24/08/2011 - 10:00

Programmed aims to integrate brands

24/08/2011 - 10:00

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Programmed aims to integrate brands

FOUR years after the merger of Melbourne-based Programmed Maintenance Services and Perth-based Integrated Group, the company has launched a branding campaign to educate the market about the scope of its services.

The new campaign coincides with the merged group moving its head office back to Perth, where most of its head office functions are already located.

The staffing, maintenance and project services business has more than 7,500 customers, including some of Australia’s largest companies, but it seems many of them don’t fully appreciate the business they’re dealing with is part of the Programmed network.

A survey of 2,000 Integrated customers found only 24 per cent had heard of parent company Programmed, whereas 60-70 per cent knew of competitor companies Spotless, Transfield and United.

In addition, most of the group’s customers use only one service.

The group is responding by putting all arms of the business, including Integrated and Total Marine, under the Programmed master brand and stepping up efforts to cross-sell its services.

Managing director Chris Sutherland, originally from Integrated, said inconsistent branding was a challenge.

“We’re kind of rebuilding a brand, as well as connecting a brand across a business,” Mr Sutherland told WA Business News.

“Since the merger we haven’t had a lot of time to spend on making the merger achieve the benefit of building great relations with all the customers and selling all services across the customers ... so that’s why we’ve launched a plan to bring the whole company together.”

The campaign launch marks a fresh start for the merged group, after a succession of operational setbacks and restructuring moves during the past three years. Mr Sutherland said the workforce division suffered from a fall in demand for casual labour as soon as the GFC hit, which was initially offset by the group’s resources and infrastructure divisions.

“We had some good work in the resources sector so we kept growing, but then mining companies suspended a whole swath of projects across the industry,” he said.

The infrastructure division then took up the slack, growing as a result of government-funded stimulus work; but that provided only a temporary boost.

The pressures on the group were reflected in its financial performance. Total revenue in the year to March 2011 was $1.22 billion, up 6.8 per cent, but pressure on margins meant profit fell.

Net profit from continuing operations was $22.2 million, while the statutory profit (including losses from its former UK business) was $10.4 million.

Mr Sutherland believes the outlook for the group is more positive after restructuring the business.

“We feel we’re in a good position now,” he said.

“We’re not saying everything is rosy in the economy but we’ve got the business the right size to handle that and grow from that.”

Mr Sutherland said earnings were expected to improve with a stronger demand projected for its services, particularly from the resources sector, and a lower cost base in all three divisions.

“I get frustrated a bit that the investment community look at it as a ‘glass half empty’ rather than glass half full,” he said. 

‘‘They worry about the things we’re exposed to in the slow-speed economy but ignore the significant exposure we have to the fast part of the economy. And also I believe … having the diversity in our services is a good thing.” 

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