A system of quality
Agfab Engineering is a general engineering business in the west of Melbourne known for their experience, skills and knowledge. They specialise in providing mechanical, electrical, civil construction and engineering services across a wide variety of industries. Their clients have included numerous water authorities, important government bodies, and major construction companies across Victoria.
“We’re known for our quality, and our high standard of workmanship,” explains Alan Nield, General Manager at Agfab. “And we’re incredibly customer focused – we do everything possible to achieve their desired result. That’s why they gravitate towards us.”
The company first started growing its reputation more than 20 years ago in Werribee South, where it provided support to the local farming industry. Founder John Frattin had previously been made redundant from Melbourne Water. When he struck out on his own, he brought on a bunch of guys that had also been made redundant.
“And then they turned offered that service back to Melbourne Water,” Nield recalls.
From there, Afgab moved into construction work, providing fabrication and general engineering to all the major construction companies throughout Melbourne. They have since established a name for quality across Victoria, and have also occasionally ventured overseas. They have grown from only a couple of people to about 60, and Nield says they “have a good base to move into the post-GFC era.”
Today, Agfab works primarily within the water industry, where they have firmly established their abilities and experience. They are well regarded for their provision of civil, mechanical and electrical construction services, and have built and upgraded number of pumping station and plants. They also provide maintenance and breakdown services for those plants. And they have become known for their ability to do it all in-house.
“We dig the first hole and we put up the last post, we are quite proud of that,” Nield says.
In addition to their range of capabilities, Agfab Is set apart by their dedication to service. With every project, they aim to provide clients with a reliable and superior service in a safe and cost-efficient way. They also aim to be there for customers every step of the way.
“If one of our customers needs something, they know that we will drop everything and try to help,” Nield says. “Even when our clients leave because they find someone cheapter, they gravitate back to us because of the quality of the work that we do.”
Nield adds that Agfab’s depth of knowledge within the water industry has given them the reputation of being able to solve complex issues, and that also keeps people coming back for more.
“We have good systems and give a lot of up front thought, and that gives our clients a lot of comfort because they know that we are not just throwing money away on a project.”
Helping hands, winning hearts
Agfab has also positioned their company as a place new engineers can look to for help. Nield explains that they have noticed an influx of “fresh” graduates to the engineering field, and says at Agfab they can usually tell when talking to them that they have yet to earn a lot of on the ground knowledge.
“We try to help them out, even if we don’t get a job out of it,” he says. “We offer our service. We say ‘If you need a hand, or if you need some assistance, let us know. We won’t charge them, but if it does turn into a job we have already laid the groundwork for the project.”
By offering that helping hand, Agfab builds relationships. They know that people will come back. In the past, project managers from some companies have taken them up on their help and even continued their relationship with Agfab when they move on to other companies.
“They remember us, and they remember the quality of the service we gave to them,” Nield says. “We are very focused on developing those partnerships – and we build those one client, one person at a time.”
Agfab’s client focus and design capability has not only won them customers, but it has resulted in industry recognition. For example, the company was recently involved in the construction on the West Gate Bridge, in Melbourne. This structure was given the Supreme Award at the 2012 Structural Awards. Nield downplays their role in the award, but is very proud of their involvement in the project.
“We didn’t have a huge role in the project, but we did supply fabricated materials to the construction.”
Nield explains that the have been able to contribute to complex and important projects like that one because of the systems that have in place.
“Our quality systems are entrenched in the company,” he says. “They have been there since the beginning and they were not prompted by a need for accreditation. They are there because we expect a lot from ourselves and our people.”
“With the Westgate Bridge, the welding quality and the flow of information had to be well managed, and I presume that is why they selected Agfab as one of their suppliers,” he adds. “Of course our ability to meet deadlines was important as well.”
One of the other projects that Nield is particularly proud of is their work on the Wedge Street Pedestrian Bridge that they provided the structural steel for. They worked with BMD to see this project to completion.
“It’s something that we are very proud of, it is quite a magnificent architecturally designed project,” he says.
The bridge itself is no ordinary structure, it winds its way through the Werribee Riverbank precinct, around trees and over the river. This organic design at once is breathtaking and challenging from an engineering standpoint.
Another key part of Agfab’s ability to deliver complex and quality projects – like the pedestrian bridge on the Werribee Riverbank – is the proactive approach they take to updating their machinery and systems. They consider it “absolutely necessary” to stay on the cutting edge of some technology, as they do with their welding systems.
“It improves quality and productivity, and with new technology it is a lot easier to get better quality welds and workmanship,” Nield says. “We have good welders and with the right equipment we can produce a higher quality weld.
Moving forward, Nield says Agfab will continue to stay on the cutting edge of technology, and will continue to deliver high quality, award-worthy projects. He also says they will continue to grow, but without ever compromising their customer focus and family atmosphere.
“It started off as a family business and it still is a family business. John is still on the shop floor more than he is in the office,” reports Nield. He jokes that John’s presence might sometimes make the men on the shop floor a little nervous, but it is good for morale that they see he is just as ready to get his hands dirty as they are.
“That’s part of our strength,” Nield adds. “As a family business, we care about our clients and our employees.”
The personal involvement of upper management at all stages of a project provides confidence to both Agfab employees and their clients.
Many workers have been the victims of downsizing and outsourcing at some point, but Agfab has built a strong team that promises longevity and fulfilling work. Their satisfaction with their work is reflected in the final products they produce.
For more information, please visit their website at: Agfab Engineering
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