Mining manufacturer set to hit new heights in Latin America

May 2019

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Scorpion Jacks has been supplying its heavy lifting equipment to Australia and overseas markets for over a decade. With the help of Australia’s free trade agreements, the company now has its sights on expanding its international presence even further.

Based in Townsville, Queensland, Scorpion Jacks has been designing and manufacturing mining and civil construction equipment for more than 15 years.

Originally starting out as a hydraulic repair business in the early 1970s, the family-owned company quickly realised there was an opening in the market for improved heavy lifting equipment. After a lengthy process of producing prototypes, visiting mine sites and gathering feedback, Scorpion Jacks released its first specialty jack to the Australian market in the early 1990s.

Since then, the company’s range of products has grown to include 15 to 20 different jacks and floor stand systems for open cut and underground mining.

Building growth through exports

Having successfully conquered the domestic market in Australia, Scorpion Jacks now exports its products to more than 14 countries, including Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Laos and Indonesia.

Operation and Sales Manager at Scorpion Jacks, Matthew Haller, says exports and Australia’s free trade agreements have helped the company expand the size of its business.

‘For many years we have used our old factory in Burdekin, just outside of Townsville, as a warehouse facility. Through our exports, we’ve seen an upswing in business in the last 12 months, which has meant we need a bigger premises to work from,’ he says.

‘It’s definitely a step forward and very exciting for us to watch the business grow. This year we hope to hire a few more staff in key areas such as sales and logistics, which is certainly thanks to our exports and the growth they have provided our business.’

FTAs open up new export markets

In the hope of furthering its international presence, Scorpion Jacks is looking to capitalise on Australia’s Free Trade Agreements (FTAs). Australia’s FTAs remove barriers to trade and facilitate stronger trade and commercial ties between participating countries.

Australia has 11 FTAs in force, including the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). The CPTPP improves market access to Canada, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore and Vietnam.

Haller says the CPTPP and the FTA with Peru, which is yet to enter into force, will greatly benefit Scorpion Jacks, allowing it to extend its business to markets in Latin America.

‘With Latin America’s mining industry booming, it’s been a tough market for us to break into. It’s well serviced by North America and there are many multinational companies who are already successful in the region,’ he says.

‘Australia’s FTAs will certainly provide us with better market access conditions and lower tariffs, helping us grow the business even further through exports into Latin America.’

Know your products and the needs of your market

As with most export journeys, Scorpion Jacks’ hasn’t always been smooth sailing. Haller says understanding the needs of their customers and how to tailor their products to them was challenging at first.

‘For many years, we were guilty of trying to promote our entire product range to every customer we could find overseas. Ultimately, this approach didn’t work well for us,’ he says.

‘We’ve learnt to instead recognise where our opportunities are and focus on them. As a smaller company, it’s important for us to know our products well and how they are suited to the different needs of our customers.’

Haller says the cyclical nature of the mining industry has also proved difficult for the company, often providing uncertainty over business prospects.

‘Our business is fairly limited to the mining industry, so obviously we are affected by the performance of the market,’ he says.

‘To avoid downfalls, we have spent a lot of time developing relationships with our customers. This ensures they have trust in our business and value the products we sell.’

Market visits a key to success

For those considering exporting, Haller advises taking full advantage of the support and assistance available through government grants and agencies such as Austrade.

‘Austrade are a valuable tool for anyone starting their exporting journey. They provide great support and are helpful in setting up meetings with key clients to get your foot in the door,’ he says.

‘They also run the Export Market Development Scheme (EMDG) that provides financial support to exporters. We were lucky enough to receive a grant from them that helped us attend Mine Expo in Las Vegas.’

Haller says attending trade shows and making visits to your export markets are important steps for success overseas.

‘Trade shows are a really great way to connect with new customers and start building relationships. At Mine Expo, we met dozens of potential customers from Chile and Peru and have kept in contact with them ever since,’ he says.

‘In-country visits are also a great way to learn about the culture and customs of the market and understand how suitable your products will be for potential customers.’

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