Born to fix the ‘impossible’

Born to fix the ‘impossible’

Renowned theoretical physicist Michio Kaku once said: “What we usually consider as impossible, are simply engineering problems.”

As the Managing Director of RTM Engineering, a family-owned, multi-faceted engineering company based in Bowen, North Queensland, Russell Mayhew shares the same opinion.

“I don’t like the throw-away society of today,” he says. “Anything that’s broken, can be fixed. As a company, we make a living out of fixing things. When something, a piece of machinery or equipment breaks down, we can repair it. And if it cannot be repaired, we will make it.”

In the true spirit of engineering, Russell says RTM Engineering enjoys taking up challenges deemed impossible by the rest, and a look at the company’s project undertakings in the past testifies to this.

From designing an industrial tomato cutter that can evenly cut all sizes of  tomatoes, to  erecting the stacker-reclaimer at the Port of Abbot Point, RTM Engineering has shown time and again that they are not overwhelmed by the size or complexity of the projects they come across.

“We are not afraid of any task that’s put in front of us. We have done many jobs that other people would look at and say it cannot be done. We don’t believe in that,” says Russell.

RTM Engineering started in 1990 as a service provider to the agricultural industry. Over the years, the company further grew its engineering and manufacturing capabilities to service other industries in their region, including coal mining, power generation, construction, and port facilities.  Another feature of the business is a retail outlet that supplies a wide range of spare parts and equipment to the local community.

Russell and his wife, Therese, started the business 30 years ago with a simple workshop, equipped with a small lathe and a welder. Initially, Russell continued to work as a fitter on the afternoon shifts at the local meatworks and would work at the RTM workshop in the morning, doing repairs and maintenance for the farmers in the local area.

For the first nine years, Therese handled all of the administrative tasks alone. Today, Therese still supervises all of the administrative tasks as RTM Engineering’s Director, while the RTM team has grown to have 45 full-time employees. RTM Engineering has also trained in more than 35 apprentices over the years, some of whom are still working with the company as tradespeople or supervisors.

After 30 years of delivering turnkey engineering solutions, from design to fabrication to installation, Russell says the team still gets motivated to solve a new challenge.

“One of the most rewarding projects we delivered was when we packed up a ship loader off the wharf at Abbot Point, we picked it up with two cranes and loaded it onto a heavy lift ship to be transported to Korea for an overhaul. I personally travelled to Korea to supervise the ship loader being loaded onto the ship for transport back to Australia. We then helped offload it from the ship and placed back onto its tracks at Abbot Point,” says Russell.

“In another project, we were required to raise the railway line and strengthen the berth at the Port of Abbot Point to accommodate the additional weight from an upgraded ship loader. The operation had to be performed over water and due to the location, we were unable to use cranes to handle the steel plates. We designed and manufactured a trolley that would hold the plates and using scaffolding as our platform, were able to move the plates along the berth manually and into position,” he adds.

As a family-run business based in a town with a population of less than 9,000 people, RTM Engineering is also strongly committed to supporting the community it works in. RTM also plays an active role in supporting local schools and charities through donations or in-kind services.

Russell, a self-professed ‘old-school’ tradesman, is a strong believer in local engineering and fabrication capabilities existing in Australia and encourages other businesses to take a similar view on local capabilities.

“We want to promote the fact that we can do this work from a small town in North Queensland,” he says. “Before jobs, services or products are purchased from overseas or beyond our local area, a question should be asked: How much are we really saving? How is our decision going to affect our local businesses and what will the long-term effect be?”

Over the past 25 years, RTM Engineering has been working closely with CBC as a reseller of industrial products. Scott Parker, Branch Manager at CBC Townsville says the CBC team has also helped RTM Engineering with services such as laser alignment, bearing failure reports and heat gun calibration at their workshop.

“If there was one word to describe RTM Engineering, it would be ‘Quality’,” says Scott. “From the quality of the products they sell to the quality of the workmanship in their workshop, this is a genuinely hardworking company that has a professional approach to every aspect of their business.

“We have seen first-hand how RTM Engineering has grown and survived through tough times with integrity and that’s what makes it such a pleasure for us to be able to help their growth in our capacity as a supplier.”