The economic shutdowns and lack of toilet paper caused by the coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated the weakness of Australia’s supply lines and our dependence on manufactured imports from overseas.
But this wasn’t always the case and it wasn’t eons ago that Australia manufactured cars, washing machines, lawn mowers, footwear and clothes.
It’s with our dwindling industrial fortunes in mind that Gabriel Dio, Managing Director of steel producer Master Steel, is determined to do his bit to rebuild Australia’s reputation for manufacturing. An engineering and building company, Master Steel specialises in manufacturing steel structures.
Gabriel took over Master Steel in 2018 that launched in 1993. The mechanical engineer decided to shift the company’s direction away from residential and consumer clients towards government and industrial infrastructure projects. “Our firm fabricates steel products that end up in major infrastructure projects such as underground piping, bridges and other major infrastructure,” explains Gabriel.
Steely focus on Australian resources
More significantly, the Gold Coast-based manufacturer only uses Australian steel. “It’s a conscious choice that we made,” explains Gabriel. “We only ask for Australian products because of the level of quality control that we must comply with to meet Australian government standards. This level of compliance might be more difficult with steel from overseas.
“This is why we now focus on government and industrial clients who understand the importance of using steel that complies with Australian quality standards.
“In other markets where we operated previously, much of the steel products were made overseas with extraordinarily little sourced locally.”
Apart from quality, Gabriel believes it’s time for Australia to rediscover its manufacturing mojo. “Manufacturing was the backbone of the economy as recently as the 1990s. As a country, Australia has the experience, human capital, and infrastructure to support such an industry.
“So why do we have a huge reliance on overseas imports? Understandably, there are cost advantages to importing products, so I recognised that firstly whether we like it or not, manufacturers will have to compete globally, and secondly we have to be smart to compete. This means leaning heavily on technology and automation in how we manufacture our products.”
Gabriel, who cites World War 1 hero, General Sir John Monash, a civil engineer, among his role models, adds, “Part of my move to become the Managing Director of Master Steel was the appeal of being my own boss. But mainly it’s about trying to help other people by making manufacturing great again.”
Winning government contracts
The shift to government clients has proven a financial masterstroke for Master Steel. Since 2018, the manufacturer has doubled its revenues, secured a regular pipeline of new projects, and tripled new business opportunities. “The sources of those new business opportunities are solid and financially secure clients,” said Gabriel. “Moreover, our sales conversions have increased significantly, and our risk of bad debts has fallen by about 60%. There’s no doubt that working with government agencies has been great for our business.”
As part of its winning strategy, Gabriel and the team at Master Steel have become more familiar with government procurement and tendering processes. “When shifting your business towards public sector work, the first step is to understand that you need to be prepared to make the government your boss. That’s the number one learning, and you have to be able to accept that.
“If you make the mistake of trying to negotiate with government during the tender process, and trying to get them to accommodate your business, this won’t work. The government decision makers have to select outcomes that are the best for them and ultimately, the taxpayers.”
Before responding to a Request for Proposal (RFP) Gabriel urges small businesses to start communicating with the relevant government authority. “Ask questions about the RFP and the project to show them you’re interested and enthusiastic about working with them,” said Gabriel, who before Master Steel worked mostly in the private sector in the engineering and mining industries. “Ultimately, be prepared to change your business. Government will have a large part in dictating how your business will be run.”
Working with SBAA
Master Steel became an SBAA member in 2018 when Gabriel assumed the leadership of the manufacturer. “It’s been wonderful being a member of SBAA, and as a small business they have provided us with the support network and contracts required to expand our business,” Gabriel said.
“They have allowed us to network with likeminded small businesses and made some extremely helpful introductions to government.”
Gabriel said Master Steel initially struggled with the prequalification process that is required to compete for government contracts. “SBAA helped us negotiate and navigate through these contracting processes, while I’m hopeful that other SBAA members have benefited from our experiences working with government.”
The SBAA’s CEO and Founder, Anne Nalder, has been a massive support for Master Steel. “Anne identified issues that we hadn’t necessarily thought of and helped us address them,” said Gabriel.
“For instance, we started on a significant round of hiring without assessing all the industrial relations implications. Since talking with SBAA, we have identified possible scenarios and ways to address them.”
To find out more about becoming a member of SBAA, call us today on 1300 413 915 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information on Master Steel visit their website at https://www.mastersteel.com.au/