The structure of a strong company
Just over 20 years ago directors Juan and Frank Gonzalez founded Algon Steel, a steel fabrication company. Commencing their operations from within rented facilities in Islington, Algon Steel has gone on to have great success, now being based in a major industrial hub in Beresfield, NSW at the end of the F3 Freeway on quite a large premises. Not only is Algon Steel operating from a state of the art 4,200 square metre workshop facility but has also managed to make a quite substantial footprint in the industrial painting sector with another 4,200 square metre facility on the same premises. The Workshop Facility is equipped with modern computerised processing equipment (Beamline, Coping Machine, Plasma/Oxy cutting Machine) along with a 20T overhead Crane for handling of items. “We do all material processing, fabrication, welding and cleaning in house as required.” The Paintshop Facility is equipped with a modern Auto Recycling Blast Chamber (5m x 8m x 24m), a Filtered Exhaust Extraction Fan System along with a 20T Capacity overhead Crane for handling. “In addition to fabricating we also blast/clean and paint all of our own steelwork in-house as per the request and requirements of our clients,” says Goran Poposki, one of Algon Steel’s current project managers. Goran began working with the company right after completing his degree in civil/structural engineering seven years ago. While most of the work is done in NSW (Sydney – Hunter Valley), Algon Steel’s clients hail from as far as Victoria all the way up to Brisbane. “We cover a very large area,” says Goran. Algon Steel undertakes a variety of projects ranging from residential, commercial, industrial and mining projects, ranging from as little as 10 tonne to well over 2000 tonne.
Algon Steel provides construct projects for their clients, with aid in the design aspect included and well served. They also provide detailing, supply, fabrication, galvanising, and erection. While these services are included in their projects, clients are also able to request material processing s services, surface preparation, and painting. Additionally, Algon Steel also has its own transportation facility enabling better and more efficient control over deliveries to site. Some clients also require installation of structural steel on site which Algon Steel is able to provide. In addition to using their own qualified riggers, Algon also has the capabilities to bring in additional rigging crews through certified rigging subcontractors. It is the only area which they subcontract (if required), and this is only done after a stringent interview process to ensure that all quality assurance and standards are met.
As Algon Steel has moved from commercial and industrial works into the mining industry they have faced some challenges. “It’s a totally different field of work when you’re talking about fabrication. It’s a lot heavier and all the qualities and standards are a lot more stringent. It’s been a bit of a learning curve for us, coming from one area to another but I think we’re doing a pretty good job,” says Goran.
Currently they are working with Bechtel Australia on the expansion works of the coal handling facilities on Kooragang Island. They are currently working on approximately 150 tonne of steelwork for them which is about 50 per cent complete at the moment.
Helping the next generation
While finding skilled labour poses a challenge for any company, Algon Steel has dealt with this challenge by meeting it head on. Algon Steel has created a Junior Development Program which focuses on the training of the next generation through apprenticeships. “The directors of the company have found it very difficult to find available skilled tradesmen in this field. The only way to overcome this issue is to bring on young people that are willing to learn, and are very interested. We then put the effort in and train them ourselves,” says Goran. Not many other companies have adopted this program, making Algon Steel particularly unique. Goran says that there are always at least five apprentices on board at any given time. “We are finding that skilled boiler makers and welders these days are extremely hard to come across. And when you do they are usually aged tradesmen which are extremely skilled but also nearing the end of their working careers. We are not seeing as many young people entering this specialised field, this means that the skills of the more experienced tradesmen are slowly disappearing. This is unfortunate but means that a program such as the Junior Development Program is a way for Algon to try and inject more young people into the industry and have some exposure with the more skilled tradesmen we currently have on board. We try to bring these apprentices on board, train them the way we want with the right mentors, and then hopefully build their skills up to a very high standard which would also benefit Algon in the future,” explains Goran.
Helping the next generation is important in more ways than one. Sustainable initiatives are imperative to ensure the well-being and success of the next generation but also leading by example.
Algon Steel and its employees share a very honest and loyal relationship. They have a high proportion of full time employees as well as apprentices. Algon Steel currently employs about 35-40 tradesmen, in addition to ten other employees in the paint shop. They now have six managers and three estimators on board which shows significant growth since first establishing. The company is currently working on a few different programs for their employees. Despite current company-employee relations being quite good, Goran says that they are currently trying to organise a couple of social activities such as BBQ’s for the employees in order to keep morale up and thank them for their hard work.
The Algon Steel difference
At Algon Steel, they are constantly working to improve both their work and services. Goran says it is all about the way they deal with their clients. At Algon Steel they always ask for feedback from their clients. “We give the clients what they want and we make their job easy. A very big thing in projects and dealing with clients is the paperwork aspect. You can either make the clients life difficult by not supplying the appropriate paperwork accordingly, or you can make it easy – which is what we aim to do. We sit down with our clients and see exactly what they need, what the requirements are for each specific project, and we endeavour to supply everything that is requested at a very high standard,” he says.
Despite a drop in the amount of projects Algon Steel has had during the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), they have still managed to pull through thanks to their loyal client base. “The GFC definitely slowed down a lot of companies. Our good clients have basically kept us going through this time. We have a lot of repeat business,” says Goran.
No need to change a good thing
While growth is usually a good thing for a business, Algon Steel does not have any further plans for expansion. They simply want to maintain the company as it is and continue to provide excellent quality and service. “We don’t want to grow much further. Reason being, what we can do is concentrate on the clients that we have, and the size that we have. It’s a medium sized company and we’re servicing some rather large companies at the moment,” says Goran. Algon Steel stresses the importance of quality rather than quantity. “I believe the larger the company grows, the less chance we’ve got of providing a very, very good service which is what we’re proud of. Therefore, that’s where we want to stay. We want to provide the service and we believe we can do that at the current size we are. So that’s where we’d like to stay at the moment.”