Monday 13th Jul, 2020

Rema Tip Top refocuses direction


After being appointed CEO in December 2018, Rema Tip Top Australia’s Karsten Bartnicki tells ABHR how the company is changing to focus on its core strengths.

In 1935, brothers Otto and Willy Gruber discovered a niche in the market when visiting a vulcanising operation in Munich. At that point in Germany, tyre repair material was laboriously cut from old tyres by hand.

In the following years, the Gruber brothers decided to produce inner tube patches, thanks to developments in cold vulcanisation. During a product trial, Willy Gruber exclaimed, “this is tip-top”, and the rest is history.

Karsten Bartnicki, Chief Executive Officer of Rema Tip Top Australia Industry, says that while the company has expanded around the world and increased its product offerings, its roots as a rubber and conveyor product company remain a key part of business.

Since stepping into the role at the end of 2018, Mr Bartnicki has helped refocus the company to continue growing in the right direction.

“Worldwide, we are known for our products and our specialist installation services,” Mr Bartnicki tells ABHR.

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“Our installation skills and expert advice is what sets us apart and we are now looking to focus on developing our product strengths in Australia.”

With more than 30 years’ experience in the material handling sector, Mr Bartnicki has built up a leadership team to support him. New product specialists with extensive experience in the targeted industry have come on board, with a new national product sales manager to optimise product sales and deliver project management to greenfield projects and refurbishment projects in the mining industry.

Mr Bartnicki has also spent time out in the field. He is no stranger to the Pilbara, having worked for more than two years as a port construction manager and 55 million tonnes per annum ramp-up production project manager, and is listening closely to Rema Tip Top staff to learn more about the company’s operation service experiences.

This has culminated in the Rema 2020 service and product strategy, a blueprint for the company to meet the future needs of customers. While still in development, it outlines a focus on growing Rema Tip Top’s Australian services and product offering.

Mr Bartnicki says the industry is permanently developing and requires new and innovative solutions in solving issues by driving increase of annual capacity to fulfil the high demand on Australian ore from the global market. An example of this can be seen at the Western Australian town of Port Hedland, a key port for a number of different iron ore companies.

With projects such as BHP’s South Flank, Rio Tinto’s Koodaiderri, and Fortescue’s Eliwana set to increase the amount of iron ore being handled at the port, dust could become a major problem for the nearby community.

“Dust control has been in the focus of our clients for a long time. We are looking to solve this issue by supporting our clients closely on site,” Mr Bartnicki says. “We are analysing the current situation and investigating potential conveyor belt cleaning improvements and reducing the dust development at the ore transition points in the plant.”

“It’s not feasible to just water spray the ore material to keep the dust down. If it gets too wet, the loaded tonnage onto a vessel will increase to an unacceptable degree for the end-client.

“We are in discussions with several mining companies in the Pilbara to help find a solution and are assembling a team of international and local dust experts to find the right solution,” he says.

Innovation and growth

When Mr Bartnicki started the year, he outlined two key priorities for the company: innovation and growth. These guiding priorities are a driving force behind the company’s recent diversification outside of the mining industry.

With billions of dollars being invested into developing new infrastructure, such as roads, tunnels and energy projects, Mr Bartnicki says there is an excellent opportunity to leverage Rema Tip Top’s European expertise in different industries.

“The idea is to not be dependent on the mining industry in Australia,” he says. “Identifying new ways to support the infrastructure boom is part of that.”

“Rema Tip Top has gained a lot of experience in Europe when it comes to waste to energy plants and we are now in discussion with proposed waste to energy plants in Brisbane and Perth.”

Similarly, Rema Tip Top has built partnerships with the sand and gravel industries, working with crusher and milling companies to provide unique solutions.

He also notes the potential to move into the sugar industry manufacture belts certified for the food industry, thanks to a subsidiary company in France.

Mr Bartnicki says innovation is key to this expansion into different sectors and that he wants to be on the front foot with remote operations centres and conveying intelligence systems for smart conveyor solutions.

“Smart, connected technology is the direction our clients want to go, including those not in the mining industry,” he says.

“We are installing the first of our equipment outside of the mining industry to build a remote operating centre for the cement industry as well, and this is key to creating a stronger, safer work environment.”

Brisbane expansion

As part of its growth, Rema Tip Top opened a new surface protection hub in Brisbane in July, expanding its local materials processing capacity.

Mr Bartnicki says the company has a significant presence in Perth and Western Australia, but clients on the east coast were crying out for a local presence.

“A lot of engineering companies are headquartered in Brisbane and we had clients that would have loved to give us work, but the distance was too great. Our operations in Perth were more than 3000 kilometres away, meaning our reaction times weren’t as fast as we’d have liked them to be,” he explains.

“Now, we have opened up a hub on the east coast and which will serve as a meeting point for our customers to see the products themselves.”

The facility will also bring together Rema Tip Top’s surface protection specialists under the one roof to provide research and development for products such as rubber lining and corrosion resistance.

Mr Bartnicki says surface protection is another aspect of Rema Tip Top’s offering that sets it apart. Processing plants often have different needs to extend the life of their belts and the new facility will help provide specialised lining products. It can also support the needs of non-mining industries, such as the cement and food processing industries.

“Our team is highly motivated and growing all the time,” Mr Bartnicki says. “The challenge of change will give us the opportunity to work closely with our major customers and develop our strengths.”