Manufacturing in Australia is a shrinking part of Australia’s industrial landscape – its contribution to total GDP is half what it was 30 years ago. Yet in the same time period, Industrial Fittings Sales (IFS) has grown exponentially – from just two staff to over 50. Mark Mackie shares his company’s story.
IFS are manufacturers and wholesalers of brass fittings and other components used in the engineering industry. Starting in 1989, we have grown to be Australia’s largest wholesaler/manufacturer of this product and sell through a network of resellers throughout Queensland and West Australia.
When the business started, we were using subcontractors in Melbourne to make our core products. After three years, we realised that we needed to manufacture our own product to ensure its quality, and started manufacturing using extremely old capstan and indexing style lathes.
Since then, we’ve come a long way. Our machine shop is now a modern, automated, repetition workshop using robot technology and CNC machines to manufacture the majority of our core product.
Expanding into gas components
Some of our brass fittings are used in the domestic, commercial and industrial gas industry. As a result of this, we were always getting asked for other gas products by the gas fitters who dealt with us. So in 1999, we started Gas Components Australia as a division of IFS Pty Ltd. This has now grown to be an integral part of our operations, accounting for around one third of our turnover. We have increased the product range to encompass a huge variety of products needed in the installation of gas
In 2011, we achieved accreditation to ISO9001 by Standards Australia, recognising our efforts to achieve
consistent, high quality operations and products. This, along with other continual improvements, has ensured that IFS has remained competitive in our changing market, one which has seen the GFC and is currently experiencing the mining industry slowdown.
Our major strength is our people, with over 15 staff having been with us for 10 years or more. We value our employees and try to be an employer of choice, where each staff member is not just another number. Our second major strength is our financial planning and reporting. We were lucky to have great accountants to start with who gave us a strong foundation and taught us the value of good accounting and reporting from the very first days. Unfortunately after 15 years, our accountant became ill and couldn’t continue his practice. For the next eight years, we tried different accountants who didn’t meet our high expectations.
Around two years ago, we were introduced to Accru and our account manager, Brendan Watson, who made a very good impression on the Directors. It’s taken a couple of years for Brendan to fully understand how we operate and want to operate. Now with Accru and Brendan, we are getting ready for the next 25 years.
Celebrating success and looking to the future
In 2014, we celebrated 25 years in business with a golf day and dinner dance for over 100 customers and staff. It was a great day with several start up customers present to help us celebrate the success of our company.
The future will be challenging, with the current Directors planning succession via an Employee Share scheme which Accru will be very closely involved with implementing. Also a national company is in the pipeline which will take considerable planning and implementation.
New products, growth and planning will help make us viable for the next 25 years. We need to ensure we are always evolving, and this makes for exciting times.