Australian-Made Quality

APC Group

The company’s wages, for example, are extremely high compared to overseas competition. And the raw material for APC products – Australian steel – is much costlier than lower-grade imported steel.

But better steel, decades of experience, and a commitment to quality will inevitably produce a better product, Mr Gordon points out. Unfortunately, however, many consumers have no concept of brands when it comes to racking and storage products; they see only the commodity. As a result, many buyers make purchases based only on the retail price tag. “Australian manufacturers often struggle to get consumers to see that there is a quality difference in what they are purchasing,” Mr Gordon explains.

Inexpensive imports simply don’t stand up to Aussie standards, he adds. “It is similar to a car. A car worth $15,000 and a car worth $30,000 will be different.” The more expensive car will likely have stronger safety features and greater reliability, he points out – in other words, you get what you pay for. “What we have to get across to our customers is that they have to put a value on the product that they are getting,” Mr Gordon insists. “And when I say value, it’s not just that we are an Australian manufacturer and we are trying to bring that home. It comes down to the fact that there are differences with the racking product that you get.”

Understanding these differences is crucial. “If you think you are comparing apples for apples then you will be happy to buy the cheapest price,” Mr Gordon admits. The key is seeing beyond the price tag and understanding what is really at stake. APC products are specially designed and carefully crafted to endure extreme conditions and rough treatment – even earthquakes. The steel is also a substantially higher grade than that used by most Asian competitors.

Sturdy, reliable racking is a necessity in a warehouse environment where heavy forklifts constantly manoeuver past – and sometimes bump into – the shelving. “Bumps and collisions do happen, just like they do in a car,” Mr Gordon points out. “The question is, how is that racking going to handle it when it happens? Our racking will hold up a whole lot better than most others – including other Australian racks.”

APC also has experience on its side. “In the early 1990s, most of the racks going into Asia were coming out of Australia because we had the expertise to know how to make them,” Mr Gordon reports. The Asian market requires very tall racking that is able to withstand seismic activity, and for years, Asian consumers relied on APC’s ability to develop and manufacture products able to withstand these pressures. While Asian manufacturers now have the capability to produce their own racking, Mr Gordon says that most of them still lack the advanced expertise that comes from decades of experience. APC, on the other hand, has been leading the industry for over forty years.

Indeed, APC refuses to cut corners in order to offer a lower priced product. Maintaining quality is too important, Mr Gordon insists. “We cannot try to be a low cost producer and bid jobs at the lowest price because the numbers don’t stack up.” Rock bottom prices, therefore, are not the goal.

In the long run, higher quality always pays off, Mr Gordon says. “Rather than looking at the price on day one, look at what it has cost you over the ten year period since you have bought [the product].” Lower quality products require more money down the road for maintenance and repair costs; they will also need to be replaced sooner. “Ultimately, we will give you better value for money.”

Superior customer service is also a hallmark of the company. APC isn’t an anonymous, overseas company exporting into Australia. Instead, the team enjoys long term relationships with its customers. “We have a very good track record of maintaining customers because we look after them,” Mr Gordon explains. “They are happy to keep coming back to us because of the level of service that we provide and, ultimately, the product that we’re supplying them with.”

In fact, the company’s reputation for excellent customer service has led to a number of lucrative business deals with overseas companies. These partner companies know that APC “will be there to service customers wherever they are,” Mr Gordon explains. As a result, APC’s market has expanded to include New Zealand, the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and Asia. “We really enjoy doing export work because of the fact that it is bringing outside money into the country,” Mr Gordon adds. “It helps stem the tide of the imports coming in.”

APC’s reputation for customer service – and for being an industry expert – has made the company a leading provider of rack inspection services. In fact, the team is so committed to safety and quality that they are members of the Seismic Focus Group, an organization dedicated to reviewing racking designs in New Zealand after the damaged caused by the Christchurch earthquake. APC performs rack inspections throughout all of Australia, even in remote areas that can only be accessed by a charter flight. At any given time, the team is likely performing 20 to 30 rack inspections anywhere in the country for a wide variety of clients, including Australia’s largest and best known retailers.

Clearly, APC’s long term business strategies have worked extremely well. As a result, the team plans to keep the company on its current track. Many of APC’s competitors, on the other hand, are starting to step beyond the racking industry to offer a more comprehensive solution. While this might seem like a winning strategy on the surface, Mr Gordon believes the approach could have more pitfalls than advantages. “We are the specialist in [the racking] field,” he explains. “We don’t want to be a one-stop-shop because we may not be as good doing the other side of it.” And with APC, quality always comes first. “We say to our customers, stick with the company that knows this best – rather than a company that has bought a product just to be a more comprehensive service provider,” Mr Gordon explains.

Sticking to what they know is paying off, despite the competition’s more comprehensive offering. In fact, much of the company’s burgeoning export business has come from one-stop-shop providers who want to utilize APC’s racks – and expertise – as a part of their comprehensive solution. “They know that we are a good quality provider of our package,” Mr Gordon explains, “And they can build that into their solution for their customer.”

Partnering with these companies has been a smooth process, Mr Gordon adds. “We tell them our story and they want to get on board.” Really, the secret to APC’s success is quite simple. “We are giving the customer the best product that we can,” Mr Gordon reports. “We know what we are good at and we stick to that.”

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 19, 2018, 5:31 PM AEDT