Craig Weller sees successful apprenticeship program as National Group’s future.
Teamwork. For National Group’s Queensland maintenance manager Craig Weller, teamwork explains the company’s success and is the key to its future.
Weller describes his National Group colleagues as his “extended family”. “There are several leaders in our maintenance crew. My job is to support them to do their best work and help develop other maintenance leaders across the business.”
Lots of managers talk about teamwork. Weller lives and breathes it. He knows that servicing a fleet as large as National Group’s requires clockwork precision.
“There are so many moving parts to this job,” says Weller. “We have a large maintenance team working on lots of complex equipment across many sites. A lot is riding on our machines at mines, so they have to do their job consistently well.”
Weller has a big role. He is responsible for National Group workshops in Toowoomba, Emerald, Blackwater and Nebo. He also inspects National Group equipment in Queensland, such as drill rigs, which are rented on a dry-hire basis.
Regular liaison with mine management is another aspect of Weller’s role. “My phone is always on. I’m available for clients 24/7. I usually have monthly meetings with mine management, but if they need something done, I make sure it happens. National Group prides itself on being super responsive for customers and solving problems.”
When required, Weller also provides maintenance support for other National Group companies, such as National Heavy Haulage. Earlier this year, he spent five weeks in NSW helping the maintenance crew get ready for National Group’s new three-year (plus two) mining-services contract at Yancoal’s Moolarben coal mine.
“You go where you are needed,” says Weller. “A feature of National Group’s maintenance crew is that we all work together when the work is on and help each other out.”
Weller has been with National Group for 14 years. A diesel fitter by trade, Weller soon progressed to a supervisory role at the company’s Emerald workshop. Originally from Tasmania, Weller and his family decided to make Emerald their home.
“I love Emerald,” he says. “It’s a great town and very central for me in the Bowen Basin. If I need to go to the Blackwater workshop it’s less than an hour away. If I need to meet clients in the area, I can get to them pretty quickly.”
Weller has watched National Group expand from a small business in 1998 to a nationwide company with hundreds of employees and a blue-chip client base. “As in any cyclical business, there have been highs and lows along the way,” he says. “But National Group just keeps growing and going from strength to strength. It’s a credit to Mark Ackroyd (National Group founder and CEO) and everyone at the company.”
Weller admires Ackroyd’s leadership style. “I joined National Group because of Mark and am still here because of Mark. I like working for a company run by a human being who genuinely cares about his staff. My guess is Mark would know the first name of most people in this business. That’s rare for a company this size.”
National Group’s nimble approach is another advantage, says Weller. “If I need a decision on something, I know I can always call Mark directly and get an answer there and then. The result is the maintenance team can be highly responsive to customer needs because we are not waiting on 10 people to agree on a decision.”
Next generation of leaders
Developing more maintenance staff within National Group is a priority. Weller is closely involved in the company’s apprenticeship program that began in 2020 at its Nebo and Blackwater workshops. “It’s fantastic to hire young people and train them as diesel fitters in the National Group way, from day one. That’s the future for us.”
Weller enjoys helping younger maintenance staff develop new skills. “My job is to support them and help them learn. If I can show them a way to do something better, I will. One of the great things about this team is that we have experienced people who are happy to help those coming through the ranks learn on the job.”
National Group’s professionalism inspires Weller. “It starts at the top because Mark sets high standards that flow throughout the company. Our maintenance team takes huge pride in the product it puts out there for customers. I love that when we do a job, we do it once and get it right. Nobody cuts corners here.”
The 53-year-old Weller says he still looks forward to getting out of bed at 4.30am on weekdays for a 12-hour shift. “Every day is different. The machinery keeps changing, so that keeps you on your toes. Also, the maintenance crew keeps expanding, which means new people to support. There’s such a variety of work across equipment and projects at National Group. It makes my job really interesting.”
Although Weller enjoys managing the Queensland maintenance operations, he can still be found on the tools from time to time. “We have just completed the refurb on two Caterpillar 793D mining trucks and will finish another two this month at Nebo. If the crew needs me to jump in on a machine, I will. That’s part of being a team.”