Concept to completion
Laboratory Systems Group is a family-owned and operated Australian company specialising in concept-to-completion custom solutions for laboratory and industrial requirements. The company’s personnel boast many years of experience with laboratory and clean room equipment, in every aspect from design to manufacture to installation. Lab Systems have in-house engineering and design teams, and outsource as little as possible, which allows them to have unparalleled control over the quality of the final product. “That’s one of the things that we will strive to maintain in the competitive marketplace,” says Brett Cole, the company’s National Sales & Marketing Manager. “We believe it’s the backbone of our structure, and also one of our key strengths, and we bring that to the customer experience.”
The company was formed in 1975 as a small plastics fabrications manufacturing company that primarily made fume extraction equipment for laboratories and other engineering environments. “Fume cupboards became part of the product suite in the late 1970’s and through the early 80’s it became more or less the core business,” recounts Cole. “Since then, fume cupboards and lab equipment have been the company’s main offerings.” In the years since, Laboratory Systems Group have added a lot of additional manufactured product to their range, allowing them to offer a complete suite of lab products – most of which is made locally, in their factory.
Today, Laboratory Systems Group products include fume cupboards, ductless fume cabinets, fans, laboratory fit outs, scrubbing and fume extraction systems and chemical storage facilities and cabinets. Each piece of equipment is world class, competitively priced, and designed for maximum safety and performance over an extended period.
Competition and customisation
The market for laboratory hardware and fittings is a niche one, but is not without competition. Cole says Laboratory Systems Group differentiates itself by having two main advantages: “What sets us apart from some of our competitors, firstly, is that we still manufacture onshore and in-house.” This is in contrast to many other companies that have moved their production offshore and turned to imported product. “Secondly, our real tangible benefit is our ability to customise to client requirements. Whereas our larger competitors now produce Model A, Model B and Model C, and if you want a combination of Model B and A and a few other things added to it, they won’t or can’t do it because they’re set up for mass production,” explains Cole. “For us it’s still very economically viable and affordable for the client to customise their lab equipment to suit their requirements – and that is, as I said, done onshore.”
Because of their ability to customise, Lab Systems has a diverse customer base, and their work varies. “We do everything from small standalone systems, one-off private laboratory fit outs, right through to large university departments,” says Cole. “We cover a large gamut of the market. We don’t limit ourselves.” The same customisation ability means the company can offer clients a complete solution from concept to completion, or any stage in between. “If someone needs a lab, it doesn’t matter where they are on the design continuum, they can call us and we can jump in at any time and drop off at any time in the project,” Cole explains.
More often than not, however, clients tend to go with them for the whole experience. They are a one-stop shop for laboratory system solutions, so they are able to prevent their clients from having to worry about all the steps and potential complications. At Laboratory Systems Group, they design to the clients’ requirements, install the products the client’s expect, and if there any problems along the way, they take care of it. “We basically take that headache away from the client, and we can work anywhere along that design-to-completion continuum,” reiterates Cole. That customer service philosophy is validated by repeat customers and referrals, which constitutes most of their customer base, especially from universities and government departments.
The permanent employee count at Laboratory Systems Group is in the mid 50s, with that number fluctuating when they bring in contract staff to keep up with excess workload. Cole says that the company’s internal relationships are equally as solid as their external ones. “The thing about Lab Systems is because the inception was a small family business, it still maintains that culture,” he explains. “Whilst we’re a larger company now and we’ve professionalised it a lot since the mid 70s, it’s still family owned and still has that family element about it. Part of that is fostering the long term company commitment to the employees. Everyone that works here, even new people who come on board and join the team, they can feel it from day one – that really strong connection with the culture and the company.”
The challenges posed to Laboratory Systems Group are not uncommon for a local manufacturer, and include factors such as the strong Australian dollar, competitive import market, and the skill shortage caused by the drop in manufacturing over the last decade. To face these challenges, Cole says the company has to constantly evaluate how they do business and strive to be as competitive and economical as possible without sacrificing product quality or service. As far as the skill shortage goes, that is where their family culture comes in handy – it is actually in the manufacturing part of their business that they have the best employee retention, and the company hopes to maintain their strength in that department by taking a mentoring approach to their younger workers.
Moving forward, Laboratory Systems Group sees an emerging market for their industrial division, which thus far has been only a small component of their business, operating primarily in the manufacturing and mining sectors. In the long term, it is also important to the company they enhance their product from an environmental point of view. They supply a very green-conscious sector, so sustainability is one of their focuses. “The plan is to look at new technologies and products and materials that can achieve the same outcome but reduce the long term carbon footprint for the customer,” Cole explains. “Our commitment to sustainability is always improving, and as technology improves and becomes more environmentally friendly we adopt that where possible.”