An innovative attachment helped father-son civil excavation company RMA Civil Contracting grow from a humble start in regional Victoria
Matt Ayres was 16 and in Year 10 at Saint Paul’s College, Altona when one weekend he and his dad, Rob, used an oxy torch to cut the curtain side body off the family’s general haulage truck and turn it into a flatbed. It was a leap of faith.
Out of the blue, truckie Rob had been offered an infrastructure job laying underground cables and erecting street lights – and he figured, why not.
All he needed was a 1.5 tonne excavator, a sidekick and a flatbed truck.
“I’ll never forget it – the curtain side was attached in four places; we both had a go at the oxy and we winched it clean away,” Matt grins.
Matt was doing well at school – captain of the footy team, pretty sound academically and graduation was two years away, but that weekend they sorted it out.
Father and son formed a start-up business,
RMA (for Rob and Matt Ayres), which today sees 30-year-old Matt heading a civil excavation company that continues to grow in size and stature.
Matt acquired his skills when just months into the business he kicked his dad off the controls and took over.
“People we worked for kept telling me I had a long way to go, but I wasn’t discouraged, it just spurred me on to get better,” he says.
THE TURNING POINT
The moment of truth came on a big civil job in Geelong.
“I rocked up to the wetlands; they’d dug them out by machine and about 70 truck loads of topsoil arrived, and it was up to me to smooth it all out,” he says. “I guess I faked it, till I made it.”
Matt had closely observed drainage crews working with Komatsu excavators and loaders and “I figured I had to expand into this”.
He went to people he’d met in the business and they counselled him against it – “that size of operation is not for you”, they told him.
Out of the blue, Matt became aware of a big pipeline opportunity at the Mobil Oil Refinery and he looked for an edge that would get him the job.
“I’d read about an attachment that’s big in Europe, but not so much here,” he says.
It provided substantial flexibility, rotating through 360 degrees, tilting 45 degrees and, most importantly, allowed the operator to swap between bucket, hammer and hydraulic grabs without leaving the cockpit.
He took the idea and the potential of the Mobil contract to Komatsu.
“I think their first reaction was: ‘Yeah right’,”
“They didn’t know me, but they listened and when they looked at what Dad and I had achieved
Above: The Komatsu PC 240 excavator is equipped with intelligent machine control and electronic proportional controls