A name for quality
WalpettEngineering is a privately-owned steel fabrication company that has been servicing Canberra and the surrounding areas for more than half a century. Based out of modern facilities on a 10,000 square-metre site, over the years Walpett has built an enduring reputation for delivering high quality steel solutions to satisfied clients.
“Walpett has a strong name for quality products,” says Lawson Flinn, General Manager of the company. “Clients know that when Walpett is awarded the contract, they are going to get a quality and value-for-dollar project, and they’re going to get it in on time.”
Walpettstarted building their reputation all the way back in the mid-1950s, when the company was founded by partners Wally and Peter – whose names, when combined, form the company title. Lawson’s father Doug Flinnhad an early relationship with the two of them, and he did some minor work by their sidebefore moving to another state. He soon returned, though, at which point he joined the crew full-time before becoming a Director in 1969. Because he was quite a bit younger than Wally and Peter,it wasn’t long until they retired and he took over their shares.
Under Doug’s leadership, Walpett Engineering evolved from a small metalwork fabricator into a large one, and moved into structural steel fabricating from there. Lawson himself eventually joined the family business fulltime after a stint with commercial builder, then another as an engineer in a gold mine.
The right skills
Today, Walpett Engineering’s workload is conducted mainly for clients in Canberra and the surrounding areas. In the past, they have also done work in the Sydney metropolitan area as well as the odd job up in the Snowy Mountains. Their projects tend to take place in the commercial or industrial sector, and the company has contributed to everything from hospitals to commercials warehouses, apartment blocks and high-rise structures.
Walpett Engineering doesn’t only do structural steel work. The company started its life doing architectural metalwork jobs, and over the years they have only built on their capabilities and skill level in that market. Their metalwork items are often used as components in large-scale residential projects and small commercial projects.
Currently, the company’s site includes three workshops –an 1800 square-metre structure steel workshop, an 800 square-metre metalwork workshop, and a 1200 square-metre paint shop.
“It comes down to the history of the company,” Lawson says, describing what sets Walpett apart. “We’ve been established for a long time, and we’ve had exposure to all the top-tier builders that work within Canberra and the surrounding areas. Our relationships with those guys were created and carried on by my father, and continue with me and our other General Manager, Tony McCallum.”
Most of the big commercial builders in the area – such as Lend Lease, Leighton Contractors and Hindmarsh Constructions – have been working with Walpett Engineering for decades. Lawson credits the strength of those relationships to the strength of Walpett’s internal team.
“Walpett has many longstanding employees,” he says. “At least half-a-dozen of our guys that have been with us for 20 years or more. What it comes down to is that we provide a nice, safe working environment that promotes quality – which makes our employees take pride in the work they produce.”
“The skill and knowledge of our team is vital to our success,” he adds. “And having longstanding employees means they have developed considerable skills within their own trades, and those can be passed on to our younger generation and apprentices coming through.”
Walpett Engineering also fosters positive relationships with the men and women on their supply chain, Lawson explains. Those relationships are also vital to the company’s success, as Walpett has to rely on them to deliver their high quality products in a timely fashion, for an affordable price.
“We have a wide variety of suppliers from not only Canberra, but we’re involved heavily with suppliers Sydney as well,” he says. “Our relationships are strong, and that counts for our subcontractors as well.”
Walpett subcontracts their cranes and rigging work, for example, and Lawson says they’ve been working with the same contractors there for 18 continuous years. Those are the types of relationships they like to establish and maintain at all levels, he explains.
Leaders in steel
Over the years, Walpett Engineering has been involved in numerous high profile projects throughout Canberra and the surrounding areas. Lawson points to the city’s National Convention Centre as a particularly significant one – “That’s got some really nice exposed steel work that we did,” he says.
Lawson also cites the Australian National University’s College of Scienceand the John Curtin School of Medical Research as two more jobsWalpett takes a lot of pride in. “Those projects were quite architecturally difficult,” he explains, “But we completed them in a high quality and efficient way. Those facilities serve important purposes too, so we are proud to have contributed.”
According to Lawson, it is Walpett’s experience that enables them to successfully execute such complex projects. He gives particular credit to his fellow General Manager Tony McCallum, who has been with the company for 26 years and “knows the ins and outs of what we’re capable of, and knows how to deliver on it.”
Moving forward, Walpett Engineering aims to continue proving themselves on those important and complex jobs. They also aim to expand their level of architectural metalwork, as Lawson says they have the skills, the experience, and the capabilities to deliver more and bigger items.
In general, Lawson says that the company’s main goal is to become the “leading structural steel and architectural metal fabricator in the ACT and surrounding region.”