2021 Thought Leaders: Kathryn Wood-Enriquez
What are the three biggest challenges or threats facing your industry in 2021?
Under the current pre-vaccine COVID climate, our industry is facing supply chain delays. One may imagine that it’s all related to material sourcing and or shipping issues, but it’s not completely. Working from home may bring many benefits, but discussing complex engineering design issues away from the team reduces efficiency and expediency. A critical part of the engineering of custom-engineered control valves within a certain timeframe is the need for the engineers and planners to come together and sometimes ‘think outside of the square’ in a collaborative way. Working from home does not always facilitate this.
Compounding this are delays in material sourcing — especially for special ‘exotic’ materials: in some cases suppliers have not been able to weather the COVID-19 storm and have been forced to close their doors, or worldwide demand has exceeded supply, or they can’t be delivered within the required timeframe. And of course there are fewer planes in the air and ships at sea. The resultant situation is that our industry will have to accept higher costs for materials if they are required on shorter-than-normal delivery timeframes.
The second issue for our industry — and particularly for a company like ours — is that some clients are not committed to finding long-term solutions but rather a short-term fix. While some sectors can get away with low-cost valves (due to less than onerous conditions), many industries are playing with fire when insufficient care is taken to select the right valve for the application. In many applications such as coal-fired power generation, failure from high cycling stress fatigue will become more common unless the valves are engineered correctly.
Then there is the issue of Australian sourcing. I believe that it should be everyone’s duty to support Australian-owned companies and especially Australian-owned manufacturing companies. The threat to Australian industry is that we are currently so reliant on overseas sourcing and if we continue in this vein, then there will be no incentive for any manufacturing to take place in Australia. We have seen this during the COVID-19 pandemic and I believe that industry should get behind the government’s incentives to help Australia return to manufacturing, and buy Australian.
What impacts has the COVID-19 global pandemic had on your Industry and how does this affect your business strategies for 2021?
As a business, we have weathered the pandemic reasonably well, but it was not without hard work and commitment. What it has proven is that to run a successful business in unprecedented times like this requires a great deal of commitment and focus and ‘making your own luck’. We were able to deliver most of our customers’ orders on time, due to our large commitment to the stocking of inventory. This inventory, which is held as componentry as well as complete equipment, enabled us to build to order, within days or weeks rather than months, with the resultant opportunity to secure new business when our competitors could not deliver. We were able to focus on providing a higher level of customer support, and with many people working from home we did our level best to reach out and make contact with our clients, to see how they were and to engage with them for new opportunities.
Our business strategies for 2021 will further focus on assisting our industry by providing ‘mud-maps’ for product selection by application. These mud-maps will assist our customers, particularly those new to our industry markets to understand the nature of the application, what the characteristics of the application are and the basis of correct product selection.
What sustainability strategies will be at the forefront of your business in 2021?
With 2021, marking our 110th year in business, we are excited to consider our next 20-Year Business Plan. We are positioning ourselves, through our commitment to manufacture more in Australia, to find opportunities in the defence and pharmaceutical sectors. We will also expand our sales horizons far beyond where we are already based, as we embark on increasing our export business; with increased volumes, we can reduce our manufacturing costs, which is good for our local customers.
Our sustainability over the past 110 years has occurred because of our willingness to participate in a wide range of market sectors and to listen to what our customers want. Our business model is to be the very best that we can be in our sector and yet be totally adaptable to what our customers want us to be. This makes for great long-term sustainable partnerships. Our team is learning new things every day and in turn, we can teach.
And crucially, we have purchased a new building, which is in its final stages of being engineered to our needs. We are creating great workspaces, great learning spaces and great building spaces — this is our pledge to the industry. Our staff, our suppliers and our customers are our greatest assets.
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