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Tieman - The First 50 Years

Tieman Brothers started off small in 1953 in the front yard of Neil`s Tieman`s house in Preston.

Brothers Neil, Gordon and Reg Tieman actually built the factory and took over the front room of Neil and Jean`s house for their first office.

Front row: Tieman brothers Neil, Reg and Gordon. Father Colin Tieman is at the centre of the back row.

The fledgling company did general sheet metal fabrication in mild and stainless steel, but specialised in fabricating and repairing dairy equipment.

The first major project was the construction of a 1500-gallon milk storage vat in 1954. Eight more vats went to processing dairies throughout Melbourne that year and helped establish the Tieman name in the dairy industry.

Tieman built its first tanker in 1955. It could carry 1000 gallons, cost 900 pounds and was used to cart milk from Drouin to Melbourne.

The demand for tankers increased in 1956 with the introduction of bulk milk collection from farms in Victoria and New South Wales, and the phasing out of the traditional milk cans.

By 1958, work was expanding rapidly and the decision was made to specialise in stainless steel equipment for the food industry. Neil and Jean`s house had to be demolished to extend the factory.

Milk storage vats had increased in size from 1000 to 5000 and even 8000 gallons. Nine vats and four tankers went out the door that year.

Less than a year later, Tieman bought and demolished a house behind the factory to expand further, but even that wasn`t enough to keep up with the rapidly growing business.

In 1961, the company purchased a 4?-acre site in Keon Park and had to start fabrication work there even before the new factory was built due to space restrictions at Preston.

Simon Gysbert remembers starting at the new site by tearing down an old building and then building tankers "out in the paddock, open, no shelter and it was June/July.

"We had tarps to cover things in case it rained. At first they would partially build in Preston and send it up to the Keon Parade site. We were building silos and vats and would have lost the order if the vats had not been delivered on time. We had 15 guys at Keon Park and 15 in Preston.

"Then the new building went up and Neil came out with the other guys and we had 35 people there. We worked eight hours on and eight hours off to get that first order out and management bought us food at night while we were working.

The business kept growing and the Keon Park Factory was extended in 1963, 1964, 1966, 1972, 1993 and 1994.
Bob Slaviero started at Tieman as a draftsman in 1963 and remembers that at that time, "A tanker was just another piece of equipment in a company that specialised in general fabrication in stainless steel for the food industry with dairy equipment and cheese making equipment predominating".

Things were moving rapidly and Tieman Brothers became Tieman Industries in 1968. Gordon Tieman sold his share in the company to Neil and to MD Geoff Waldon in 1970.
The company was pioneering the manufacture of automatic cheese making machines and got involved with Murray Goulburn who were exporting Gouda cheese to Japan.

"Our factory was too small to build the Gouda machine and we looked for another site", Bob recalls. "Around the corner was Howell Engineering who had problems and so we bought the company to get the factory to make the cheese machine.

"And we ended up with their material handling business. The phones kept ringing and we began to realise the potential of materials handling."

"We were agencies for foreign companies at first", Neil Tieman remembers. "But Australian Standards drove our change from agencies to design and manufacture of our own tailgates, scissor lifts and dock levellers.

"We were dealing with national companies like Coles, Woolworths and that business brought servicing work, and lead to interstate branches and agencies so we could offer nationwide support and service.

"Bulk tankers really started taking off and we made a decision to get out of general equipment and specialise in tankers", Bob says. "We were already the best tanker builder when we decided to specialise. Bulk milk was just starting. We picked it up and ran with it.

"A clear-cut decision was made to end production of silo tanks and general equipment. There were too many problems with low volume or one-off items and too little volume production."

"The best thing we ever did was get out of specialised equipment," Neil Tieman says. "We got Tiemans back in the black within 12 months of dropping specialised equipment and concentrating on tankers and materials handling equipment."

By 1973 Tiemans had built 500 tankers and new designs like the "Ringed Lightweight" tanker brought new customers chasing greater payloads.

The Tieman family involvement in the business strengthened greatly when Neil`s sons Greg, Dale and Colin joined the company in the 1970s.

Greg and Dale held Diplomas in Mechanical Engineering and Colin earned his four-year sheetmetal trade qualification building tankers on the shop floor. Greg went into sales for eight years and then into service before moving into management. Dale designed Materials Handling Equipment and then went into sales for 25 years including 17 years based in Sydney. And Colin moved into a sales career that took him all over Australia, after completing his trade. All eventually became company directors.

