Powering Ahead: LK Diesel Service

Providing diesel engine solutions to empower businesses across the country, LK Diesel Service is a family-owned dealership that credits its success to quality products and the dedication and commitment of its staff. JACKIE JOY reports.

BUSINESS: LK Diesel Service
PRINCIPALS: Michael and Bernard Kuhlwind
LOCATION: Braeside, VIC 
WEBSITE: www.lkdiesel.com.au

Based in Braeside, Victoria, LK Diesel Service is an award-winning dealership that supplies and services high-quality industrial diesel engines, generators and pump sets including, but not limited to mining, rail, construction and agriculture both within Australia and the Asia/Pacific rim. 

The pandemic has exposed vulnerabilities in the supply chain and no one understands that better than the team at LK Diesel Service. 

In conversation for this feature, the dealership’s managing director Michael Kuhlwind, more popularly known as Mike, admits that these are “very busy and challenging times”. 

“Supply of stock has been the most difficult aspect of the business. There was a time when we could just order on the phone and the products would be readily available. That is no longer the case,” said Mike who took time out of his busy schedule to take us through LK Diesel Service’s journey this far.

THE BEGINNING

In 1967, LK Diesel Service began as a partnership between Lloyd Lang and Ted Kuhlwind – the L and K of LK Diesel Service Pty Ltd. They were situated in a small workshop in Racecourse Road, Newmarket, Victoria, Australia.

Ted was employed by Ansair, a part of Ansett, who were the Magirus Deutz truck dealers in Victoria. When Ansair moved to Essendon Airport, Ted took over their former workshop.

Lloyd, who was a field engineer with Deutz Australia, joined shortly after. Ted, who came to Australia in 1956 as a specialist in Magirus Deutz trucks, a large German company, continued to look after trucks with service, parts and at a later stage with the assembly and sales of these vehicles.

Lloyd concentrated on service, repairs and sales of engines for irrigation, construction, mining, generators and many other applications, specialising in Deutz engines.

Lorna, Ted’s wife, managed the accounts and in 1970 she was joined by Dotty, Lloyd’s wife who took over the accounts and Lorna moved into parts, which she still manages today. In the same year, LK Diesel Service was registered as a company.

ALL IN THE FAMILY

The family-owned and family-run business is currently spearheaded by Mike and his younger brother Bernard Kuhlwind, who is also a managing director in the business. Incidentally, it was in 1979 that Mike started working at the dealership, under his father, Ted’s wings, as an apprentice diesel mechanic. 

He now steers the sales department as well as looks after the workshop, service requirements etc. “I was going to be a farmer but decided on joining the family business instead and became an apprentice,” reminisces Mike who has worked hard to reach where he is today.

He is ably assisted by Bernard, who joined the business in 1988, and now manages dealership’s administration and is the in-house IT guru. 

Mike’s wife Sharon works with the team in despatch section as well as in the parts store. 

In 1999, Bernard’s son, Chris, joined the family business as an apprentice diesel mechanic. He completed his apprenticeship in 2003 and continued to work as a mechanic until 2008. Chris then moved into the parts department, where he now works.

“We currently have three generations working together. The beginning of our fourth generation, Thomas Kuhlwind, was born in 2012,” said Mike.

THE TURNING POINTS

In 1984, Deutz Australia Pty Ltd offered LK Diesel a dealership in Melbourne. In 1989, they moved the business to Audsley Street, Clayton, Victoria and took up residence in the same building as Deutz Australia. 

1992 was a big year at LK Diesel Service. Lloyd and Dotty Lang decided to retire and Ted and Lorna’s three sons, Michael, Bernard and Ralph acquired the Lang’s interest in the company.

“Our move to Clayton suited us very well until the end of 1993. Once again, we found ourselves in the position of having to move as the building we were in was sold. By now we had grown into a sizable and successful company so it was decided that we needed a larger, modern, purpose-built building to allow for our continued growth,” Mike said.

The building, in the heart of the Woodlands Industrial Estate in Braeside, Victoria was completed in early 1994 and now houses a dedicated team of 19 people.

