Unique and Australian
Sterling Pumps is a wholly owned-and-operated Australian company specialising in the manufacture of turbine pumps and submersible pumps for the irrigation, process and mining industries. The fact that they are producing their unique product in Australia is a point of pride for the company.
“One of the things we really want to emphasise and push with Sterling Pumps is that we build and develop a fairly unique product here in Australia,” says Anton Merry, Managing Director of the company. “Our submersible pumps and submersible motors are designed and manufactured here in Australia, and we are pretty proud of that fact. We are proud that we can develop, build and manufacture a pretty difficult product to a very high standard that can be accepted in a pretty tough industry.”
Sterling Pumps began its life in 2004, when Merry and his associates founded the company from scratch. “We saw an opportunity in the market at that stage for irrigation pumps,” he recounts. Before forming Sterling, Merry had worked his entire career with submersible pumps and submersible motors, putting in time with several other companies in the industry. His experience with the product encompassed both its manufacture and repair, and that wealth of expertise proved exceedingly useful when he struck out on his own.
When it comes to setting Sterling Pumps apart from other manufacturers, it all comes back to customer service. Unlike most of their competitors, Sterling Pumps has the ability – as well as the necessary flexibility in size – to manufacture pumps to suit individual requirements. This is especially advantageous when servicing the oil and gas sectors, which over time Sterling has evolved into specialising in.
“One of our big differences is we are one of the few companies that actually designs and manufactures the pumps specifically for the client’s needs,” Merry explains. “We’re not trying to manipulate the customer to suit us.” Again, Merry says that Sterling is able to operate this way because they are still a relatively small company, which makes them nimble enough to be able to work within even the client’s most specific needs.
When tailoring to their customers’ requirements, Sterling Pumps considers their design needs, their material needs, as well as the required delivery times. “We’ll do our very best to fit our engineering into their needs,” Merry reiterates. Their material supply is particularly adaptive. “Because we manufacture specifically for clients, we can fit their material and performance requirements very, very accurately,” he says. “Then we’ll bring the delivery time into match.”
Sterling Pumps customer service does not end after a product is manufactured and shipped, either. They also offer a full range of spare parts to ensure the highest standard of after sales service.
Another important component of Sterling Pumps business is the work they do in acting as a distributor for SAER, an international submerged motors producer. That partnership was established when Sterling’s main focus was the irrigation business, as SAER’s products are particularly well suited for that market. “We still work in partnership with SAER, and have for about seven years,” Merry says. “They really support us on that irrigation product and general industrial product. We’ve got a good close relationship with SAER and they offer some very well priced good quality stainless steel products.”
Sterling Pumps has an employee count of 10, and Merry describes the corporate culture as fantastic. “We operate a really open and inclusive company that really values the importance of each and every person, because each and every person has a really valuable role they play in the company,” he says. Maintaining and fostering such a positive employee-company relationship is important for Sterling Pumps, because one of their key challenges is in acquiring new labour – and when they do, they want that labour to stick around.
“It’s been difficult getting new skilled labour, particularly in welding,” Merry explains. “As we grow, and as we grow different areas of the company, that’s the biggest challenge.” They combat that challenge by – again – looking after the people they have, but also by developing relationships with contractors. “Particularly on the welding side of things we work with several contractors, who we have to look after and hold close to us to fill any voids we may have in our own staff.” Because their selling point is customer service, Merry says it is imperative that they never hold a project up because they do not have the necessary people.
Moving forward, the growth area for Sterling Pumps is the oil and gas industry. “Without a doubt, that is one of the key target areas to grow in,” Merry says. The company has developed a slate of unique products for that market over the last few years, and have carved themselves a profitable niche that they plan on continuing to nurture and capitalise on.
The company’s intended growth is not limited to their domestic work. Sterling Pumps also want to grow their export market through Southeast Asia and also Europe. “That brings its own challenges, but with the global gas market booming at the moment its somewhere we have to go,” explains Merry. “We have a fairly unique product, and we’re getting a fantastic reception in just about every market that we go into at the moment, which means our biggest limit is the rate at which we can grow to comfortably fill those requirements and orders.”
Finally, they also do not want to ignore the water industry. Merry describes connections that could potentially help them penetrate that market over the next three to four years: “Sterling is partly-owned by a group of companies called WPIL,” he says. “Within that group we’ve got a number of very good foundries and manufacturing facilities around the world, including in the UK. From those we have access to high quality industrial pumps.”