A BREAKTHROUGH contract with one of Mexico's biggest sugar groups was just the boost Bundaberg Walkers needed in the face of falling sugar prices.

Bundaberg Walkers general manager Enio Troiani said the contract was worth about $3.5 million and would provide about 10 staff with assured work for a year.

Forced to downsize staff numbers at the end of last year, the contact has the potential to be a major windfall for the engineering firm.

With a history of hiring local subcontractors as needed, the flow-on effects could also be felt across the community.

"We design, manufacture and we install specialised sugar mill equipment all over the world," Mr Troiani said.

"About half of our revenue comes from Australia and the other half comes from all different countries around the world.

"Normally we get a lot of our overseas work in the Asian region - Thailand, Indonesia, those sorts of places.

"But recently we've picked up a significant amount of work - for us - from Mexico and Central America."

Mr Troiani said while the region was one they had dealt with in the past, traditionally the competition from South America was fairly high and they didn't normally supply big projects to that area.

"So we're very happy to be in a position now to have broken through with a local group - a group who are probably one of the bigger groups in Mexico," he said.

"They have eight sugar factories and we are supplying two factories with some significant equipment for the end of this year.

"We're working very hard to make a good impression, to deliver on time and make sure that they're happy so when they're ready to expand their other factories they'll come back to us."

Mr Troiani said while the contract wasn't the biggest, it could be just the catalyst for more work and for now would keep existing staff in work.

"In terms of the size of contract it's not a major contract. We typically turn over $30-$40 million a year. This contract for us is worth around $3.5 million," he said.

"In terms of what it means for us - last year the sugar price was very low. The consequence of that was that all of our normal customers have pulled back from their expansion or upgrade plans.

"So we were going through a period during the second half of last year, where we were very quiet. We reduced our workforce a little bit. Normally we operate between 100 and 120 people, by the end of last year we were down to about 85.

"That's not something any of us like so the sales guys especially were working overtime to try to dredge out any job at all that would bring work into the shop.

"So when you put it in that perspective this job is going to bring about 15,000 hours of work into the workshop, which I guess you could say is like giving 10 people assured work for a year.

"If we hadn't got that project then our options would have been to probably reduce the workforce."

This contract involves upgrading four ex-government owned sugar mills for a private company and bringing them to up to a modern standard.

"We buy sheets of steel plate... we cut them up... weld them, machine them, heat treat them, assemble and ship them off and go over there and put them together," Mr Troiani said.

"The impact on us is significant but that's only half the value of the job.

"But there'll also a significant outside effect. We're buying some local components. We subcontract some of the work out.

"Our speciality here is welding big heavy parts. A lot of the smaller, more intricate parts we subcontract out and our preference is always to subcontract out locally.

"It's more convenient and very cost-effective."

Mr Troiani said Bundaberg Walkers had made a commitment to deliver its top quality product work deadline, with the aim of putting them in a position to grow the company's reputation and secure more work across the region.



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