How Midwest Fabrication, a Queensland-based manufacturer of grain harvesting equipment, grew from building the first machine for their own farm to gaining national recognition for their products in just over two decades is the material great Aussie success stories are made of.
Martin Schutt, a second-generation grain farmer, started Midwest on his family farm north of Moonie in Queensland. After purchasing his first combine harvester in 1998, Martin was frustrated with the performance of the imported cutting platforms and thought he could improve the design to gain better efficiencies in the field.
Starting from a basic sketch drawn around the kitchen table, the Schutt family were able to develop their first cutting platform in the workshop and test it in the field. The platform soon received national recognition from the contract harvesting community for its simple and efficient design. Orders started pouring in forcing the business to relocate to Dalby to be able to meet the increasing demands.
The company is renowned for its innovation winning multiple awards including Best New Innovation Award, Best Australian Agricultural Machine, Best Manufacturing Business and Business of the Year.
Martin says Midwest was the first manufacturer in the world to build a 12 metre (40 ft) front in 1998, and the 15 metre fronts followed a decade later. The advancements in innovation continue to set the standards and benchmark leading the world in grain harvesting technology now producing a whopping 18.3 metre (60 ft) harvest front, another world first.
But Midwest Fabrication’s innovations did not stop there. Over the years, the company has grown its range of draper platforms to suit different applications and fit all major combine harvester brands. Additionally, the company also produces a wide range of accessories and spare parts for its cutting platforms, including cutting knives specially designed for Australian farming conditions.
Midwest’s sole goal is to help increase harvesting efficiency for farmers and contact harvesters while reducing overheads and running costs. The wider drapers mean customers are working their harvesters to maximum capacity, saving time, fuel costs and receiving better return on their investments.
Midwest Fabrication has built a highly successful Australia wide dealer network consisting of 92 agricultural dealers supporting its products nationally and are currently in the process of developing a one-acre factory in Dalby to bring its engineering and manufacturing facilities under one roof.
Martin believes such a rapid growth by a family business would not have been possible without dedication to continuous improvement and innovation.
“It’s only through constant improvement and being innovative that we’ve been able to achieve what we have achieved. Ever since we built our first unit, we’ve been up against some of the largest global agricultural machinery manufacturers; but through constant innovation, we’ve been able to remain ahead of the competition.
Over the past 16 years, Midwest Fabrication has been working with CBC Australia – as the largest supplier of bearings and industrial parts in Australia – to source components for its in-house designed products.
Martin says the collaboration with CBC has enabled Midwest Fabrication to refine its products further, making them more efficient and durable.
“We are continually improving the mechanical design of our products. In one example, CBC helped us replace the original four-band ‘B’ type v-belts on the main drive with the Gates high-strength Predator® belts, and more recently we improved the design again and introduced the Gates Polychain® carbon belts, providing a more efficient, quieter and cooler running drive belt.”
Warren Beale, CBC’s Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) Manager for Queensland, says apart from being a key supplier, CBC also offers engineering and design supports to Midwest Fabrication where required.
“After so many years of working with Midwest Fabrication and holding regular meetings to understand their requirements, we now have a very clear understanding of the products they need each harvest season. This allows CBC to maintain the right stock level for Midwest Fabrication to meet its requirements when their demand is at its peak.
“Additionally, we also help them with engineering support and application-specific information. This might be helping with product improvements as it was in the case of the Gates Polychain belt upgrades or suggesting alternative components to make the designs lighter and more efficient,” he says.
Commenting on winning the Gold prize for Motion Asia Pacific’s Let’s Roll: Australian Business Awards 2020, Martin says the win is a result of hard work put forward by the team, as much as a result of engineering excellence and innovation.
“This award is also a recognition of our staff’s skills, their dedication to the business and their pride in their workmanship. If not for them, we would not be here today,” says Martin.
“As business owners, it is easy to get lost in the day-to-day running and focussing on keeping the wheels turning and not celebrate the successes when they come along. This recognition is a great reminder for us to reflect on what we have built over the years from that sketch around the kitchen table, our significant growth, and the exciting future ahead of Midwest.”