Leaders in Security

Leda Security Products

Leda’s design department specialises in handling all types of vehicle access control. From design and installation through to service, Leda is extremely competent in providing solutions of all types. We spoke with owner David Matthews about the business of security in today’s world.

Leda Security Products has four different divisions of security products and serves all of Australia from Sydney and Melbourne to Tasmania and Queensland. The bollard division started as a single product called a “Secure Post” when David purchased a small engineering company in order to secure the patent for a locking and removable bollard. A bollard, in the security sense, is a short vertical post that can be used as a way to direct traffic or to obstruct the passage of pedestrians or motor vehicles. They may be fixed, removable or retractable, and Leda Security Products has developed and manufactured all types of bollards in many styles.

The company’s second division deals with industrial and security gates and the third has to do with bicycle parking and storage – bike racks, rails, and adjoining facilities. The newest division manufactures large doors for hangars and sheds for servicing large the mining equipment.

“We got into anti-terrorist security after September eleventh, 2001 when we were approached by the Sydney Opera House,” David explains. “The property was considered the most high profile building in Australia. It was the first to consider putting in high security / anti-terrorist security to protect it against attack.” The Opera House approached Leda Security Products because of the company’s experience in developing a range of retractable bollards for vehicle access control. These bollards had undertaken a series of impact tests and the Opera House wanted to work with someone with this level of expertise.

One of the beautiful things about bollards is that they can fit in seamlessly and unobtrusively with most urban designs. They can be aesthetically attractive whilst providing a physical security barrier. “Depending on the material that we are using, mixed with technology and engineering, we can provide different levels of protection,” says David. “By that I mean, when we are looking at vehicle mitigation, we are looking at the speed the vehicle can obtain as well as the weight of the vehicle. These two things provide the kinetic energy that a bollard or a barrier may have to stop.”

The Sydney Opera House has two layers protection which were put place in post following the terror attacks of 9/11. The first, at the bottom of the quay near the control gatehouse, is a much higher impact resistant bollard. The second is closer to the actual buildings. Leda Security Products engineered this technology, adapting it from its previous impact testing of barriers and bollards for use in anti-terrorist applications in the UK. It used a standard for vehicle security barriers called PAS 68 which was developed in the UK rather than the American classifications, as vehicles built in the UK use a different chassis to those used in Europe or Asia.

With this new technology came an unprecedented demand for it. The Prime Minister’s residence is evidence of this renewed interest in security in Australia. “The Prime Minister has two residences, one in Sydney and one in Canberra,” says David. “We provide the security for both and we upkeep the same with the Governor General’s residence. In reference to their physical security needs, we are the sole provider.” All government buildings, including the Prime Minister’s and the Governor General’s homes are managed by the Attorney General’s Department and Leda works for them.

In order to remain competitive, Leda engaged in a joint venture around ten years ago with a company in India to supply many of its components. Last year, Leda opened up a factory overseas which deals primarily with bicycle and parking equipment for both the Australian and international markets. “To remain competitive, we make sure that all of our componentry used in our designs are sourced as cheaply as possible. Our main manufacturing plant is in Tuggerah Business Park which is about ninety kilometres north of Sydney. This plant was built around seven years ago. We are managing to remain competitive with a lot of our standard products. I make the point that while the anti-terrorist high security market is high profile, it doesn’t pay the bills.”

When I asked David about the toughest job his company has ever undertaken, he again cited the Opera House project. “The reason being, is that we were faced with quite the significant engineering task with little knowledge. One of our company’s strengths is our engineering ability. Virtually every week or month, we are engineering site specific solutions for major projects.” Before the project began, much study was needed on understanding the dynamics of impact forces and designing for the potential impact requirements.

Leda is contracted to provide the perimeter security and physical protection of all major infrastructure control centres and is currently completing twelve major sites around the country for the National Broadband Network cable roll out. With branches in all the capitol cities in Australia, it is one of the only companies with the staff and the project management expertise needed to work on multiple projects at once. Leda is also the leader in three out of the four divisions it works in and the mega door division is not far behind.

One of the main reasons for the company’s success is its continuing focus on research and development. It is the only company in Australia testing in conjunction with government security bodies in both Australia and the UK. “When we talk about bollards being impacted for security, that covers a wide range of installations from preventing ram raids to protecting ATMs,” David explains. “We have been fortunate that our bollards have been successful on many ram raid attempts and vehicle intrusions into shopping centres.”

One such event that tested the bollards took place in 1994. A fire broke out at the Sydney Opera House and fire engines were called to the scene. The first one managed to get through, but the second fire engine impacted due to controller error. “We were able to work out the speed of the vehicle, which if I remember correctly was thirty-two kilometres per hour and it was a ten tonne vehicle,” recalls David. “The vehicle was stopped and the retractable bollards continued to operate. Those bollards were originally engineered for two and a half tonnes at forty kilometres per hour. So they far exceeded the design specifications.” It’s one thing to use computer modelling to engineer a product, but until it is put through the forces that are involved in a real world vehicle impact, you never know how the product or its foundations are going to react.

Leda Security Products’ engineers are constantly developing innovative new products. One new product is a row of high-security bollards in pre-cast concrete or a pre-stressed concrete slab. “Usually when you install bollards, you are looking at concrete footings that can be one and a half meters deep and a meter wide. What we have been able to do is engineer a shallow mount footing that is only eight inches deep. The reason for that is we are able to spread the dynamic load of the impact through the footings.” Another new innovation comes in the form of retractable bollards programmed to react to prevent vehicle ingress along streets during times when students are arriving and departing.

In the field of bicycle parking facilities for cyclists, Leda is now importing from China and operating out of New Zealand. In the next few months, the team will be starting up in the United Kingdom and is also seeking potential distributors in North America. “We are able to do this mainly because of our low cost of manufacturing in China,” says David. “Most of the bicycle parking products are coming out of our China operation which is located in Ningbo (one of China’s oldest cities). It’s one of the five major seaports in China.”

Leda is the leader in security products and solutions throughout Australia. Expansion, innovation, and the company’s strong relationships with government bodies along with its ability to manufacture in a cost effective way has been the catalyst for growth within this organisation. Leda is a relatively young company that started in 1995, and its owner, David Matthews recently passed the reigns to his oldest son who is presently CEO. He has built around him a young and very talented management team that will take the company into the next generation.

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January 18, 2019, 3:37 AM AEDT