21 May 2020 ·

A healthy mix of automation and knowing your customer base helps H2Flow grow their business

H2 Flow

Creating a business that is reliable, does the job and over delivers is the cornerstone of every good customer-based business. Over the past 15 years, H2Flow has been testament to these ideals, building a leading water truck services and dry hire business in Brisbane.

We recently spoke with Scott Beioley, H2Flow Business Partner and Director of Operations, to have a chat about the COVID-19 pandemic and also obtain some sage advice on how to run a successful business. 

Hi Scott, can you give us a bit of background about your business and the size of your fleet?

H2Flow is a water carrier and dry hire water truck services business based in Brisbane with 61 employees. We currently run operations down to South East QLD and Northern NSW. 

Our wet hire business delivers water to residential, construction, gardening and commercial suppliers including road works, highway upgrades as well as federal and state government tier 1 projects. We’re also the sole water truck services provider to Brisbane City Council, keeping the city gardens and plants watered, usually at night when the populated areas are free of people.

Our dry hire business offers a truck rental and equipment hire service supplying to the civil, horticultural, construction industries, in addition to local councils. 

Hino is our preferred truck supplier and we currently operate 35 Hino trucks. In the last two years we have only purchased Hino trucks from Sci-Fleet Hino, using a range of smaller 300 Series 616 short auto’s, along with the 500 Series Wide Cab 2632 and up to the heavy-duty Hino 700 Series. Most of our larger trucks are primarily Hino. 

We’ve found the dealer support at Sci-Fleet Hino excellent and they make it easy to buy and manage our fleet. 

H2 Flow Team

How has your business grown to being the size it is today?

We purchased H2Flow 15 years ago from a small operator who had three trucks initially. Myself and two business partners (Paul Ryan and Mark Broekman) sat down and did some research on water trucks and why it was important. The science was telling us QLD was only going to get dryer over time and water was going to become a scarce commodity. We also found there was a number of competitors in the industry but they weren’t reliable and only small operators. We created a business that was first and foremost reliable, delivers on time and exceeds customer expectations. 

We operate on 3 business principles:

  • Knowing and understanding your costs.
  • Understanding your customers.
  • Overdelivering to those customers.

As word got around, we started to grow and from then on we have kept those same principles and built the business to be strictly process driven based around leading edge automation systems. Everything is online and in the cloud, all our staff use tablets or their phones for every job to ensure efficiency, immediacy, and minimise the need for additional administration.

It’s critical for our clients to know where our truck drivers are and our telematics software can regenerate any day for any truck. We don’t need logbooks anymore because of the automation. 

We also have a great company culture with an engaged team who come along for the journey. We regularly survey our customers and get great feedback about all our staff. 

A few years ago I had an angry client at the council call me, he was upset that we did the job so quickly compared to his internal staff member (who previously did the job). What his employee did in two days, we did in half a day. He was angry as he thought we didn’t do the job properly, but with our efficiency and right equipment we did it quicker and more efficiently and could move to the next job. He then understood how we did it once I explained what had happened, and has kept using us to this day. 

How has COVID-19 affected your business?

COVID-19 has been a challenge for all of us and H2Flow Hire is no exception. We were lucky to not have to close down as water and construction are both classified as essential services.

We very quickly implemented a strategy around the pandemic. This included: 

  • Our VoIP phone system and cloud computing made it simple to allow our administration staff to work from home. As of May, they still are!
  • We have a daily catch-up meeting on Microsoft teams.
  • We moved all Wet Hire trucks to one depot and limited access to 5 drivers and trucks at a time.
  • We split the mechanics between two depots – Sumner and Beenleigh.
  • We implemented a thorough cleaning regime.
  • We maximised government assistance and minimised all costs.

With such a large amount of trucks, how do you enhance fleet efficiency?

The reason we have only purchased Hino trucks in the last few years is down to cost, reliability and the experience of the dealership. We’ve found that Hino trucks are by far more cost effective than other truck suppliers.

We also have a strict maintenance regime and at the moment there are 4 in-house mechanics who look after all our small vehicles and we outsource our large vehicle maintenance. It’s all automated through our Plant Coordinator. We plan one month ahead on all our vehicles to ensure we know what is coming up and what work needs to be undertaken on what truck. We can’t risk having a truck off the road for long periods of time. 

Our drivers do a great job as they know what is expected of them. They have a list of 14 items they need to check at the start and end of the day to ensure the truck is safe and our Operations Supervisor then regularly audits pre-starts each week to ensure they are being performed correctly. 

Automation is a huge part of the overall business operations. We don’t miss a due service and regularly have our mechanics do an inspection on the trucks to ensure it is in optimal operating condition. 

What are four tips you would give to a small business wanting to grow?

  1. We run by an old saying, unless you can measure it you can’t manage it. Everything is measurable and therefore manageable. 
  2. Know your customer and make sure you form a strong relationship. Knock on doors and spend time talking to the customers and understand their needs. 
  3. Efficiency through innovation, process and automation. All businesses are big enough for critical automation processes. It takes time to implement but the long-term results pay off.  
  4. Find an edge over your competitors. Is it through innovation? Is it through finding a better way internally and making your product more efficient for the customer and the business? Find an edge. 

What does the future hold for H2Flow?

We have a rule of business, unless it keeps growing it will eventually shrivel and die. We are planning for the future by expanding our footprint in QLD and ensure we fully own the market segment plus look at new market opportunities.

Thanks for your time Scott!