Earthmoving Equipment Magazine chats with Leigh Burgess from Riordan Grain Services to find out how the business’ partnership with CJD Equipment and Volvo Construction Equipment helps keep countless tonnes of grain moving from field to table around the globe.
With the fundamental role grains play in the diet of the global population, the importance of ensuring their safe and reliable storage and transport cannot be understated. And as populations grow, and global demand along with it, the role of grain logistics businesses has never been more crucial – for global food security and economic stability alike. One such business – Riordan Grain Services – is a dynamic family-owned enterprise that has grown significantly from its humble beginnings more than 25 years ago, when it was just one man with a tipper truck. Over the decades since, Riordan has expanded to become a key player in the global grain industry, by establishing robust and reliable operations in grain, transport, storage, container packing, and marketing.
Now with three container packing sites and storage capacity spread across country Victoria and Southern NSW, Riordan Grain Services has found success building on a set of ingrained company values: safety and wellbeing, innovation, respect, open communication, and a sense of community. Riordan Operations Manager Leigh Burgess, speaking to EEM from one of the company’s bases of operations in Corio, south-western Victoria, says the company’s journey has also been driven by hard work and an ability to adapt and grow with the evolving demands of a highly competitive industry.
“Jim Reed, our Managing Director, founded the company back in 1996,” he says. “Originally, it was just him and a truck carting grain around Victoria for a handful of customers. Since then, we’ve enjoyed a natural progression as we’ve grown with our customers.” In his 13 years at Riordan Grain Services, Leigh has witnessed this progression first-hand – and says it’s not likely to slow down any time soon.
“Originally, it was just focused on grain – bringing grain down from the Wimmera region up north to Geelong and distributing to customers,” he says. “Then, over the past eight or nine years, we’ve partnered up with a few fertiliser companies as well. And now we’re handling a lot of fertiliser distribution through the Geelong port and out to the network of farmers throughout the region.
“Today, we’re a pretty integrated business. We run a fleet of trucks and subcontractors, as well specialised fertiliser distribution centres. We also handle a lot of domestic and international grain execution, whether it’s through domestic container packing, bulk export overseas, or to local consumers.”
Helping power Riordan Grain Service’s 24/7 operation is a sizeable fleet of Kenworth trucks, as well multiple pieces of Volvo equipment supplied by long-term partners CJD Equipment. “Our machinery fleet is quite simple,” Leigh says. “We currently run a fleet of Volvo L120H wheel loaders, and we had L120Fs before that. We only sold our last L120F about three months ago, so they’d been really good machines for us.”
Leigh explains that it wasn’t always wheel loaders at the heart of Riordan’s product handling operation, but a desire to improve productivity and maximise efficiencies led Leigh and his team to change their approach. “Around 10 years ago, we were running telehandlers,” he says. “And we started get quite busy handling grain – around 200 tonnes an hour. To achieve that, we needed to have two telehandlers and two guys doing 12 hour-shifts – and fatigue was a massive issue. So, we needed to figure out how to get to the next level: how to increase productivity, but also how we could make it easier for our staff.”
This led Riordan to purchase its first Volvo machine – a second-hand L120F wheel loader. This would end up being the first of many pieces of Volvo equipment to pass through Riordan’s gates. “Going from the telehandlers into the wheel loader, the Volvo was doing the work of at least two telehandlers at that time, and our operators could work a 12-hour shift and not experience the levels of fatigue they were previously.”
Today, the Riordan team runs no fewer than 13 Volvo L120H loaders across its various sites. Leigh says these machines now play a central role in how the business is run. “We’ve structured our whole business around how to best develop the service side of our business, and finding the best outcomes for our customers,” he says. “And through our partnership with CJD and Volvo, we’ve managed to effectively structure operations based around our loaders and other equipment.”
Leigh elaborates: “The L120H loaders are a good high-productivity vehicle, and they’re matched to all our out-loading and in-loading equipment. All our L120Hs are fitted with seven-cubic-metre buckets, which are a really good fit for our cycle times to and from hoppers and trucks; and the width of these buckets is three metres, which works perfectly for most hoppers.”
More recently, Riordan has also complemented its wheel loader fleet with Volvo EC220D excavators. These medium-sized excavators operate in conjunction with the L120H wheel loaders in Riordan’s spacious under-roof storage facilities.
“These excavators are used for stacking product coupled with the Volvo loaders, and they’ve been a good fit for us too,” Leigh says.
For the Riordan team, one of the key features of Volvo’s wheel loaders and excavators is the level of operator comfort on offer. Leigh says this is essential in the modern era of labour shortages. “We have operators that have worked in all different makes of machine, and from what we understand, the comfort level of the Volvos is one of the best available on the market,” he says.
“As we all know, finding good staff continues to get more and more difficult, so it’s important to provide a good product and maintain a new fleet. And we tend to get people coming back because we run a good operation, we have good people around us, the equipment’s good to operate – and comfy enough to work a full shift with a very low impact on the operator.”
The quality of the machines aside, Leigh says the support from CJD Equipment has been solid from day one. He says Riordan’s local CJD rep Addison Wood and his predecessor have always made a concerted effort to understand the evolving needs of the Riordan business, how its equipment is used.
“They make it their business to know what we do and how we’re trying to do it – cycle times back to hoppers, for instance. The machines are all purpose fit, but CJD are always willing to help us tweak things to get better productivity and better efficiency out of our machines.”
Leigh says that for a relationships-based business such as Riordan Grain Services, it’s not only the quality of the machinery that’s important, but the ongoing support and communication to keep it running smoothly.
“We can have all the best equipment in play and operational, but unless we’ve got the support and service to keep the machines maintained and repaired, that’s not good enough,” he says. “The biggest cost for us isn’t the machines themselves, but it’s downtime. If a machine’s out, the flow-on effect is us letting our customers down. So, we need our machines to have a level of support that gives us the ability to execute and keep growing the business.”
And based on their 10-year relationship to date, Leigh says nobody on the Riordan Grain Services team would hesitate to recommend CJD Equipment and Volvo to anybody.
“They understand what we want and what our business means,” he says. “Having the CJD team be willing to partake in our business understand our processes – it helps us, it helps them, and crucially, helps the customers we serve.”