VEEM Engineering Group has racked up achievements that would make it the envy of many other manufacturing businesses in Western Australia.
Having traded for more than 50 years, Veem is still owned and run by the family that founded it, and exports its marine products globally.
The company has been manufacturing propellers for more than 50 years; but not just run-of-the-mill propellers.
Managing director Mark Miocevich said the company led the industry in the development of propeller design and manufacturing technology.
Veem’s innovations include the trademarked Interceptor Propellor, which allows changes to the pitch of the propeller at any time.
This won the company an award at the Australian Marine Industry Export Awards two years ago.
Mr Miocevich said his father established the business after recognising a gap in the local market for dynamic balancing and truck driveshaft repairs.
Veem started with just a balancing machine and an old lathe. Today the business employs 150 people at its workshop in Canning Vale.
Mark’s brother Gary, who was instrumental in getting the Kwinana Motorplex up and running, is chairman, while Brad is the director of marine propulsion.
Veem’s primary market is the marine industry, which represents 85 per cent of the company’s annual turnover; one quarter of the company’s work is for the export market.
Next year Veem will start production for its contract with the US Navy via Austal Ships, and Mark Miocevich said exports were expected to increase to a third of the company’s turnover.
However the strength of the Australian dollar, which had eroded the company’s ability to compete overseas, had forced Veem to develop new business strategies.
“There needed to be a paradigm shift, more so because of the Australian dollar rather than the GFC,” Mark Miocevich said.
“There’s no manufacturing company in the world that can swallow a 35 per cent drop in income on their product.
“Probably over the last three years we’ve been studying our business and looking at how we can operate in this different paradigm.”
He said reassessing the type of work Veem pursued and how it approached its work had enabled the business to make savings.
“Now we approach our business by, rather than fishing in a stream and hooking something which is work, we now target and we look for work of a certain nature, a certain size per year,” Mr Miocevich said.
The work has to be sufficient to justify expenditure on research and development.
It also has to fit within the company’s ‘work scope’.
“We have heavily loaded sections of the business and lighter loaded sections, so you‘ve got to find a product that best fits that mix. That seems to be working well for us,” Mr Miocevich said.
The company has also sought new business opportunities within the local market for its existing equipment and capabilities, specifically in the mining sector.
“Underground mining fans is a good case in point where we recognised a million dollar a year market and we spent the research and development time to develop the very best processes,” Mr Miocevich said.
“We have some of the best machinery in the world, so by applying our expertise right throughout and focusing on it, we’ve reduced the cost of our fans by 30 per cent.”
Mr Miocevich believes the company’s new duo bar pipe, which has been trialled successfully at Alcoa for the past year, could be one of the new solutions for the processing industry.
He said the hardwearing product had saved Alcoa 90 per cent on expenditure in the particular area of the plant where it is being used.
The Miocevich brothers, who are now in their 50s, recently hired four young professionals in naval architecture and mechanical engineering who they hope will become the leaders to take the business into its next phase of growth.