In 1898, a hard-working, young blacksmith decided to test his luck on the Kalgoorlie goldfields. But Johann Karl Wilhelm Ahrens, better known as Wilhelm, became seriously ill with typhoid fever and was forced to return home to the Barossa Valley with his wife, Alma, and their two young children. Wilhelm rented a barn where he set up a blacksmith shop, offering basic services such as shoeing horses to the local farmers. On 5 April 1906, Wilhelm borrowed 100 pounds from Alma's father to purchase a cottage and blacksmith shop on three acres of land at Sheaoak Log in the Barossa Valley, South Australia. This was the beginning of Ahrens.
THE EARLY DAYS
For the first 50 years of Ahrens, Wilhelm and his son, Bill, ran a blacksmith shop at Sheaoak Log in the Barossa Valley, South Australia. During this time, the business experienced many changes, including the introduction of motorised vehicles and power tools and tractors replacing horses for transport and farm work. In the 1960s, Bill’s son, Bob, joined the company and three generations of the family worked sided by side for the next few years. In 1964, Bob's wife, Marj, joined the business and under their leadership the company began to show real signs of progress. Bob was an entrepreneurial engineer and grew the business by extending its product range to include grain silos, field bins, rural sheds and stone and land rollers.
In the late 1970s, Ahrens began fabricating its own structural steel at the Sheaoak Log workshop. Construction work in the Northern Territory, as well as projects for the local wine industry, gave the business a strong foundation and it quickly established a reputation as a cost-effective supplier of steel buildings. Bob and Marj’s son, Stefan, started working for Ahrens in 1988 and was appointed Managing Director in 1995. In 1998, Ahrens acquired the silo manufacturing and distribution businesses of Sherwell in South Australian and Victoria and in 2002 it acquired Webster's Silos in Queensland. In 2003, Ahrens bought M&S Steel Buildings and established a second steel fabrication and construction base in Queensland. Ahrens Agri division now has a footprint of six primary manufacturing facilities in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, as well as a satellite operation in Tasmania. More recent Agri acquisitions include MPH Rural’s silo operations in Toowoomba, Queensland and Gilgandra, New South Wales in 2010, Jaeschke Silos in Tarranyurk, Victoria in 2011, and Pioneer Water Tanks in Perth, Western Australia in 2015.
As well as expanding the Agri business over the last decade, Stefan has transformed the business from a steel fabricator and shed builder to a national construction, engineering and mining services company specialising in design and construct projects. In 2003, Ahrens opened a Brisbane office and a Materials Handling office in Toowoomba in 2005. The growth of the construction business continued with the acquisition of Allbuilt Constructions in Darwin in 2006, and the opening of a Perth office in 2008. Today, the business has the advantage of sourcing steel from its own steel fabrication facilities which have been extended with the addition of a semi-automated shot blast and paintline and a world-class Custom Engineered Building line. We provide steel for the majority of our projects, supplemented by overseas fabricators through our Global Procurement office in China, which was established in 2010.
In 2006, Ahrens celebrated 100 years in business. This was preceded by the launch of a new logo and culminated in several major events, including a formal dinner at the Adelaide Convention Centre and a family day at Sheaoak Log. We also released a book 'A Century of Change' to commemorate the occasion. The book captures the stories and successes of the Ahrens' family and business over 100 years.
To support our expansion into providing non-process infrastructure, residential refurbishment and maintenance services to the mining and oil and gas sectors, Ahrens purchased Mahon’s Asset Management, in Newman, Western Australia in 2010. In 2012, we acquired Olympic Dam Precision Engineering in Roxby Downs, a machining and fabrication business and expanded this by merging it with Sandvik services which were acquired in late 2013. we further extended our specialist maintenance and engineering services after acquiring Barossa Engineering Services in Nuriootpa in 2014 and Savannah Engineers in Western Australia in 2015. Through a combination of organic growth and acquisitions, Ahrens is now a leading provider construction, engineering and mining services to the mining and oil and gas industry in several key locations, including the Pilbara, Western Australia; Olympic Dam, South Australia; Darwin, Northern Territory; and the Surat and Bowen Basins, Queensland.