Elphinstone Engineering has invested in a new Okuma CNC vertical machining centre with OSP Control to strengthen output at its Triabunna plant on Tasmania’s East Coast, and secure additional work in-house with new capabilities.

“The speed of the new machine is unbelievable with a time reduction of 1.5 hours on one complex part alone to just nine minutes fully finished,” said Jason Cameron, Production Manager at Elphinstone. “The new machine complements another recent Okuma machine, a CNC lathe model LB3000EX, also with Okuma’s own CNC OSP Control, allowing us to meet strong demand and drastically reduce production delays, and at the same time bringing work back in-house. The latest machine will also be used for fast prototyping and product development.”

The Elphinstone story is a long one, commencing with Graeme Elphinstone moving from Burnie to Triabunna in 1971. Graeme had been a logger and started welding and chainsaw repairs before purchasing a two-hectare block of land in Triabunna and establishing Elphinstone Saw Centre.

Graeme’s specialist knowledge of the logging industry led the company to import Australia’s first on-board weighing system fitted to a logging truck. Further developments followed, with a special folding pole tandem jinker; an automatic weighing platform for axle groups; Australia’s first ‘Stretch’ mudguard system; folding tri-axle jinkers, and many more. In 1985, the company won the BHP Steel Award for innovation and design of the ‘Tri-Beam’ suspension, and this was followed by the world’s first folding skeletal trailer, the Fold-A Skel.

In 1994 this innovative company’s expertise in logging also extended to highly specialised equipment that was required for Antarctica. Design and development was a natural fit for the company in items such as special-purpose trailers for general haulage and the transportation of large tanks in ice conditions. Visiting Antarctica for the first time in 2000, Graeme saw the company’s special equipment in person, driving a snow train some 1,100km to Dome C, and he has since made two further trips to the ice continent. Special heavy-haulage trailers with skis, modular building support systems, walkways, platforms have all been developed through the first-hand Antarctic experience of Elphinstone personnel.

Developments also continued in the logging area with the Elphinstone Auto Tensioning System, self-loading Tri-Tri B-Double Trailers, the development of electronic scales, the first hydraulic folding skel, and the introduction of air suspension to the company’s trailers. Elphinstone has been a winner of numerous awards, such as the Australian Freight Industry ‘Australian Trailer of the Year’ for its ‘Easyloader’.

For the small community of Triabunna, with a population of some 1,000, Elphinstone provides highly valued employment opportunities for young people. With its strong commitment to training, a number of Year Ten students are provided the opportunity of work experience within the various departments of the business. Today there are four apprentices at various stages under training in the machine shop, and an additional five training as fabricators, thus ensuring the future of the industry and employment for locals.

Cameron himself originally joined Elphinstone’s as a storeman in 2004 but took the opportunity of a mature age apprenticeship which has since led him to his current position as production manager for the machining, steel management and quality control of finished trailers and equipment. Following the company’s latest acquisition, he is complementary about Okuma’s support during and after the installation.

“Okuma’s after-sales service and training back-up are impeccable and a stand out in the industry, which is a strong reason for this investment due to our somewhat remote location of the business,” he says. “We couldn’t be happier with the commissioning of this machine and the backup we have received.”