Quality Service for More Than a Century

Vulcanite Australia

Since the business began by selling and repairing bicycle tubes and tyres back in 1911, Vulcanite has evolved to meet the needs of transportation, construction and other industries, and has locations to serve its many repeat clients in Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Asia.

“Our two major markets here in Australia are rail and construction,” says Ken Davies from Vulcanite Australia’s Head Office at Regents Park, New South Wales. As Sales Manager (Asia Pacific) for the company since 1999, Mr Davies has 35 years of professional sales expertise and marketing and management experience in construction, mining, coal, manufacturing, and the railway industries in Australia, China and South Africa. With a prior position as Business Development Manager (North America), his focus on developing the rail industry segment in North America has enabled Vulcanite to expand its scope supplying engineered parts and equipment for passenger trains, and employ fulltime representatives in the US. In his current role as Sales Manager, he is responsible for maintaining the company’s existing Australian and New Zealand customer base and overseeing the development of new products and services within these areas.

“Our target market currently for our growth strategy is the UK and the US,” comments Mr Davies of the company, which has had an American market strategy in place for the past decade. Investing in technology and highly skilled engineering staff, the company continues to grow, and has positioned itself as a provider of innovative and flexible engineering solutions to major companies around the world. With clients including three of the world’s four leading railway rolling stock builders – and three of the globe’s major vibratory piling hammer manufacturers – Vulcanite is today one of the largest suppliers of isolation elastomers on the planet.

Recent Acquisition and Expansion

In late 2011, Vulcanite Pty Ltd was acquired by a management buyout (MBO) backed by Allegro Funds, an emerging mid-market private equity manager. The Vulcanite MBO serves to demonstrate Allegro Funds’ strategy of co-investing with the superannuation sector in attractive private equity opportunities. The investment helped Vulcanite to further penetrate rail markets in the UK and US by unlocking significant offshore growth potential for Vulcanite.

“Under prior ownership, Vulcanite had been capital constrained, which restricted its ability to fully take advantage of the global growth opportunities available to it,” said Mr Davies. “Since the acquisition and capital injection, Vulcanite has invested in state of the art design, manufacturing and testing facilities, as well as a stronger global sales force that has positioned the business to better leverage is excellent reputation in the global rail market.”

In 20012, Vulcanite embarked on establishing an ISO 9001 certified manufacturing facility in Malaysia to supplement its existing facility in Regents Park, Sydney. By investing in sophisticated machinery and technologies, Vulcanite’s ability to manufacture in both Malaysia and Australia has allowed it to increase capacity and enter markets that its previous cost of production precluded. Maintaining production capability and all design, engineering and quality functions in Australia ensures consistent quality from all facilities. Among the company’s investments in Malaysia are compression moulding, transfer moulding, and injection moulding, process which are ideal because they reduce manufacturing time. In addition, Vulcanite’s Malaysian manufacturing plant has state of the art in-house testing facilities, so products are tested in-house and validated prior to going out, which includes production products that are constantly being purchased.

“If you don’t have those testing machines and equipment, you’d find it very difficult to be able to compete,” says Mr Davies. “Because we’ve been doing it a long time here in Australia, we’re a little immune to somebody coming and directly taking our business quickly, because of the high validation of components. If you’re not validated on vehicles in Australia, you need to do that.”

At Vulcanite, the Malaysian manufacturing facilities serve to further the company’s vision and strategy for sustainable growth, one founded on over 100 years of technological excellence and export opportunities created by the development of highly innovative products for the global marketplace.

“The expansion into Malaysia certainly is a competitive advantage strategy for us,” comments Mr Davies, adding that the funds the company received from Allegro enabled the team to build the manufacturing plant. With an abundance of natural resources, the west of the country is known for its abundance of rubber trees and the best rubber for Vulcanite’s requirements, along with the finest harvesting procedures and some of the world’s best chemists. “Malaysia is the best place to have a manufacturing plant for our needs – it was an ideal location to set up a manufacturing operation,” Mr Davies explains.

Committed to Innovation

Vulcanite prides itself on the high quality and fast turnaround of its manufactured products, a result of Vulcanite’s many years of industry knowledge, highly trained engineers and technicians, and Malaysian manufacturing plant. The company continually strives to improve its products, processes, and services to meet the needs of customers and industry, a drive which is exemplified by the company’s accreditation and compliance with AS/NZS ISO 9001/2008 certification.

Vulcanite is committed to the latest technologies, from investing in 3D CAD software in 2000 to acquiring its first 10 ton Universal Testing Machine in 2005, purchasing new 200 tonne electric double presses in 2008, and relocating to its current new, larger factory in Regents Park, Sydney in 2009.

A Diverse Range of Products

Working closely with clients to provide flexible engineering solutions, the team at Vulcanite designs, engineers, and manufactures top quality components used to isolate mechanically induced vibration through the creation of rubber and steel moulded composites. Creating a range of innovative and effective solutions, the company is active in a number of areas: for the rail industry, Vulcanite supplies critical primary and secondary suspension components, including heavy and light passenger vehicles, locomotives, and track maintenance vehicles, including chevron springs, conical springs, rolling springs, compound rubber springs, and rubber journal springs; for the construction sector, Vulcanite designs, engineers and manufactures elastomers, used to isolate damaging mechanical vibrations in a range of construction equipment, and used on piling hammer elastomers, vibratory rollers elastomers, and compaction plate elastomers.

Winning numerous awards over the years – including the Suncorp Regional Award for New Product Export Market Business of the Year, the Western Sydney Industry Award for Global Excellence Import Replacement and Export, and the Bankstown Small Business Export Award – the company has earned the respect and business of numerous repeat clients. In the US, the New York City Transit Authority, Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority, Washington Metro Transit Authority, LA Metro, and others count on Vulcanite’s products to keep moving, while in Australia, the company’s clients include Bombardier Transportation, Queensland Rail, TK Horizon Operations, United Group Rail Services Ltd Rail, and many others.

“We manufacture everything to order,” says Mr Davies. With many different specs for vehicles, it is better for clients that the company manufacture custom products as they are needed. This is especially advantageous when a transit authority is planning a major overhaul and has specific time guidelines for project inception and completion. “If you get seven to 10 years out of a component, it has basically paid for itself,” says Mr Davies. “There’s no point in leaving it there for another two years, when you know there could be failures.”

Vulcanite’s lead time is an important part of the company’s ongoing success, and one of its biggest competitive advantages is getting those products produced and to the market in a timely manner. Additionally, Vulcanite’s Sustainable Competitive Advantage includes a number of elements, which include the ability to provide innovative flexible engineered solutions specifically developed for a client’s project needs, rather than existing generic products; strategic market positioning and the ability to deliver global solutions; an ongoing commitment to the development of Vulcanite staff in terms of training, expertise and career paths; and building confidence with new and existing clients through long term relationships centred on quality customer service.

“We are engineers,” summarises Mr Davies. “Technically, our products are as good as anything in the world. We have a partnership approach and are collaborative with our clients. Relationship-building with customers is paramount to us, and most of our customers are long-term; in fact, many customers that I had in my first year, I still have. If you have a good relationship, your customer will tell you; if you don’t, you don’t find out until you stop winning orders.”

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?

June 19, 2018, 10:37 AM AEST