Smart Fabrication, a fast-growing engineering and specialist steel fabrication company headquartered in Port Adelaide, won the Business Transformation Award at the recently-held Endeavour Awards.
Operating across two sites, Smart Fabrication services a variety of industries including oil and gas, water, defence, civil and mining and is capable of planning, designing, constructing and installing a wide range of steel and aluminium solutions to these industries.
Business growth over the last 15 years has strained the company’s cash flow, its personnel, business systems and processes, technology, infrastructure, equipment and even the facilities that it operated out of.
The industries Smart Fabrication has serviced has grown from wool in 1999, to include mining, then automotive, then civil, then defence, then water, then oil and gas. Its workforce progressed from one in 1999 to 10 in 2003, 16 (2007), 52 (2012), and 65 (this year).
Smart Fabrication has transformed the business by up-skilling its staff (from the shop floor all the way up to the managing director), diversifying and responding rapidly to changing market conditions, investing profits back into the business each year, and sought professional expertise and implemented many of the improvements suggested through undertaking an Enterprise Connect Business Review in 2008 and the Enterprise Connect Supplier Continuous Improvement Program (SCIP) in 2011 (currently about to enter final year of program).
The importance of continuously upgrading its workers’ skills has been vital to its success.
Simon Kennedy, owner, founder and managing director of the fast-growing enterprise said simply, “Without upskilling people constantly, you’re never gonna survive,” when asked about the subject.
“Look, if we weren’t upskilling our people - including myself - constantly, we wouldn’t be changing with the ever-evolving marketplace and we wouldn’t be at the forefront of the industry we’re in at the moment.”
Smart Fabrication boasts a 35,000sqm footprint across two sites, 10,000sqm of undercover workshops and a 170m water frontage at its Port Adelaide headquarters. The company employs 65 people across a variety of trades (boilermakers, welders, pipe fitters, painters, etc.) and specialist professions (mechanical engineers, marine engineers, draftspersons, project managers, etc.)
Since its inception in 1999, Smart Fabrication has been faced with many challenges, the majority of which can be attributed, according to the company, to tremendous year on year business growth. The biggest issue for Smart Fabrication has always been business growth and its associated challenges.
It has attracted and retained professional, experienced staff from “big business”; moved from a flat organisational structure where everyone reported directly to the managing director to a more hierarchical structure, invested heavily on internal, custom written software systems including the Smart Fabrication database, providing time capture systems, quotes registers, project registers, reporting and tracking capability, and CRM.
It has also complemented existing product range by adding services to the business’ core activities
(manufacturing) – developed knowledge around this by undertaking a specialist 8-month program on business servitisation with Adelaide Thinker in Residence Professor Göran Roos.
Smart has nurtured a culture of continuous improvement through identifying “progressive” as one of the organisation’s core values, measuring each employee’s behaviour against that expected of them and linking it to remuneration reviews as well as the organisation’s reward and recognition program.
Other improvements include becoming an ISO 9001 Quality Management System certified company, putting an action plan in place in Q4 2013 to become ISO 18001 Safety Management System
and ISO 14001 Environmental Management System certified by Q4 2014, and moved locations 4 times to larger premises and expanded to a fifth location in Q3 2013.
Between 2007 and 2012, Smart Fabrication grew its revenues by 381% and its number of employees by 225%.
Smart Fabrication is currently on track for another record year, having recently posted its best quarter in the history of the company (approximately $3 million).
Has it been hard to bring employees along for what has been a fast-paced and exciting journey?
Not at all, said Kennedy.
“We employ great people,” he said after winning the Endeavour Award. “We have a saying at Smart Fabrication that ‘we don’t do average’. Basically we give people opportunities and anyone given an opportunity to upskill themselves will have the opportunity to increase their opportunities in life, earn more income, have a more secure career.
“I think it’s something people jump at.”