Materials Handling and tailgates sales exceeded $1 million for the first time in 1978 and in 1979, the company got its first $1 million order for tankers, from Sheppard & United Tankers.

And Tieman expanded into NSW with the purchase of their former state distributor, RR Franklin Transport Equipment.

Tieman put its first service van on the road with Ross Suckling as the first mobile serviceman in 1982. The improved service was a hit with customers and the service fleet grew to 25 vans nationally in just five years. It has continued to grow and there are more than 50 Tiemans service vans on the road today.

There was a revolution going on in tanker design and the company built Victoria`s first B-double for Murray Goulburn in 1984.

Another notable design was Australia`s largest capacity Bulk Milk Collection tanker for Masters Dairy in Western Australia in 1986, the year in which Tieman also built its 1000th tanker, which went to Knight`s Transport of Kilmore.
Changes were happening in the Materials Handling area as well and Tieman formed an association with Fame Tech of Thailand to produce tailgates in 1987. That move followed an acute nationwide shortage of tradesmen for factory work which made it impractical to build them in-house. The companies are still closely associated.

Tieman was chasing every opportunity in the tanker field and built its first aluminium fuel tanker in 1988, for Cootes Transport and it`s first bitumen tanker just a year later, also for Cootes.

The company`s turnover had grown from $7 million in 1983 to $20 million at the end of 1989/90, when Greg Tieman became Managing Director.

Materials Handling and Service were also growing rapidly and moved to a new site in Campbellfield in 1994, getting them under one roof for the first time. Materials Handling by then represented 2/3 of company operations. Only 12 months later Tieman purchased the adjoining 2?-acre block at Campbellfield making the five-acre site bigger than Keon Park.

Campbellfield became the national manufacturing centre for Materials Handling products and all non-tanker engineering and production staff moved there.

That made it possible to dedicate manufacturing activities at Keon Park to tankers only, a long term company goal.

"We used the extra production space at Keon Park for an aluminium fuel tanker fabrication line," Bob says. "Building in aluminium was a huge change from stainless steel."

There was a total separation of stainless steel and aluminium tanker production and the workforce was also separate.

Chemical tankers also started to take off and they were stainless steel, primarily for corrosion. "There were (still are) lots of Australian Standards for chemical tankers" Bob recalls. "There is quite a discipline there to achieve competency in design and manufacture."

By 1997 modern gritblasting and paint booths had been installed at Campbellfield.

The 2000th tanker was purchased for dairy collection by Linfox in Tasmania in 1998. It had taken 33 years to build the first 1000 tankers and only 10 to build the second thousand.

And Tiemans was still expanding in the tanker field with innovative designs like the "Fatboy" road-train built for Mitchell Logistics, which allowed them to backload general freight.

Materials Handling was also growing rapidly with Coles Myer, Woolworths, Safeway, and Foodland being major customers. And Bridgestone Tyres, Tiptop Bakeries, Buttercup, Linfox and Orix became major Tieman tailgate customers.

With the company`s 50th anniversary approaching, the Tieman family made the decision for a major commitment to the future of the company.

The commitment included massive upgrades of engineering design, production, supply and customer service systems and workforce skills training.

Engineering and project management upgrades included Solid Works 3D Engineering and Smart Team Project Data Management software introduced at both Campbellfield and Keon Park.

The reinvigoration of the company was virtually complete by the company`s 50th birthday.

And Tieman`s landmark 3,000th tanker was built for Advance Petroleum. It had taken just five years from tanker number 2000, at an average rate of four tankers completed per week.

The Tieman 50th Anniversary celebrations took place on 28 September 2003 at Neil Tieman`s stud farm at Kinglake.

Present were three generations of the Tieman family and almost 500 guests including customers, current and past company employees and suppliers.

It was a celebration of an outstanding family company by the people who built it and worked in it and brought it to the forefront of tanker and materials handling equipment design and manufacture in Australia.

And it was also the beginning of a new era as Executive Chairman Greg Tieman publicly introduced new Chief Executive Hymie Jechilevsky and his management team to the Anniversary party guests.

Neil and Jean Tieman cut the company's 50th birthday cake during the celebrations.

"We face the future with confidence", Mr Tieman said later. "We have built up company systems that strengthen our engineering and design capability, reduce delivery times and tare weights and offer the lowest whole-of-life costs to our customers."

"And we have adapted the company for a future of constant change and improvement.

"There is, however, one thing that won`t change and that is the close relationships we enjoy with our customers and the best after sales service in the industry."

April 17, 2014 | Posted in: Articles



Australian Trucking Quarterly