30/09/2010 - 00:00

Swarbrick & Swarbrick rock the business boat

30/09/2010 - 00:00


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It is the enormous sculpture inspired by the story of Saint George slaying the dragon that catches your eye when driving past Perth’s newly renovated Saint George’s Cathedral.

It is the enormous sculpture inspired by the story of Saint George slaying the dragon that catches your eye when driving past Perth’s newly renovated Saint George’s Cathedral.

Interestingly, Swarbrick and Swarbrick Yachts – better known as a leisure boat company – produced the billowing cape that wraps around the abstract lance.

Some might say the transition from fibreglass boats to sculptures is an odd one, but after speaking to the company’s director, Glenn Swarbrick, and discovering it was a case of diversifying the production capabilities of the company, it makes sense.

Mr Swarbrick started working as a subcontracting shipwright in 1988 before launching a boat building business under the Swarbrick and Swarbrick name in 1994.

Mr Swarbrick didn’t want to pigeonhole the company into just being a boat manufacturer, so when the opportunity came to him through the father of one of his son’s mates, he moved into producing fibreglass showers for transportable housing located at Western Australian mines.

“We got a break in that period through 2003-2007 when the mining boom was really happening; we were building a multitude of showers,” he said.

He signed a deal to make 8000 showers and bought a $400,000 5-axis CNC router, a specialist machine used to trim the showers, in order to make the process more seamless.

But not long after he had made that investment, Mr Swarbrick found he had no use for the machine when the mining work slowed during the global financial crisis.

“Having bought the machine, the showers then stopped, and we had to think about other things to use the machine for,” Mr Swarbrick said.

Mr Swarbrick and his team started working with Perth-based luxury boat company Magnus Craft involved in power boat production – the first to use the CNC router for this purpose in WA.

“From that we have had a lot of interest and built a lot of different things. We have made signage, architectural shapes and industrial shapes and patterns,” Mr Swarbrick said.

He said developing a reputation for applying the company’s expertise and capabilities to different projects was a matter of word of mouth through creating relationships through the right networks.

“One of the biggest things is networking with other companies. To not just be a company by yourself doing your own thing but to work with other companies to help them solve their problems and for them to help you solve your problems as well,” Mr Swarbrick said.

“Some of them are companies we have known, talked with over common interest areas. A lot of us are involved in the Australian Institute for Composites, as a common interest we often see each other at trade shows.

“With one company we have symmetry in the types of things we do, we do different things and we don’t really overlap in what we do, but we are closely associated businesses.

“From that, when someone comes to that company and asks for something to be made, they have then said ‘yes we can do that part of it, and Swarbrick and Swarbrick Yachts can do this part of it.’”

Mr Swarbrick said he wouldn’t collaborate with just anyone; it is important both companies are aligned in their working ways.

“We don’t want to develop too many relationships with too many companies, we want to keep the right sort of groups together so we can work as a unit to win contracts that are unwinnable on our own,” he said.

He said he aligns with companies that think laterally, that are not confined into stayed processes of manufacturing and those that will look at diverse ways of making a product, utilising the talents of the group together.

He said diversifying into new markets has been relatively easy in terms of pooling expertise from his networks, but it takes time to convince new markets of the quality of composite materials they are offering.

“There is a lot of resistance against entry into architectural and building [jobs], because people who build buildings don’t have a really good understanding of the structural nature of composites in their strength, their weight and the life expectancy,” he said.

“As a group of companies as a whole, we can produce a pretty good argument that the product is the best way to go.”



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