Innovating for the Future

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-By Aleisha Parr

Australia is known as one of the driest land masses in the world, and as such, requires the best in water delivery solutions to enable its citizens to continue to thrive. Despite the recent increase in water supply as a result of the devastating flood conditions across Eastern Australia in the past year, Chris Stathy, Managing Director of Australian pipe fitting and valve specialists Philmac, cautions that now is not the time to rest easy on that abundance but rather to push forward in innovative ways to ensure a continuation of water resource delivery.

Philmac, says Mr Stathy, is able to offer those solutions, not only in answer to the nation’s current difficulties, but also in preparation for the years to come.

The company, which was first established in South Australia in 1929, is a global leader in the design and manufacture of specialist pipe fittings and valves. With its broad reach and progressive approach, Philmac has been providing innovative water transfer technologies globally for use in mining, agricultural, domestic, commercial and industrial sectors alike, as well as for the reticulated water supplies of towns and cities.

“Philmac has been in the water transfer business in Australia for over eighty years,” says Mr Stathy, “It has a reputation for providing highly technical products, and has developed a high integrity brand and business. We position based on trust, not only with our own people internally, but with our merchant distributors and even beyond that, too, with the end user that buys and uses our product; we make sure that our product exceeds the expectations of the customer in every respect.”

Over a span of nearly a century, Philmac has been building that brand on relationships and innovation. The relationships come easily to the company, who not only endeavours to provide its customers with a trusted solution, but also to help further the state of national infrastructure. “We take a serious interest in helping our clients develop their own business, so we work very closely with them to do that.”

The innovation, constituting the backbone of Philmac’s commercial success, has come through its unshakeable commitment to those relationships. The company has consistently been ahead of the game at every turn, which has been of enormous benefit not only to Philmac’s domestic customers, but also on a global level. Explains Mr Stathy, “We built up very strong relationships over the years where Philmac has been reliable and consistent, providing high quality service and high quality products and standing by them in tough times, so all of that is about really being there for the long run, rather than being opportunistic.”

In the 1960s, Philmac developed the world’s first all-plastic compression fitting for PE pipe, setting the stage for the company’s continued success in introducing ground-breaking technology and processes. More recent examples of Philmac’s innovation include its introduction of the 3G Metric product range for use in connecting blue line polyethylene pressure pipe, and the Philmac Ball Valve, which, when installed on water pipelines, assists in controlling water flow using its internal ball design.

“We’re working very hard to maximise every opportunity,” Mr Stathy stresses, “but at the same time, we try to add value wherever we can for our customers.”

“One of the strengths of Philmac as a business is its ability to innovate in terms of product,” he says. “We’ve been quite inventive with new product concepts. We’re continuously looking for new product opportunities that fit our core competencies, and particularly fit our core markets that we can either obtain and provide, or manufacture and provide to the markets. In doing that, we’re really looking at the markets we sell into not so much as what are the needs today, but what do we think the needs of the future might be.”

At the moment, the company sees – as a result of recent and projected environmental conditions – that the management of water in Australian agriculture is most critical. Essentially, the issue comes into play in establishing effective and sustainable systems for irrigation in the agriculture sector in particular. “Something like ninety per cent of the freshwater in Australia is used in irrigation and agriculture,” explains Mr Stathy. “It’s very important and we’re obviously working not only with product innovation but also with key stakeholders to provide input into government policy on the best use, and the allocation of, water. So the innovation doesn’t just relate to product, it also relates to concepts as well.”

“And, to that extent,” he continues, “even the way we do business is something we’re now starting to turn our mind to; is there a more innovative way of changing our business model and making it deliver more value to our customer in the longer term? It’s really a matter of understanding where are the new opportunities in terms of the new environment as opposed to the old environment. And we don’t know where they are yet, but we’re certainly looking for them and looking at how we can enhance our offering to the market to deliver better value in the long run.”

Mr Stathy emphasises that, as a company, Philmac is constantly looking at ways of improving both product quality and efficiency. To help oversee this process of development, the company has established an internal Service Excellence Council, made up of its key internal stakeholders. Through the Council, Philmac has identified the performance elements relevant to the customer service experience, many of which occur behind the scenes and thus, while impacting the client, are never seen. Explains Mr Stathy, “We’ve identified what we believe is best practice for each of those elements, identified what gaps are between our understanding of best practice and where we think we are, and we’re now working through action plans to try and close those gaps.”

“I think for this business to be successful in the long term, we need to be innovating for the future. It is about coming up with ways to particularly allow the use of water to be more sustainable and I think there’s a pretty simple brief, but it’s a very complex problem to solve.”

Making Sense of Management

Management is the art, or science, of getting things done through people. Sounds fairly straightforward – except for the fact that people are not robots waiting to do our bidding. People have their own minds, motivations, and goals. So how do managers keep operations – and the people behind them – running as planned?

December 16, 2018, 6:44 AM AEDT