Fleet purchases headline range of initiatives to drive next chapter of growth.
Contract awards and extensions, and investments in fleet and people, have positioned National Group for continuing strong growth this financial year.
National Group, a leading mining-services company, delivered outstanding growth in 2022-23 after several new contract awards. Highlights include:
- the supply of heavy earthmoving equipment to Anglo American Australia’s open-cut coal mines at its Capcoal operation in Queensland’s Bowen Basin.
- implementation of a three-year contract with Yancoal subsidiary Moolarben Coal in the western coalfields of New South Wales.
- implementation of a surface-mining contract at Newcrest Mining’s Cadia Gold Mine in central NSW.
National Group founder and CEO Mark Ackroyd says these and other contracts have underpinned an exceptional period of growth for the company.
“National Group’s motto of ‘unstoppable’ came to the fore last year,” he says. “We successfully implemented new contracts, expanded our workforce and invested in new and used equipment. Most of all, we continued to do an exceptional job for our clients.”
Ackroyd says National Group has had an encouraging start to 2023-24. The company expects to announce other contract awards and extensions this half.
“Whilst we’re pleased with National Group’s current growth trajectory, our goal is to deliver consistent, sustainable growth over long periods,” says Ackroyd. “Our team is doing a lot of work behind the scenes to make that happen.”
Initiatives include the expansion of National Group’s fleet; the largest recruitment campaign in the company’s history; the implementation of a new Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) strategy; expanded community sponsorships; upgrading of some internal systems; and continued focus on staff development and organisation culture.
“These projects have a common goal,” says Ackroyd. “They’re about ensuring National Group has exceptional foundations to take on more projects; continues to diversify by commodity and geography; and grows with our clients. National Group’s performance provides opportunities to increase our investment in people, processes and fleet.”
Ackroyd, a diesel mechanic by trade, is excited about National Group’s fleet expansion this year. The Gold Coast-based company has one of Australia’s top heavy earthmoving fleets, with up to 400 pieces of equipment.
In the past 6 months, National Group has delivered a Hitachi EX5600-7 excavator, Liebherr R 9800 excavator, CAT 793 dump trucks, CAT 777G water cart, CAT D11 dozers, Cat 785 water carts and Hitachi ZX490 excavators to projects.
Other equipment deliveries include CAT 775G service trucks, CAT 998K wheel loaders, a CAT D9T dozer, a CAT 160M grader and Isuzu 8×4 water trucks. Much of this equipment is supporting National Group’s new contracts.
Ackroyd says the fleet investment is part of National Group’s strategy to use mostly tier-one equipment with a lower average age. Energy efficiency is another focus. “We’re pleased with the size, range and quality of our fleet,” he says. “Our data shows the fleet continues to perform well in terms of reliability and output.”
He expects to further expand National Group’s fleet this year. “It’s not easy getting good equipment at a reasonable price in this market, due to demand and ongoing global supply constraints. But we’ve been able to leverage the company’s networks and expertise in equipment sales to serve our clients’ equipment needs.”
Growth in National Group’s workforce was another highlight of 2022-23 and a continuing focus for this financial year. The company expects to increase its workforce by a third in the next 18 months (to around 300 people) as new contracts ramp up.
That includes a recruitment drive for National Group’s Bowen Basin operations, as the company looks to recruit dozens of maintenance employees to service fleets in Blackwater.
“It’s an ongoing challenge recruiting experienced staff in a tight labour market,” says Ackroyd. “But we continue to attract good people because they know National Group is a great place to work and that we provide opportunities to work around Australia.”
Ackroyd says investment in maintenance staff is a long-term focus. National Group wants to develop more maintenance staff internally, including apprentices. The company has expanded its successful apprenticeship program in the last few years and has this year placed apprentices on-site at mines.
“National Group’s maintenance team is the best in the business,” says Ackroyd. “We are leveraging that capability to develop more people internally and help them build successful maintenance careers at National Group.”
Greater use of full-time employees and less use of contractors on projects is another goal, says Ackroyd. “Our company prides itself on service quality and customer responsiveness and teamwork. That’s best achieved by having long-serving employees who understand and contribute to our company’s vision and values.”
Diversity is an ongoing focus of National Group’s recruitment strategy. The company continues to recruit more women in maintenance and project administration, including on-site roles. “We want more women in more roles across the company, including female apprentices in our workshops and on-site,” says Ackroyd.
Another highlight from 2022-23 was implementing the National Group Sustainability Strategy and roadmap. The strategy formalises National Group’s sustainability work and provides a framework to build on its ESG initiatives.
“The sustainability strategy takes National Group’s ESG work to a new level,” says Ackroyd. “We’ve made a significant long-term commitment to ESG within mining services and the mining industry generally. ESG is a key issue for our company.”
Developed through stakeholder consultation and industry research, the sustainability strategy puts a framework around National Group’s existing work in environmental performance, corporate social responsibility, risk management and governance.
The strategy includes Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), measures ESG performance against local and international benchmarks and frameworks, sets sustainability goals and identifies sustainability-related initiatives.
As part of this strategy, National Group is expanding its work in community partnerships this financial year. The company has sponsored more community events in the past few years in mining towns and other remote areas. National Group has also provided financial and in-kind support for Indigenous organisations.
“Where we can, we want to help communities where our people live and work,” says Ackroyd. “A focus for this financial year is expanding our support to health-related charities, including those involved in mental health and domestic violence.”
Ackroyd says another priority this financial year is building on National Group’s enduring strength: its organisation culture. “Our success is based on being customer-focused, collaborative, agile and innovative. That’s part of our DNA.”
As a successful mining-services entrepreneur (and high-school dropout), Ackroyd understands the challenges of turning small ventures into large companies. “We want to offer our clients the best of both worlds; the resources, systems and compliance of a large organisation, with the innovation and speed of an entrepreneurial firm.”
Founded in 1997, National Group now ranks in the top 50 private companies in Queensland and top 300 in Australia.
Ackroyd says the best indication of National Group’s culture is its long-serving employees. “Many of our staff have worked here for years or decades. They’ve learned new skills, had opportunities for diverse work experiences, and grown their career as National Group has grown. There’s a lot of camaraderie in our team.”
As National Group embarks on another big financial year, Ackroyd can still be found visiting clients on site, inspecting new machines and ensuring he knows each staff member by name. “For me, business has always been about having talented employees who are customer-focused. Consistently doing a good job is what ultimately leads to new contracts and sustainable growth.”
 Based on Courier Mail report, “State’s highest-earning private businesses,”. Sep 2019. Ranked by annual revenue.
 Based on IBISWorld list, ‘The Top 500 Private Companies 2022. September 2022.