Pioneers in oven engineering
Industrial Engineering Technology Pty Ltd (IET) is a company that leads the way in the manufacturing of industrial ovens and various equipment for the snack food industry. Their streak of innovation and creativity has earned the company a reputation as a world leader in combustion engineering, and that reputation is backed up by their industry recognition and awards. The snack food industry around the world uses IET as a benchmark for quality.
The company was first founded by Souhel Khanania, whose ambitions began in the early days of his apprenticeship with Smiths Chips. During those formative years, Souhel honed his skills in the field of mechanical engineering. He would often tell family members that he would one day create an industrial oven that would surpass all others, and how right he would be.
Souhel commenced IET in 1993 from within his home garage, and employing only his brother. Initially focusing on servicing various industrial companies, Souhel soon noticed that Smiths Snack Foods Australia was experiencing recurrent problems with the combustion system on their corn chip ovens. He proposed to redesign the system and developed a new natural gas infra-red burner, which he called ‘ULTRA-GLO’.
The design was a tremendous success. Despite all the financial challenges and the arduous task of convincing the notoriously difficult American market to consider utilising his product, it didn’t take long before even international manufacturers recognised Souhel’s brilliant engineering mind and his visionary outlook.
“When we won the Supplier of the Year from Smith’s Chips in 2002, it was the first big step for the company,” recalls Souhela Isaac, Souhel’s sister and the Office Manager at IET. “Souhel got an offer to upgrade an oven in Indiana that had been put down as decommissioned because it was just no good. He took on that job and for two week he and his workers laboured to upgrade that oven, and afterwards it was an absolute showpiece. “
“A lot of other big bosses came out to look at it afterwards,” she continues. “They were completely thrilled by the improved production and output, far beyond what they expected when they tested it. So much so, they asked him to upgrade all of their ovens in North America, which numbered around 104. So for six or seven years, that is all we did – just upgraded all those ovens with our equipment, and the results continued to be spectacular. People were just waiting in a queue for Souhel’s services.”
“After he completed all that, we had to think of something to else,” she concludes. “And that’s where we got the idea to make our own ovens, which is what we do now. From the initial stage of designing them to cutting the parts, it’s all done here in Australia. All of our manufacturing – testing, assembly, and shipping – it’s all performed locally, right here.”
As Souhela said, IET’s achievements were recognised by Smith’s Chips in 2002 when the company was awarded “Supplier of the Year.” That victory was followed by the same accolade in 2007 from PepsiCo USA, the company that IET did its first upgraded oven for, and who paved the way to the company’s business in the US.
More recently, IET was also awarded the 2012 NSW Premier’s Sustainable Export Award, which is a massive milestone for any Australian exporter. Those awards showcase the state’s top performers in export. In 2013, Souhel was also one of seven people nationally selected to receive an ‘Australian Export Hero Award.’
For her part, Souhela says she really values that type of industry recognition, because it boosts the company’s profile.
“A lot of people didn’t know who we were before, so it’s nice to be recognised for our achievements,” she says. “And the first time we entered we won, so that was nice to see.”
At the end of the day, however, Souhela says what matters most is the customer.
“If the customer is happy, that’s our real satisfaction,” she says.
A revolutionary product
“What sets us apart is that our ovens are very uniquely designed,” says Souhela. “We are the only company in the world that manufacture these types of ovens for the snack food industry, which they call ‘three tier.’ Our ovens reduce gas consumption by 45 to 50 per cent, so the customer saves up to half their cost on gas alone. They also reduce waste by 90 per cent, are 47 to 50 per cent more efficient than our counterparts and competitors, and the product output is 300 per cent better quality. None of these statistics are ours either – they’re our customers.”
“We have a very good relationship with our customers,” she continues. “They know we are reliable, and that we deliver on our promises. The way my brother operates is if he says ‘I’m going to do this,’ he will do it, even if it means he’s going to lose money out of his own pocket.”
IET doesn’t just sell their customers an oven and leave them, Souhela adds. She explains that their service program is strong, and “the care is there forever.”
“At any time and any place, they can contact us and we will help them out with anything,” she says. “If they are having breakdowns or confusion, we’re always there for them, 24 hours a day.”
“’How are we going to make our customers happy?’ is a question we ask ourselves a lot,” Souhela says. “We want them to save money, and we also want to be a company that produces something sustainable – in this day and age we’ve got to do that, we’ve got to think of the environment as much as other things. I think that’s why we’re progressing ahead and doing so well.”
In fact, IET is doing so well that the company hasn’t even spent any money on advertising. “We don’t do marketing – we don’t even have a website,” says Souhela. “We’ll eventually get to that, but we’ve been really busy making ovens lately instead. Our ovens literally sell themselves.”
“Everything happens by word of mouth for us,” she continues. “Companies tell one another ‘This is a great oven, get it.’”
In Japan, they even subsidized the use of IET’s oven’s of all the benefits they provide. “That’s just incredible,” Souhela says. “We’re really proud of that fact.”
Moving forward, the company is feeling very confident. “All we need is to continue getting more work, that’s the challenge,” explains Souhela. “Not delivering something that isn’t good or a quality product isn’t even remotely an issue for us, it’s just a question of getting more and more work. And if we can’t get that with ovens, then we’ll look at other avenues as well – fryers are another big area we’re looking into. After all, our ovens are part of an entire production line that goes into the making of chips and other snack foods.”
“One day, we might even look into doing that entire line,” she concludes. “We’ve already got all the resources, the workers, the factory size. We’re big enough here, so why not?”
“But that will be a future consideration,” she says. “Right now, it’s really all about getting bigger and better, and I don’t see us having a problem with that. We’ll just wait and see what the future holds.”
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