre­de­ces­sor Andy Crane set to exit the build­ing at the end of the month.

While Mr Wil­son said CBH’s five-year $750 mil­lion net­work op­ti­mi­sa­tion strat­egy, aimed at slash­ing the num­ber of re­ceival points from 200 to 100, was “on the money”, sup­ply chain costs could be fur­ther re­duced.

But cost-cut­ting won’t be to the ex­tent of that achieved dur­ing his time as pres­i­dent at BHP Bil­li­ton’s iron ore busi­ness, where he halved costs from the com­pany’s Pil­bara op­er­a­tions over a four-year pe­riod to early last year, by re­cal­i­brat­ing the busi­ness to meet a sharp de­cline in iron ore prices.

“It’s un­likely I will be able to halve costs here as the con­fig­u­ra­tion is dif­fer­ent, but there cer­tainly is an op­por­tu­nity,” he said.

Mr Wil­son said he planned to build on the work of Mr Crane, who im­ple­mented the strat­egy, and to fo­cus on net­work point re­duc­tion and pro­cure­ment.

But the for­mer iron ore boss was non-com­mit­tal when asked whether his cost-cut­ting plans in­volved re­dun­dan­cies.

“At the end of the day, the fo­cus is on net­work point re­duc­tion,” Mr Wil­son said.

“In all busi­nesses I’ve run there’s been a huge amount of op­por­tu­nity in sup­ply and pro­cure­ment — the way in which we buy ser­vices and ev­ery­thing lo­gis­ti­cal.

“There’s al­ways some op­por­tu­nity there if we get re­ally fo­cused.”

Mr Wil­son, who con­firmed he earns less at CBH than he did at BHP Bil­li­ton, said he was “fix­ated on” de­liv­er­ing value to grow­ers, rather than ex­pand­ing or dis­pos­ing of over­seas in­vest­ments or as­sets.

“The prob­a­bil­ity of us de­liv­er­ing value here is al­most 100 per cent by us re­duc­ing costs . . . find­ing new in­vest­ments and ace­ing them is a bit harder,” he said.

“We have just gone into Blue Lake Milling and In­ter­flour, it wouldn’t be an ap­pro­pri­ate time to be think­ing of dis­pos­ing, but never say never.

“If some­one of­fers us a far higher value than we see in those busi­nesses, we could al­ways be open to that as long as it is in the best in­ter­est of grow­ers.”

Mr Wil­son said an­other key pri­or­ity was im­prov­ing the bulk han­dler’s safety record.

He is among 21 peo­ple charged with “qual­i­fied homi­cide” over the col­lapse of a tail­ings dam at the Sa­marco mine in Brazil in 2015 that killed 19 peo­ple.

Mr Wil­son had re­spon­si­bil­ity for BHP’s half-share in Sa­marco and was a di­rec­tor of the com­pany.

He said he’d been pas­sion­ate about safety long be­fore this dis­as­ter and planned to build on Mr Crane’s suc­cess in re­duc­ing in­juries across the busi­ness.

Some as­pi­ra­tional tar­gets had been set, al­though these would not in­volve huge changes on the ground.

“The thing that keeps me awake at night is safety,” he said. “This is a busi­ness with lots of mov­ing parts, equip­ment and ve­hi­cles. Our ob­jec­tive is to try to engi­neer peo­ple away from these.”

Mr Wil­son has spent time since join­ing CBH in Au­gust at­tend­ing its an­nual chair­man and grower meet­ings, held in 13 towns across WA.

More re­cently he vis­ited Asia to meet some of CBH’s key cus­tomers.

He said from grower tours he found farm­ers were very articulate in want­ing a re­duc­tion in out­bound lo­gis­ti­cal costs, to be able to sell their grain in a trans­par­ent mar­ket place, and to be able to max­imise re­bates from across the busi­ness.

Pic­ture: Michael Wil­son

New CBH chief Jimmy Wil­son.

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