Hutchins Bros Engineering is a leading structural steel fabrication and erection company. Through their industry alliances, the firm can provide the entire structural steel package from design, shop detailing right through to fabrication, finishing and erection. Over their 30-plus years of history, they have successfully delivered a broad portfolio of projects across a diverse area.
Hutchins Bros history began in 1980, when the company was established by brothers Stewart and Graham Hutchins, who started it with the purpose of building farm sheds. After early years of success, the pair expanded the business, moving it into the township of Narrandera, where they constructed a workshop facility on Douglas Street in 1982. In 1985, Graham left the business to pursue other interests and sold his share to Stewart.
Stewart and his wife Jenny managed the business together for 18 years and took the company into major industrial structural steel fabrication in 1995. In 2004, Stewart sold a 50 per cent stake in the business to his son Bill and his wife Heidi. The couple purchased the remaining half of the company in 2011 and continue to manage the business together.
“Bill commenced work in the family business in the early 1990s undertaking a welding apprenticeship. He then worked alongside his father right up until 2003 when he decided to move to Sydney to be closer to me,” recalls Heidi Hutchins, now a Director at the family business.
“Bill got a job in Sydney as a rigger erecting Structural Steel,” she explains. “He knew the quality of the work that came out of his father’s workshop and found the steel he was working with in Sydney to be poor in comparison. He saw a real opportunity for Hutchins Bros to send quality structural steel into the Sydney area.”
With Bill away in Sydney, his parents Stewart & Jenny did not want to continue working in the business and looked to close up and retire. “It was at this point we decided that we should take the opportunity and move home to Narrandera and keep the business going,” tells Heidi.
Heidi herself also comes from an industry background, and has 15 years of experience in construction, contract management and administration and property finance. Today, she is responsible for managing the firm’s operations, administration and business development, and maintains an active role in the tender and project delivery process to ensure client satisfaction.
Bill has 18 years hands-on experience in the steel industry and has an in-depth knowledge of all facets of structural steel fabrication and erection. Bill is responsible for the day-to-day running of the business, co-coordinating all elements of the firm’s projects from tender, procurement, fabrication, finishing, transport and erection.
When Bill and Heidi first took over the company, their main goal was to hit the major metropolitan areas by sending steel into places like Sydney.
They began approaching some of the key builders in Sydney and providing quotes. From there, they gradually shifted from doing smaller, regional works to taking on large commercial and industrial projects in metropolitan areas.
The right way
According to Heidi, Hutchins Bros Engineering has achieved such continuous success because they understand the importance of “doing things the right way, in the right order.” They understand that quality and accountability are the keys to making every project a success, and their attention to quality, detail and keeping records is what sets them apart from other steel fabricators.
They also have lower overhead costs than their metropolitan competitors, she adds, as well as large spaces for storage and production. Their purpose-built facility at Red Hill Industrial Estate in Narrandera – which they relocated to in 2009 – is 18,000 square-metres and incorporates a range of state-of-the-art equipment.
It features a new 1,120 square-metre fabrication workshop with an overhead crane, and a phython X beamline processing machine, as well as a dedicated 960 square-meter sandblasting and painting building with a modern six-metre-wide x five-metre-high x 21-metre-long auto recovery blast chamber for surface preparation.
This new facility has allowed Hutchins Bros to take on larger projects and provide greater efficiency in production. “Having the ability to undertake our own protective coatings and the addition of the Python X beamline processing machine has substantially increased our throughput capacity and cost effectiveness,” Heidi says. “Our large allotment allows us the flexibility to store a lot of raw material and fabricated steel, a luxury that many of our metropolitan competitors do not have.”
Those capabilities – combined with the skill of their workers – have enabled Hutchins Bros to form positive and long-lasting relationships with their clients. “Price gets you in the door at the first instance in a relationship, and then it comes down to your ability to perform on the job. Success in this area creates opportunity for further work,” Heidi explains. “We like to pride ourselves on having few errors. When we do have an error, we deal with it promptly.”
Hutchins Bros also works hard to foster strong relationships with their subcontractors, Heidi says, “because they are a vital component of our business.” They work closely with them to ensure that their clients never feel like they are dealing with more than one company, just Hutchins Bros. “We make sure that everyone is working in unison as one team,” says Heidi.
Hutchins Bros’ relationships with their direct employed staff are just as strong. They employ 20 staff, and because they are a family-run business, everyone is treated like a family member. “We try to create a work environment that’s fun for everybody,” Heidi explains. “We have an open-door policy where staff can approach us about anything.”
Just as important as relationships for Hutchins Bros is quality management, because quality is what their customers expect – and it’s what Hutchins Bros has become known for delivering. “We are committed to providing our customers with the assurance that we shall supply a quality service that meets or exceeds expectations both on time and to budget,” Heidi explains.
To ensure best practice and high quality outcomes are consistently achieved, Hutchins Bros strives for continuous improvement and aims to maintain a quality management system complying with AS/NZS9001:2000 standards. “We consider good management practice and staff participation essential to the continuation and advancement of our quality systems,” Heidi says.
Ensuring high quality has resulted in years’ worth of memorable projects for the company. Recently, they’ve taken on a significant number of multi-building defence contracts over numerous sites, including one that involved supplying fourteen buildings at the Kapooka barracks near Wagga Wagga, NSW. Heidi says they were extremely proud of that particular project.
“We’ve really geared ourselves to stay abreast of the ever changing high standards that government contracts require, in terms of safety, quality and respect for the environment.”
Going forward, Hutchins Bros Engineering will work to maintain strong relationships with their existing client base and continue to pursue those high-end government contracts as they expand their capacity in the next few years. The couple expect that the company will increase its workshop capacity by 20 to 25 per cent just in the next year or two alone.
Looking ahead to the longer term, Bill & Heidi would like to see Hutchins Bros move toward more automated processing to increase efficiency and provide greater value for clients. They also see potential in the idea of adding a double shift in their factory in the not-so-distant future. That way, they can further their capacity and production and cement their image as a leading steel fabricator.