WHEN YOU GET IT THIS RIGHT, DON’T MESS WITH THE RECIPE
Every family has that one special, secret recipe that’s handed down through the generations – everyone changing it up a bit as they go.
But when it comes to T&S Roadworks, it seems the Argyropoulos’s got the mix exactly right from the get-go.
Peter Argyropoulos and his two younger brothers, Michael and Stan, currently manage and run the family business, originally named for their parents, Tony and Sophie, who started it 30 years ago.
“Me and Michael, we’re moving things forward,” Peter says. “Dad’s semi-retired at the moment. So, he still comes in and gives us a bit of a hand – plays an active role. But he lets us manage the business as we think we should.”
The Argyropoulos name has been a mainstay of the Australian earthmoving industry since Peter’s grandfather moved the family out from Greece half a century ago.
“My grandfather started off in the industry back in the early seventies,” Peter says. “From there we evolved into purchasing excavators and working with the DMR and, later on, the RTA and Road and Maritime Services. These days we work mostly with Transport for New South Wales and tier 1 & 2 Contractors.”
As the preferred contractors for TfNSW (Regional NSW), DM Roads & Downer Group, T&S Roadworks’ crews are kept busy most nights, taking care of road maintenance and ensuring they’re safe for users in the morning.
“We’ve always got various projects going on. Every night we’re in different locations,” Peter says. “So, we tend to look at it as ‘What zones have we got going at the moment?’ Lately, we’re looking after all the maintenance for Sydney’s west and north zones.”
At 26, Peter has already clocked up a lifetime of experience in the industry.
“We were all born into it. I was about four or five weeks old when I was sitting under the desk,” Peter laughs. “Later they bought this little excavator – just a toy one. They’d sit me up on the stockpile and let me play all day.”
Having known their path early on in life, each of the Argyropoulos boys made the decision to officially enter the business upon turning 16.
“It definitely wasn’t a forced thing – it was what we wanted,” Peter explains. “So, once we finished year 10, we each came on board and worked our way up through the ranks – washing machines and all that. We still go out there and help the guys wash the machines and trucks. I like playing that active role and helping each other out. It goes a long way.”
This sense of family tradition and loyalty even extends to their choice of equipment.
“Our first Kobelco was purchased in late 1989 – the K907,” Peter recalls. “From then on, we’ve always stuck with Kobelco. Later, in the early 2000s, when the SK135 Zero Swings first came into the picture, we purchased two of them. Now one’s retired and the other’s semi-retired,” he laughs.
The family’s love affair with Kobelco excavators began when Tony and his father Peter were working on the Sydney M4 Motorway.
“My grandfather, he’d seen some Kobelco excavators out on a site they were working on,” Peter recalls. “One of the operators said to him ‘Come and have a try – see what you think’. He just loved it.”
Over the years, plenty of reps have tried to convince them to switch to another manufacturer’s machine, but they never stood a chance.
“We’ve had lots of brands come out and say ‘Just try it’. And we say ‘Thanks, but no thanks’. You just don’t know what you’re walking into,” Peter explains. “With Kobelco, whether you’re in a 907 or a brand new Dash 7, it’s like operating a very similar machine. Even though they’ve revamped it and modernized the cab – and it’s got great features – everything still falls into place. It’s a very familiar environment.”
At Peter’s count, the T&S Kobelco fleet currently stands at seven machines.
As Peter explains, there are three main types of boom. “You’ve got the monoboom, knuckle boom and then offset boom,” he says. “The monoboom is like a conventional excavator boom, where it’s all one piece and then goes into your dipper arm.”
Considering the types of jobs the business takes on, there are a few advantages to choosing this type of machine.
“You get more power out of a monoboom excavator than a two-piece. It’s also really hardwearing,” Peter explains. “We do a lot of hammering with our slab replacement and concrete works – we always need to run rock breakers. So, having booms that can withstand hours of rock breaking is important. Also maximising the power because a lot of our work is time critical. We’ll often start work at, say, 10pm. Then, by midnight, I’ve got to have the hole dug out and filled back in with concrete. It needs to work like clockwork. Otherwise, If I’m off the road late the repercussions are enormous.”
Peter’s also a big fan of the SK135SR-7 machines.
“That’s an awesome bit of equipment – I absolutely love that machine,”
Peter shares. “Just the way Kobelco has designed and evolved it – you no longer feel like you’re sitting in an excavator, you’re sitting in a luxury car or truck. With the air operated seats, cameras all the way around, the air-conditioned cabin, the controls and joysticks – it’s just very, very safe and comfortable.”
As a result, he’s always pretty keen to take one out for a spin.
“Every few nights I’ll go out and operate. I like to be hands-on. It projects the right image,” Peter says. “Our clients prefer that we’re out on site, supervising and taking part in the project. It takes the stress off them – they know they’ve consulted with us and we’re the same people that are going to be with them through the whole job.”
