Building for the future
NEPEAN is Australia’s leading mining services, engineering, building and industrial products manufacturing group.
NEPEAN is currently undertaking a rebranding exercise that will see its15 subsidiary companies operating under four separate divisions – Mining, Engineering & Innovation, Building & Infrastructure, and Transport.
The restructure and rebranding reflects NEPEAN’s accelerated expansion over the last decade, as well as its confidence in its future.
In the last two years, NEPEAN has outlayed over $30 million in capital investment. Today, it employs over 1100 people worldwide and has a turnover of more than $400 million a year.
According to Chief Executive Officer, Miles Fuller, the company has been ‘lucky to have the balance sheet to keep investing while others have been retreating’ – although anyone who has followed the Group’s history would say luck has little to do with it.
The small, south-west Sydney-based engineering company founded by Miles’ father David Fuller, in 1974, has grown into a diversified business servicing the mining, aviation, transport, agriculture, manufacturing and construction sectors.
Miles Fuller has been in charge of the Group’s day-to-day operations since returning from the US in 2007. David remains very active in the business, serving as both Group Chairman and MD of NEPEAN Engineering and Innovation.
Miles Fuller says NEPEAN is today ‘big enough and experienced enough to solve most engineering problems, but young enough and willing enough to learn and listen.’
The Group’s diversification strategy has been underpinned by the success of its core business, NEPEAN Engineering (part of the new NEPEAN Engineering and Innovation Division).
Indeed, many of the companies in the NEPEAN family are themselves ‘customers’ of the Engineering Division, relying on its innovative ‘turn-key’ design and engineering expertise and world-class manufacturing capability.
One such example is VIS-Polish, a robotic unit designed and manufactured from the ground up for the precision polishing of aluminium wheels. It was originally made to order for a customer, but has since gone into full-scale production and is supplied internationally by another NEPEAN company, VIS Service Automation.
NEPEAN Engineering and Innovation also manufacture VIS heavy vehicle testing equipment for fleet owners, truck workshops and enforcement agencies, with products sold across its international sales network in the USA, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia
Yet another example of engineering expertise is in the manufacture and installation of structural steel used for major projects like Bovis Lend Lease- Top Ryde and Westfield’s Sydney CBD shopping centre redevelopment, as well as many major mining infrastructure projects.
“We’re very confident of our ability to solve engineering problems that come within our field of expertise,” Fuller says with some modesty.
The largest of the four major business streams within NEPEAN is the newly branded NEPEAN Mining. It, in turn, has three business arms.
NEPEAN Longwall manufactures and refurbishes underground longwall solutions, incorporating the latest technology from Germany and Poland. Longwall have operations in the Hunter Valley NSW and McKay Queensland.
Nepean Conveyors provides fully engineered ‘turn-key’ conveying solutions for some of the largest mining companies in the world.
“The very profitability of the mines is linked to our success as an engineering company to deliver their solutions,” Fuller says.
Nepean Conveyors operates in Australia and South Africa, and is well advanced with plans to expand into the South American market.
The third arm of the Mining Division is NEPEAN Power, which operates out of the Hunter Valley in NSW and Mackay in Queensland. Nepean Power supplies everything from flame-proof power solutions to drive underground longwall miners through to power rooms providing full mine site power capability. It boasts a brand new, state-of-the-art facility in Thornton, NSW.
Nepean Building & Infrastructure, another of the Group’s new Divisions, includes one of Australia’s most respected steel manufacturing businesses, Graham Group – a company acquired by NEPEAN in 2007.
With manufacturing capabilities in four states, Graham Group is a leading supplier of high quality steel products sold under iconic brands like WELDLOK® (steel and Aluminium grating, hand-railing), GALINTEL® (hot rolled, galvanised steel lintel bars), hot dip galvanising services and MASTERMESH® steel and aluminium perforated and expanded products).
“It has a national footprint and has significant markets in infrastructure, building, mining and utilities,” Fuller says.
The group’s fourth new Division is Transport, which – like the new Mining Division – also has several business arms.
Bliss-Fox® enjoys enormous respect in the international aviation business as a manufacturer and supplier of world-class ground support equipment.
“The business has been making and selling aircraft pushback and tow tractors worldwide for over 40 years,” Fuller says.
Bliss-Fox is based in Sydney but with manufacturing operations in Asia and a growing list of international markets that include Malaysia, Thailand, Korea, Japan, Philippines and the Middle East.
A second arm of the Transport Division is the manufacture and supply of portable lighting towers (NEPEAN NIGHTOWL®) used in the infrastructure and mining sectors across Australia.
A third arm is the aforementioned VIS Service Automation. VIS stands for Vehicle Inspection System, and the company’s ‘core business is the manufacture and supply of diagnostic systems for the testing of heavy vehicle brakes, suspension and steering.
VIS Service Automation represents a major international success for NEPEAN, as well as something of a personal triumph for Fuller, who commercialised the testing product originally acquired from the NSW RTA before taking it to America and turning it into a very successful national operation based out of Florida.
The VIS range has also expanded over the years to include vehicle weighing systems and the fully robotic wheel rim polishing system.
Whereas acquisitions have formed an important part of the NEPEAN growth strategy, its success is largely a product of the company’s investment in its internal capabilities, as well as the outward thinking of its management.
Fuller points to Nepean Conveyors as an example – a business that has grown out of the engineering business.
“That was a long time ago, and now it’s bigger than the engineering business itself,” he says.
Size and diversity of has also enabled NEPEAN to deliver what Fuller calls its “full value chain solutions”.
He cites the recently completed, $140 million ‘turn-key’ project for Vale’s Carborough Downs mine that incorporated products and services from Nepean Conveyors, Nepean Power, Nepean Longwall, and Nepean Engineering and Innovation.
“We deliver the full solution in-house. Our customers don’t need to go anywhere else” Fuller says.
As CEO, Fuller says his goal is to continue to grow the market for Nepean’s ‘bread and butter’ services and products while developing and maximising the value of the Group’s intellectual property.
“At the moment about 15 to 20 per cent of our turnover comes from our proprietary products, but our aim is to grow that to 40 per cent,” he says.
Despite the focus on growth and diversification, Fuller says the company is committed to certain core values – one of which is listening to its customers.
“Our aim is not to become a sort of corporate copycat,” he says.
“Although we are competing head to head against global giants, our clients tell us that what they’re really looking for is someone to listen and deliver solutions geared to their needs. That’s our point of difference.”
To continue to deliver on this promise, and realise its vision, NEPEAN is investing heavily in R&D, capital equipment and its people. Over $10m has been invested in R&D initiatives in each of the last three years.
“Our internal capabilities, in terms of people, systems and processes, represent another of our core strengths, and we are expanding these as we look to future opportunities and acquisitions,” Miles says.
For more information, go to www.nepeangroup.com