On the Leading Edge

Direct Edge

Direct Edge, a newer division of SERS, develops and manufactures sheet metal products for a diverse range of industry clients with a focus on providing only the highest quality products and craftsmanship to meet its customers’ needs.

Innovation has always been a part of Direct Edge’s core philosophy as the company pushes the envelope of design and production to create fresh solutions to meet existing clients’ needs while reaching out to new clients. It is this devotion to innovation and quality that has helped the company to develop an impressively diverse portfolio of products for clients across many major industries, including roofing, food and beverage, mining and defence.

Direct Edge, SERS’ first business division, began as a roofing service provider, completing installations of roofing materials. Equipment necessary for sheet metal roofing work – such as laser cutters and punches – was purchased by the company to facilitate its roofing services. As the business evolved, the focus on sheet metal products quickly grew and developed into a lucrative business of its own, winning the company contracts with major players such as Caterpillar to supply welded, fabricated and cut parts.

“Today, Direct Edge was spun out of that business, as a manufacturing business supplying medium to high volume parts to a number of different businesses in mining and emergency vehicles [ambulances], as well as the food industry, forestry and many types of parts for manufacturers in Tasmania,” says the company’s General Manager for Production, John Paterson.

The company manufactures parts for Caterpillar and Haulmax that are used for underground as well as above ground mining and excavation. For business clients, Direct Edge produces laser-cut, punched, fabricated and powder coated parts as both componentry and complete products. A range of products and componentry are produced for the food and beverage industry, from conveyor parts right through to food manufacturing machinery. Direct Edge also produces HVAC components, supplying the local market and mainland areas.

“We also manufacture parts for building and construction in roofing and specialist plumbing items, like shower trays and shower drains for unique designs,” John explains. “It’s a diverse range of products fabricated within the business.”

The core of Direct Edge’s business is the design and production of unique, complex products produced to the highest standards in small and medium sized volume for local, regional and international customers. “Since many of the customers are global business, so we have to meet global standards and be very driven on quality and delivery on time,” says John.

The unique nature of the company’s products speaks to the importance of building authentic, long-lasting relationships with its clients in an effort, not only to provide the highest level of service, but to truly understand clients’ needs in order to provide the best product as quickly as possible.

“For the business, the opportunities are in expanding that network of potential customers by showing our wares to the rest of Australia and the rest of the world and in proving that we can manufacture high quality, low volume parts for a range of different industry due to our world-class lasers, punch routers and welding equipment and powder coating lines.”

John describes the company’s focus on innovation as following traditional lean manufacturing techniques by removing all waste spending coupled with a focus on investment in staff – by providing training and improving skills in new fields of production and design – and an investment in new technology. Running leaner and smarter systems allows Direct Edge to compete in the global marketplace.

The company brings in outside training agencies to introduce new and valuable skill sets to existing employees and develops ISO systems to be able to reduce waste and improve overall quality while minimising adverse effects on the environment and the health and well being of employees. “We basically look at products and the tech we’ve got in house to determine how we can do this with little resource to produce better quality parts while exceeding the needs of our customers,” shares John.

Direct Edge actively develops and implements new technological solutions to produce lower cost, higher quality products. As John explains, “We’re constantly trying to push the envelope in terms of innovation, design, and new technique, using our technology to grow our business.” Indeed, the traditional route of working to secure high numbers of large volume projects is a business model better suited to low labour cost, high production facilities. “We will never be a volume based business. We need to be able to add that value in more subtle ways using technology, innovation and design.”

In order to grow the business, Direct Edge works instead to develop a foothold in the niche market of more complex, higher quality, low volume products. “We made the decision that the high quality niche market in manufacturing is where we can compete.”

Being based in Tasmania, John and company are committed to supporting Tasmanian business while using regional resources to export world class products. With its new state of the art facility, Direct Edge has the dedicated floor space to complete a significant number of products, and the newest technology to produce the most complex projects clients can send its way. Direct Edge can now fabricate items with shorter lead times, at a higher quality, while using less material and creating less waste, further increasing the company’s competitive edge. “The new building allows us more floor space to produce parts and fabricate at somewhat higher volumes of types of parts.”

Even with increased floor space, the company has no plans of shifting priority to larger volume jobs, only a larger volume of jobs, meaning a greater number of unique projects operating concurrently. “We don’t create thousands of the same part on a regular basis, which means that it’s constant change, constant review of design, and thinking about how to make things better in more subtle ways,” says John. In this way, by creating higher value, low volume products, the company supports Tasmania’s overall manufacturing strategy by contributing to the regions solid manufacturing base.

As the company continues to diversify across various market sectors, intelligent training and hiring practices are vital to the company’s continued growth, using high skills training programs and employing experienced employees from various sectors to bring a high quality knowledge base to the company. “My background is in manufacturing for the food industry,” says John, of his experience that has enabled the company to diversify. “There are opportunities in a number of industries, but we need the knowledge to produce products at the standards of each specific industry.”

This background helps Direct Edge produce the best solutions for its clients, and brings diverse industry knowledge of the different standards of production. Direct Edge is able to meet the standards specific each industry. Without this knowledge, it would be possible to produce components or products from inappropriate materials, or using wrong methods, jeopardising clients’ ability to operate and wasting a great deal of resources.

“If we make the part out of the wrong material, or using the wrong method, it would negatively affect those manufacturing companies finished product; you need industry knowledge to produce the appropriate product for each industry.” The right product is what Direct Edge endeavours to provide for each and every client.

Direct Edge has stayed true to its vision of providing sheet metal solutions for niche markets that are underserved by providers that focus on bulk numbers of inexpensively made throwaway products. Direct Edge continues to meet and exceed global standards of production, allowing the company to compete internationally while providing solutions both domestically and abroad.

While the company has grown, mainly through word of mouth, to become a major domestic service provider, Direct Edge’s future plans include continued expansion globally. John sees foreign development opportunities on the horizon, allowing the company to truly become a global competitor as ongoing discussions with Asian clients may see the company producing very complex equipment for the overseas market in the near future. “We’re also getting involved in supporting the defence industry in Australia, as well as rail and infrastructure, while being involved in exporting componentry and finished products.”

Direct Edge plans to continue to grow regionally and abroad while supporting the regional economy through training and apprenticeships. “For us to grow and be successful, it is important that the region also grow and be successful because it creates more opportunities for us as well,” asserts John. “The more the area prospers, the better off we will be in the future.”

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December 19, 2018, 9:25 AM AEDT