Speaking of image, Peter feels their Kobelco fleet also helps T&S Roadworks look the business.
“It’s a refined piece of equipment. You sort of want to keep it clean,” he laughs. “And, look, image is important to us. Our trucks are always clean, polished and schmick when they go out to work. We’re out there doing specialised services. We need to be a cut above the rest. That’s why we always revamp our fleet and buy new equipment. It gives us that confidence – and it gives our clients that confidence – that we take pride in what we do.”
Anyone would agree that a business is only as good as its people. For T&S Roadworks that includes their suppliers.
“We deal with Sydney Trucks and Machinery. And, actually, it was Peter Moore who sold us our first excavator,” Peter says. “So not only have we been purchasing from the same brand for 38 years, but we’ve also dealt with the same salesperson that whole time. I don’t know too many other businesses that still deal with the same salesman that sold their grandfather his first machine. So, we have that relationship with Peter where you ring up and say ‘Pete, we’re looking to buy an excavator – what can you do?’ and he knows exactly what we need.”
For the Argyropoulos family, their choice to stick with Kobelco is simply a case of knowing when you’re onto a good thing.
“They’re just a great machine. Very, very reliable,” Peter says. “You can work them hard but, for small detail stuff, they’re very refined compared with other manufacturers. I do believe every machine has its application, but I think people go with the Kobelco because it’s a trusted brand and a proven brand – in Australia and around the world.”
It’s the same story with their choice of attachments; why switch, when you’ve found something that works?
“We’ve always stuck with GroundTec equipment and the Rammer Hammers,” Peter shares. “We have a great relationship with Wolfgang and the team over there. He’s good at what he does. We’ll even call him about our other purchases – even if it has nothing to do with a hammer. Honestly, I wouldn’t even look anywhere else. We’ve tried other brands, but they just don’t work the same. And these pair up with the Kobelco so well.”
For buckets they run between ECH and Salmon Buckets. “They’re robust,” Peter explains. “With other buckets, it puts a lot of wear and tear on them. But we’ve been very happy with those attachments.”
Which is important when you specialise in concrete pavement replacements.
“We work on the major Sydney arterial roads,” Peter says. “So, when they’re fatigued, cracked or at their end of their life, we go out overnight remove and replace sections of concrete pavement with fast setting high early strength concrete. So, within four hours, you can have B-doubles running over the slab.”
When your work is that time-sensitive, maintenance is essential for keeping things ticking over.
“We’ve got an in-house maintenance division that looks after all our machines, trucks and equipment,” says Peter. “That’s led by my younger brother – he looks after all of that and he’s got it down to a T. We’ve also got some mechanics in there giving him a hand to service all the equipment and make sure it’s all up and running – it has to be ready to go out to work every night.”
They also keep plenty of spare parts on hand, even though Peter reckons they hardly ever use them.
“We’ve actually had incidences where other contractors have called us and said, ‘We’ve broken our hammer hose, can we come and take one off one of your machines?’ And we’ll tell them ‘We’ve got a spare one. Here, take it’. I mean, this could be at 9pm, midnight or even 4am,” Peter laughs. “And, again, this is why a lot of people go with Kobelco. I mean, we’ve got four 13 tonners, so if something happens to one of them, I can take a hose off one and put it on the other and get my job done. You’ve got that flexibility.”
Even beyond that commitment to using only top-notch equipment, it’s clear the secret sauce behind T&S Roadworks’ success is the fact it’s a genuine family business.
“We all put in 110%,” Peter shares. “We’re all here for the same cause, you know. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. We stick together through thick and thin. I think that’s why we’ve been so successful. It’s why we’re good at what we do.”
Even outside of work, Peter says they spend most of their time as a family. “We’ll go away camping together and we’ve got a little hobby farm that we all go and enjoy. But work is definitely a big part of our lives.”
No doubt, it helps to have a clear mission that gets everyone on the same page.
“At the end of the day, our main goals is to make Sydney’s road networks safer for the general public and make it efficient for the contractors that are doing the works,” Peter explains. “That’s very important – to do a job that’s time critical or specialised, but at the same time make it cost-effective.”
Looking towards the future, while expansion is always an option, Peter says the Argyropouloses are pretty happy with their lot.
“Sydney is growing, as is our industry, but right now we can control the business. That’s something our family has always had,” Peter explains. “The problem is, when you do expand, so often quality goes out the window. Safety goes out the window. You don’t know where your crews are and what they’re doing. With us, we’re on hand – we have that bird’s eye view of everything.”
At the end of the day, Peter’s vision for the business is simple. “We just want to continue doing what we do,” he says. “I believe we offer a great service in Sydney and Regional NSW. Our clients are happy. I think we just want to keep going as long as we can.”
We reckon they’ve got that one ticked.
Written by Australian Earthmoving Magazine.