Apart from being an award-winning Kubota dealership, LK Diesel Service are also dealers for Deutz, Hatz, Kohler Diesel (incorporating Lombardini and Ruggerini), and Mann Filters.

They became a Kubota Power Centre in 2000. They are also the leading Deutz dealer in Australia and the top Kubota Power Centre in Victoria.

As a certified Kubota dealer, LK Diesel Service can deliver engines and parts from Melbourne to just about anywhere in Australia.

A WIDE SELECTION OF PRODUCTS

Apart from superior and high-performance industrial diesel engines, parts, and components, LK Diesel Service supplies a wide selection of diesel generators, hand-selected by their team to deliver the highest level of service excellence, for sale to Melbourne businesses and beyond. Capable of generating a large amount of electricity, the range of durable generators are sourced from renowned manufacturers for the highest level of customer satisfaction.

In addition to offering an expansive range of diesel-powered generators, the team at LK Diesel Service also offer a selection of diesel engine parts in Australia. With a range of components, any generator malfunction can be repaired by the team. Sourced from the best manufacturers, the diesel engine parts have been tested and inspected to guarantee that they meet Australian standards across all industries.

Committed to delivering a comprehensive set of diesel-powered services and solutions to their customers and clients across multiple industries, LK Diesel Service takes great pride in the quality of their products. To ensure that the job is completed to specification, they offer superior diesel pumps across Australia that can easily be used for irrigation and other purposes. 

SPECIALISED SERVICE 

LK Diesel Service is very much involved with repairing and overhauling industrial and commercial engines as well as supplying service exchange units for the mining, rail, construction, building and agricultural industries including field servicing at any location. Service calls, we are told, take their personnel to places such as Papua New Guinea, Fiji, as well as every state and territory of Australia.

They operate a well-equipped workshop, which includes an engine dynometer, bead blaster, overhead crane, welding facilities, spray booth etc. From time to time, they have assisted with overhauls and repairs to marine engines up to 10,000 hp. They are also able to design and build to customer specifications, equipment for agricultural and industrial purposes such as irrigation pumps and generating sets. 

Since their inception, they have been overhauling, repairing and installing many Deutz Sprinter train engines for V/Line Maintenance Pty Ltd as well as doing on-site repairs as required.

They have commissioned MTU engines in 50 railcars for Clyde Engineering for the South Australian Railways and have serviced and repaired power packs of just about every make. They have also dealt with Mercedes Benz Industrial (MTU) engines, rail cars, Atlas Coco compressors, underground drill rigs and other construction equipment.

LK Diesel Service is able to offer their customers, both large and small, the ability to satisfy any requirements promptly and efficiently, whether it is in their modern well-fitted out workshop, advice over the telephone or on-site anywhere that their customers may be.

They also offer customised training seminars for mechanics to suit individual requirements as they have done in the past for mining companies on-site in Papua New Guinea.

KEEPING CUSTOMERS HAPPY

Having built a successful dealership, we ask Mike what it takes to please customers in their business. “Customers are always a priority and their needs are very important to us. We have built strong relationships over the years and we do our best to match their demands,” said Mike. 

He credits his family and staff for always going out of their way to give their best to the business. Teamwork, he admits, is most important for keeping customers happy and for a successful business.

BUSINESS IN TIMES OF A PANDEMIC

With regular lockdowns, restrictions and irregular supplies, COVID-19 has made the last year a challenging one for many. While there are always challenges in business, according to Mike, the hardest one is finding staff. “We are always looking for experienced hands but hiring in a pandemic comes with a lot of uncertainty as well,” said Mike.

“For a business to survive in such unpredictable times, it’s also very important to be adaptable. We have managed to do that and it has proved beneficial,” said Mike. 

IS E-COMMERCE THE WAY AHEAD?

Post COVID-19, the way we conduct business and the manner in which customers shop is already changing. While LK Diesel Service has an exhaustive line-up of products on its website, Mike shares that in their experience, online shopping is yet to become the preferred way. “At LK Diesel Service, face-to-face contact will always be a priority as well as communication via emails as that’s how most of our orders come in. We have built a strong reputation in the industry and clients are comfortable reaching out to us via phone or email,” said Mike.