02/12/2020 - 19:30

RISE: UON powers up for success

02/12/2020 - 19:30

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The overall winner of the RISE business awards has gone from a two-man startup in 1998 to a fast-growing energy company with nearly 300 staff.

UON commercial general manager Kenny Keogh (left) with Mark Keogh and Macquarie Bank’s Lex Scott-Mackenzie.

The overall winner of the RISE business awards has gone from a two-man startup in 1998 to a fast-growing energy company with nearly 300 staff and strong growth prospects.

Malaga-based UON started life as a reseller of power generation and pumping equipment to the mining sector.

Under the leadership of chairman and chief executive Mark Keogh, the business has achieved sustained growth, especially after a strategic reset following the 2013-14 downturn.

The UON team realised that simply being a reseller of other manufacturers’ products meant it did not have a point of difference in the market, and that it was not in control of its business.

The company initiated an R&D program to build its own products and took control of its supply chain and manufacturing process.

UON’s core business today is the design, supply and installation of remote power and water solutions that are engineered in-house to suit harsh Western Australian conditions.

Building on this core business, it has developed the UON SMART energy philosophy that is standardised across client sites to achieve more efficient, safer operations.

UON won the Large Business of the Year category on its way to being selected as Western Australian Business of the Year in the RISE awards for 2020.

The strength of the business has been highlighted over the past 12 months.

Its achievements included attracting support from Sydney-based Macquarie Bank, which invests in businesses across the globe.

Macquarie became an investor in UON last December, acquiring a minority shareholding alongside the founder.

UON’s strong growth has continued despite the onset of COVID-19.

Rather than laying-off staff or cutting wages, UON made a commitment to its team; in March assuring staff there would be no lay-offs or reductions in take-home pay.

While there was a short-term halt to new orders, UON chose to continue manufacturing and purchasing supplies.

This led to a build-up of stocks and consumables, which meant UON could support clients when activity ramped-up quickly.

The result for UON was 40 per cent growth in staff numbers.

Even more impressive, its revenue and profit nearly doubled in the year to June 2020.

Having recently secured multi-million-dollar contracts with Rio Tinto, BHP and other miners, the company is budgeting for more growth in sales and profit in the current financial year.

UON’s future growth strategy marks an ambitious shift.

The company used to promise its clients it would “keep you on and keep you operational”.

It now promises to help clients decarbonise their business by transitioning to renewables.

This represents a big change, as most mining companies use diesel generators for temporary power.

The new strategy was a key factor in winning over Macquarie Bank and taps into one of the big trends affecting the global mining industry: the increased focus on environmental, social, and governance risks.

UON’s specific goal is to reduce fossil fuel usage on all sites by 30 per cent within three years.

To achieve this target, UON is developing fuel-efficient generators that link to hybrid power and water-pumping solutions.

This draws on its core integration capability.

It also needs to convince clients to spend more money up-front on fuel-efficient solutions in order to achieve opex and capex savings over time.

UON’s end-to-end client service enables performance tracking on dashboards that helps clients quantify the impact of their investment decisions.

The company’s goals include moving into international mining and then sectors such as infrastructure, agriculture and construction.

UON has combined its profitable growth with support for a range of charities, including for indigenous housing (via Studio Kinship) and indigenous youth development (via Role Models and Leaders Australia).

The UON team also raises funds for a charity of the month.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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