Keech Australia has proved that innovation and quality aren’t diluted, but continually improved over almost a century of operation. Australian Mining speaks with co-owners and directors David and Garth Keech about how this legacy has been preserved.
Innovation is at the heart of Keech Australia, a four-generation family business with extensive links in the mining industry.
It is also the key ingredient that improves efficiency and optimises mine operations.
Keech Australia is a local designer and manufacturer of high-integrity steel castings. The company particularly specialises in above-ground excavator ground engaging tools (GET) for the mining industry.
Founded by Gordon Keech Sr in 1934, the company hasn’t stopped growing and building lasting relationships with original equipment manufacturers (OEM) under the vigorous leadership of its modern-day team.
Incumbent owners David Keech, also the director of sales and marketing, and Garth Keech, director of manufacturing, started their journey with the company in the mid-1970s under the guidance of their fathers.
“We had intensive training throughout all facets of the company over many years, up to the point where we took over running the business in 1986,” Garth Keech says.
“We recognised the need for innovation and we encourage it across all our staff, whether they are family members or not.
“We’d like to provide a better solution to service our customers. That’s the company culture and ethos we’ve been trained to preserve.”
Keech Australia has become known as the developer of the Keech 6-series GET system called Keesharp. The bucket teeth and bucket edge systems, suitable for a range of machine sizes from 90 to 360 tonnes, are self-sharpening, lightweight and proven to increase digging load capacity, load bearing and operational life.
The company philosophy for innovation also stands out through the introduction of the Keelock retention system, which eliminates any requirement for a tool to install the GET.
“No hands will need to go underneath the buckets during change-outs,” David Keech says.
Garth Keech adds: “Keelock can be fitted without a tool and is simply pushed in by hand. From the point of pouring the casting during the manufacturing stage to the fitting of the finished product in the field, safety is paramount during the entire process.
“We benchmark our creations against the opposition and work with our customers and in-house design team to come up with a solution that always brings an improvement to an existing product.
“We’re very proud of what we’ve done in our development towards the system, and we can see this GET series take us on a bigger growth path in the near future.”
As a result of the innovation, equipment downtime is minimised. In fact, it is one of the main areas Keech Australia addresses when manufacturing above ground GETs.
The fast change-out facilitated by Keelock was developed on the back of the company’s ongoing investment in manufacturing equipment and technology, and documented training procedures for employees.
Keech, which employs 130 workers and owns one of the remaining foundries in Australia, invested more than $6 million in moulding equipment and manufacturing facilities to meet client demands and quality expectations.
“We own one of the only foundries in Australia that has invested in new equipment in a very long time,” Garth Keech says.
“We’re constantly bringing them up to global manufacturing standard and we’ve acquired three-dimensional printing gear to assist with our in-house design and development.”
Manufacturing isn’t the only skill that Keech Australia has perfected over many decades of innovation.
The company has established a sales team across Australia, secured overseas distributors in Canada, South America and South Africa, and hired employees close to mining centres to expand its relationships with mine operators.
Keech’s supply and design flexibility, and local supply chain and manufacturing capabilities (in Bendigo, Victoria), means it has minimised any product waiting time for companies that are enquiring locally or from overseas.
“Given the COVID-19 disruptions in the current climate, it’s a strength to manufacture in Australia, close to the mine sites, with no issues in our supply chain,” Garth Keech says.
David Keech continues: “It’s our intention to continue our supply while keeping our customers regularly informed, as well as our employees safe as we adapt our manufacturing process to abide by government recommendations.”
After all, employee training is one of the most important aspects of Keech Australia as it strengthens a multi-generational business.
Company culture and employee skills have been retained and backed by its workers who have stayed loyal over several decades. This is a reminder of Keech Australia’s track record in innovation and employee culture.
This article also appears in the June edition of Australian Mining.