Sydney-based metal working business Ogis Engineering recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. As the company looks towards its next half century, it continues to look for new ways to develop and innovate. Matt McDonald reports.
Ogis Engineering came into existence on 24th June, 1963. Founded in the Sydney suburb of St. Peters by Hungarian refugee Otto Giesser (Ogis), the company started off manufacturing cast brass souvenirs.
As time passed, the business developed into an upmarket shop fitter and counted Mark Foys and Richards Menswear amongst its customers.
Fast forward to 2013, and Ogis is no longer based in St. Peters. Its headquarters have moved just down the road to Roseberry where its current managing director, Kevin Adler holds the business reigns.
Ferret recently caught up with Adler. He told us that the company has changed a lot in the last 10 years.
“We used to make a lot of furniture..we used to do probably 300 chairs a week for the office furniture industry and make a lot of trolleys and chairs for the hair dressing industry. But all of that’s gone to China so we then started focussing on diversity,” he said.
As such, Ogis now specialises in tube and pipe bending as well as metal fabrication. The company has become a preferred supplier to a range of customers from the transport, defence, infrastructure, architectural, mining and manufacturing sectors.
However, it is not all plain sailing in the industry. While the company is currently doing well and performing above budget, diversifying has brought forward some problems of its own.
For example, Adler points to the situation where “..a customer comes and says I want 300 chairs made out of a particular material.”
“15 years ago, I’d ring a supplier and just buy it off the shelf..Now I’ve got to order a mill run which might require me to buy 1,000 lengths or something like that which makes the job just unjustified,” he says.
The local demand for materials has fallen right off because a lot of high volume manufacturing work has gone to Asia. As an example, Adler points to one supplier which used to keep 6,000 items in stock, but now has just 900 items.
Another recent change at Ogis Engineering is a service the company calls ‘Ogis Express’.
Ogis Express does what importers can’t do – supply urgently needed goods at very short notice. For example, Adler points to a recent instance where “CSIRO rang us up and said they need something cut, bent and welded in just 5 days.”
Ogis took the job on (at a higher than normal charge), completed it on time and made a high margin on it.
Although this service has only ‘officially’ existed as Ogis Express for around six months, the company always did take on urgent contracts. The only differences were that it didn’t have a formal name and they didn’t charge any extra for it.
But, Adler points out, if it’s important people are willing to pay extra.
“If we do a bending job and we’ve got a product on the bending machine then the customer has to pay for us to take it off, do their job and put the original product back on again. So they might be paying as much as twice as much as normal.” Adler says.
“And there might be VIP couriers involved so it’s quite an expensive option but some people just don’t mind...They need it now”.
However, Adler is quick to emphasise that the company’s top priority remains its regular production. Any urgent work has to fit in with that. And express work is only done if Ogis employees are willing to stay back at night or on weekends to complete it.
According to Adler, Ogis prides itself on being well-organised and well-run. The company carries out OHS audits and emphasises efficiency and traceability.
The company is always on the lookout for opportunities and new directions; and has recently purchased several pieces of machinery.
Specifically, in the past 12 months they have bought CNC bending machines, mandrel benders, a precision plasma cutter, a CNC rolling machine, and a CNC press brake. Apart from the bending machines, all are new to the company.
Adler points out that previously the company used to use only laser cutters on all pieces. This meant that they had to sub-contract a lot of work. But today, with the addition of the press brake and the plasma cutter, they can do most work in-house.
“By doing it in-house we have more control,” he says. “We don’t charge high set up fees and we don’t have to get couriers involved.”
“We are just trying to become as competitive as we can because our competition isn’t from China any more... it’s local...because we’re fighting for the work that’s remaining here.”
During the recent election campaign, then Deputy Prime Minister Albanese visited Ogis to launch a website that assists small business in using the NBN.
For his part, Adler mentions a large tender Ogis recently did which involved files which were so big they took hours to download. He agrees that the NBN would make a big difference in such cases.
Ogis Engineering will continue to develop and continue to diversify. According to Adler, while the company is performing well right now, in the current climate manufacturers can’t afford to rest on their laurels for long at all.
He says that it’s hard to look forward a distance of just 12 months with total confidence, let alone look to 10 years in the future.
“We are constantly looking for different things to do in the future. We are thinking about whether we should design our own product or get involved in a completely different field.”
As he signed off, Adler mentioned he was off to Europe.
It’s a holiday, but while he’s there, he’ll have half an eye open for any new ideas or opportunities to bring home with him.