04/03/2009 - 22:00

Playing for the team at Structerre

04/03/2009 - 22:00

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This current down cycle is different from the others in terms of its speed and widespread impact.

Playing for the team at Structerre

"HEAD down, tail up, and make sure you know who your clients are."

That's the advice from Gervase Purich, managing director of Balcatta-based consulting engineering firm Structerre Consulting Group and a nearly 30-year veteran of the industry.

Having witnessed his fair share of economic cycles, Mr Purich believes this current down cycle is different from the others in terms of its speed and widespread impact.

The boom was also unlike those witnessed before, with all sectors peaking at the same time.

"If you've been around for a few years, you know that after every boom there's a bust and after all busts there's a boom. It's just a matter of time," Mr Purich told WA Business News.

"The focus has changed. The focus [12 months ago] was we had so much work we need staff to do it. Now it's a case of we've got the staff, we need work to keep the staff occupied.

"That's how it was in the past. It's gone into more of the traditional pattern."

Unlike others in the industry, Structerre is committed to keeping all of its 160 staff on board across its four offices in Perth, Bunbury, Geraldton and Brisbane, cutting overtime to virtually zero.

It is also taking the opportunity to improve the business' systems and process, and maintaining the focus on servicing its clients.

"Our philosophy is to keep the team together," Mr Purich said.

"This is a time to do things in the business that you didn't have time to do when things were booming, because you were too busy keeping your head above water and getting the jobs out and making clients happy.

"So now, we see this as an opportunity to improve our systems."

Specialising in residential, commercial and civil design projects, Structerre was somewhat insulated from the downturn because of its lack of exposure to major resources and infrastructure projects.

And while demand had dropped off compared to the last year, the company is still working on a number of major projects.

These include a five-storey mixed-use apartment project in Bunbury, about eight high-rise mixed-use projects in the Perth CBD, and an industrial project for Milne Feeds that will triple the size of Structerre's Welshpool production plant.

Commercial and civil department manager Eddie Stone said some commercial projects had been put on hold, while others were waiting on almost 100 per cent pre-lease or pre-sale before proceeding.

He also said a number of projects that went to tender during 2008, priced in boom-time markets, were now coming back off hold and being re-tendered.

"We're finding that because there's much more tradesmen available, there was a case where there were three builders tendering on a job six months ago, now there are 24 builders all vying for work. It's becoming very competitive out there," Mr Stone said.

The company is also expecting school work to flow through from the federal government's stimulus package, and public housing work for the Department of Housing.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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