Bulk Engineering

Aspec Engineering celebrates 20 years

ABHR speaks to Richard Morgan, Founder of Aspec Engineering, to learn why it has such a high rate of return business.

With Aspec Engineering celebrating its 20th anniversary, ABHR spoke with company founder Richard Morgan to learn how it reached this milestone.

August 1, 2003 was the day Richard Morgan and his business partner Frank Gatto took the plunge. 

The pair had experience working as part of BHP’s engineering team, where they were involved in complex engineering projects. This partnership was the start of a new specialist engineering firm, Aspec Engineering, which began just as Australia’s mining industry really started to boom.

One of the biggest challenges in those early days was finding staff. According to Morgan, the fledgling company managed to grow its team by becoming an early adopter of remote work.

“We found a team of good engineers that wanted to work from home,” he said. “We’re based in Brisbane and had engineers based in Melbourne, northern Queensland and even New Zealand.

“In the early days, we were especially keen on team-building and had frequent meetings to bring everyone together.”

To help grow the team even further, ASPEC Engineering has always hired young engineers and students who work alongside an experienced mentor. This process is part of the company’s organic growth strategy.

These formerly junior engineers are now in key positions in the firm, working in teams to enhance communication.

“If we hire good students, they continue on with the company and become the leaders of tomorrow,” Morgan said.

“We’ve found this has worked well, and one of the best ways to learn is on the job with a good mentor.”

This strategy has led to relatively little staff turnover, with key people developing experience with several key projects and creating a vital culture of consistency.

More than 90 per cent of Aspec Engineering’s workload comes from its existing clients. Morgan said clients in mining and port industries like dealing with the same people and will return to organisations that can keep providing quality.

“We have a lot of knowledge and resources available – all of our past projects are archived online and are readily accessible,” he said.

“Our clients know we’re not looking to reinvent the wheel. We’ll get them an answer based on works that have already been demonstrated and that we will keep to what we promise.

“Maintaining a tight-knit team of smart people with a high level of integrity is vital.”

Morgan is also the chairman of the committee for the Australian Standard AS 4324.1, which covers shiploaders, stackers and reclaimers. His team is at the forefront of emerging technologies and industry standards and can advise clients of best practice methods and designs.

Aspec Engineering encourages its clients to be on the front foot when it comes to complying with industry standards. 

The firm provides advice on how to best ensure machines last as long as possible, aiding with refurbishments and maintenance plans.

A reputation for quality and consistency has seen Aspec Engineering work on several high-profile projects around Australia, including assisting with a new berth for Roy Hill. ASPEC was hired to help implement several innovative solutions, including a piggyback conveyor – one of the first used for that kind of project.

The company has also been involved with Rio Tinto, working as an auditing engineering firm for the Cape Lambert B Project. That project helped the company establish and expand its Perth office.

Morgan said the industry needs have changed over the years, with more projects putting an emphasis on environmental performance.

“Some projects are looking to minimise dust significantly,” he said. “We recently helped replace a ship-loader which had a dust issue and our objective was to minimise emissions while loading alumina powder.

“Energy efficiency is also really important. We want to make conveyors more efficient, which involves minimising drop heights on transfer towers to keep power usage down.

“Safety is also key for our clients. Nobody wants to have machinery in an unsafe state; we’re always focused on how to improve safety.”

On one of these major projects, Aspec Engineering began collaborating with international engineering consultancy Rendel – a subsidiary of the French-owned Ingérop Group. ASPEC was helping BHP with asset integrity for the Hay Point coal terminal in Queensland and recommended Rendel as verifier for the marine structures design work as Rendel designed the original berths one and two.

Rendel and ASPEC have had a 15-year history of collaboration on projects, including Sydney Gateway, the Melbourne Metro, and the Sydney Metro North West Rail Link.

Rendel’s managing director Vardaman Jones said both companies are client-focused, pride themselves on providing the highest technical services, and share cultural synergies.

 Rendel acquired a controlling interest in Aspec Engineering in late 2022, aiming to strengthen its position and extend its reach across Australia.

Morgan said joining forces has already enabled ASPEC to grow and become a more resilient business. 

“We’re well set up to expand overseas. We haven’t focused on international work, but with Rendel’s contacts and support, there’s potential growth for us there.”

In the meantime, ASPEC has been celebrating the two-decade milestone with events in Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia.

“August 2023 was a month of celebrations,” Morgan said. “It’s been a great opportunity to look at all the great work we have done so far, and it will be exciting to see what we do over the next 20 years.” 

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