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Problem solvers

Emtivac is an Australian-owned engineering business that specialises in industrial vacuum pumps, equipment and systems. On top of being a renowned supplier of top quality vacuum pumps, blowers and centrifugal pumps, they are also an experienced system designer and manufacturer. “We are fairly specialised in the vacuum field but have a broad product range under that umbrella, covering quite a lot of different product types and applications,” says David Hobson, Managing Director. “That said, our main emphasis would be process vacuums – any application in the process vacuum field we can help with.”

The company was started in February of 1998 by David Hobson, an engineer with a wealth of prior field experience in companies based both in Australia and abroad. “Emtivac was a one man band to start off with,” Hobson says. “I originally started working from home and then a year and a half later I moved to a small factory, and we’ve been growing steadily ever since.”

What sets Emtivac apart in the market is their unique ability to solve problems that other companies can find too difficult. “We tend to do a lot of customised system design and construction. We don’t just sell a box, we design and build systems to suit the customer requirements,” says Hobson. “We do sell the pumps as well, and we like to think that we have a better quality pump for better value, but what really makes us different is the ability to come up with a unique solution to customer’s problems by designing and building something that will solve them.”

A particularly successful example of Emtivac’s problem-solving innovation can be found in the glass bottle industry, which used to have a lot of problems with inefficient water-sealed vacuum pumps. In response, Emtivac developed an oil-sealed vacuum pump system design that has served them exceptionally well – nearly every glass bottle plant in the country has now utilised their services. “We come across issues that people have and then we see if that’s something we can help with and come up with a solution for,” Hobson says. “That’s our key point of difference, I would say.”

Emtivac’s main service is the supply of vacuum pumps, but their repair service is a growing ancillary component of their business. “That’s something we always like to offer,” Hobson says. “It’s certainly something we promote strongly – not just the actual maintenance work but predictive and preventative maintenance by doing efficiency testing of the vacuum pumps. And while we’re doing efficiency testing, we also check vibrations, grease levels, and things like that.” By taking those testing measures, Emtivac is able to assess how well a pump is performing compared to when it was brand new, and help customers plan overhauls in advance. For clients, this means a smoother flow of work with less downtime.

That service offering is part of Emtivac’s strong customer focus, which also encompasses their accessibility. “People ring up and we don’t have a telephone answering service,” Hobson says. “We pick up the phone ourselves – you can always talk to a person.” The sales team at the company is also constantly visiting customers to check in, so as to gain a greater understanding of their application requirements and make the right recommendations going forward. This approach has been validated by good customer feedback, repeat business, and referrals. “That’s a great strength of our company,” says Hobson. “Our main method of getting new customers is meeting and talking to people.”

Environmental sustainability is also an emerging focus for the company. “We’ve grown quite strong in the field of soil remediation, cleaning up contaminated sites,” Hobson says. “We’ve developed containerised packaged solutions to suit that industry, which are designed and built by us.” Additionally, Emtivac has also developed vapour treatment systems and have put a lot of work into programs that seek to improve energy efficiency. “There’s a lot of potential to reduce energy and water consumption quite considerably in a lot of vacuum applications,” says Hobson. “We’ve got a number of systems just for that purpose.”

When it comes to challenges facing Emtivac, Hobson says the company is faced with the same ones that plague most manufacturing businesses in Australia – finding new work when existing and potential customers start looking offshore, or to imported products. However, Hobson says that because Emtivac is more a part of the process industry, their exposure to those issues has not affected them critically. And like many businesses, they have found new opportunities in the domestic mining sector.

Another common challenge facing the business would be the national shortage of tradespeople. Hobson has contended with this by fostering a good employee-company relationship. Though Emtivac started as a one man band, over the years the company grew to be a band of 20 and retained most members. Hobson credits this success, partly, to the commonality he fosters within the company. Despite being in charge, Hobson himself is often in the field, working alongside his employees. “I’m out there getting my hands dirty with everyone else,” he says.

As far as the future is concerned, Hobson says they are planning ahead carefully and cautiously. “In the short term we’re just focusing on remaining profitable through what could be a bit of an economic shock,” he explains. For the moment, the company is looking to further expand into growth areas such as mining, as well as develop their export market. “That’s a strong area for potential growth – overseas work, particularly in the oil and gas area.” Emtivac already has a sizable project being conducted in Indonesia, and hopes to launch more in that area soon.

Longer term, Hobson sees Emtivac continuing to grow in both size and profile, in Australia as well as internationally. “Steady growth would be the order of the day, I think,” he says. “We’re 14 years old, but still considered fairly new by some companies.”