Synergy of service
Central Systems is a company with many capabilities. They are a leading provider of solutions in integrated civil construction, remedial construction, facilities maintenance and management service in many industrial and commercial sectors in Western Australia. Their variety of services sets them apart in the marketplace, with each only serving to complement the others, never to detract from them. When Central Systems was originally formed in 2003, it focused predominantly on commercial building maintenance and remedial work. The construction division came later, but is now fully up and running, and staffed by a contingent of experienced and skilled people.
Richard Eden is the Managing Director of Central Systems, and one of his focuses is making sure that their civil construction capabilities are recognised. The company already has an extremely good reputation in the marketplace for their remedial and maintenance work, and he wants to see their construction side enjoy the same prestige. “Yes, the remedial capabilities and expertise are still very much there and still very much central to the company’s future, but the construction capability is equally important and we intend to see that business grow,” he says.
Since being founded eight years ago, the business as a whole has grown quite significantly. While initially focused on the commercial sector, the company’s attentions have shifted more and more to the mining and industrial sector as it has grown and evolved. “It was a fairly small operation for much of its history,” recalls Eden. “That was up until about two years ago, when new shareholders bought into the business – and we haven’t looked back since.”
Today, Central Systems is fairly evenly split between their construction division and their services division. In the former, the company offers a full suite of services including detailed earthworks, in-ground services, in-situ concrete construction, formwork manufacture and precast structural concrete. “That’s a whole-of-service contracting capability,” says Eden. “We do it all in-house with direct labour and try to provide a complete civil concreting construction capability.” Their construction division accounts for roughly half of the company’s turnover.
The other half of Central Systems’ turnover is attained through their services division, whose work is further broken down to maintenance, protective coatings and remedial activities. Their maintenance work encompasses breakdown service, minor maintenance, and repair jobs. The protective coatings include coatings of existing and new assets and structures. Their remedial work is more substantive, with them doing large refurbishments or re-construction on buildings or pieces of infrastructure. “The remedial projects are generally a larger, more complex scope of work involving more men and higher value, and a longer duration of a job. We run them like a project rather than like a maintenance job.”
The construction arm of Central Systems was introduced when Eden and his colleagues bought into the business. “When we first decided to join Central Systems as shareholders, we looked at the business as it was and we thought there was a good range of clients, and a good range of skills and expertise,” says Eden, explaining their decision to diversify. “But we saw there was quite a lot of synergy and therefore a benefit available from being able to offer both construction and remedial.” That combination is rare for a business to have, especially in Western Australia, but it has paid off for Central Systems over and over again.
Since the expansion of their business, the company has more than once started a job for a mining or oil and gas client doing repairs or remediation to existing assets, and ended up completing some new construction for them before they left. “What would happen is they’d come up to us and say ‘Look, we actually want to expand this particular asset, or this facility, or we want to do an upgrade, or we want to knock it over and replace it with something new,’” Eden says. “Because we provide both sides of the service it’s been a very good business opportunity for us to be able to say the clients ‘Great, you don’t need to deal with two different companies, we can offer both capabilities. We can do the maintenance and repair of your existing plant or structures and we can also construct new.’”
That is not the only way both services – specialised construction and remedial – feed into each other. Central Systems’ personnel are also able to utilise their experience in one field to better improve their performance in the other. Doing maintenance, for instance, gives them a unique perspective on building new assets. “Because we’ve spent so long fixing these problems for others, it makes us very tuned in to what we have to be careful of, and what we have to make sure we do right when we do new construction ourselves,” Eden says.
Central Systems is proud of all the work they do, but a project they did for Barrick Gold on the Granny Smith Goldmine last year is a particularly interesting example of how both of their divisions complement one another. They started on that site with a remedial project but, because of their performance, they were able to secure an additional package of work for new construction. “That’s a great example of the benefit of being able to offer remedial and construction and how those two come together in a very cost effective and efficient model for the client.”
A whole of life philosophy
Central Systems’ has only experienced one lost-time injury in the whole history of the company. To put that in perspective, Eden says they average 300,000 man hours a year – a number which is increasing all the time. That is a statistic the company is very proud of, and which proves how important safety is to them. “It is certainly the biggest priority we need to focus on everyday in terms of how we operate the business,” Eden says. This is because it is important to the company that their employees can come to work and know they are being looked after in the best possible way. “It’s also about understanding that these are the expectations of the industry we choose to work in,” Eden continues. “We want to be seen as a company that doesn’t just meet the minimum requirements, but is trying to lead the way in those areas.”
Another important focus of Central Systems is their customer service, which they foster by simply being the best they can be at what they do. “Most clients want to do business with a company that is innovative and does have an entrepreneurial element,” Eden says. “Our safety commitment, our demonstrated ability to do projects and keep people safe, and our technical performance are key aspects.” Central Systems have a “whole of life” philosophy when it comes to a civil construction asset – so having continuously happy clients is important. The company can do – and aims to do – the initial civil construction in-house, continue do maintenance on the asset to maximise its life, and ultimately, when the asset’s design life expires, they can do partial demolition and reconstruction.
Central Systems employs 165 people across its divisions. Holding on to skilled labour is a common challenge in the industry, however, and Central Systems is not immune to it. They have been able to fight back in a variety of ways, even beyond simply providing fair remuneration. Firstly, they have created a workplace environment where the employees know the company is looking after their well being. Secondly, they do their best to provide employees with a career path, and give them the opportunity to improve themselves professionally and personally. For the second tactic, training and development is key. “We have a number of employees that the company is assisting in tertiary qualifications or other postgraduate studies,” Eden says. Thirdly, they seek to provide job satisfaction, and in that vein they hope that the variety of work Central Systems does is something people will enjoy. “We offer that diversity and the opportunity for people to move through that ‘whole of life’ scenario,” says Eden. “They may not get to experience that elsewhere.”
Central Systems are currently occupying an advantageous space in the market. They are small enough to still have a high level of innovation, but also large enough to take on reasonably sized projects and provide the quality, management systems, and safety that their clients look for – particularly those in the mining and oil and gas sectors. This means they are well set up for the future, both in the long term and short term. “We’re looking at a pretty good year next year,” Eden says. “We’re quite excited about it.” They have a number of projects lined up, including more work on the Gorgon gas project, which they have already been on for 18 months.
Longer term, Eden says it is important that the business keeps growing. Eventually, he says they would like to look at the possibility of a public listing. “If that opportunity was to present itself; if the business gets to an appropriate level of turnover and the fundamentals are there, and the market conditions are right – then we’d certainly look to that as an option,” Eden says. “That could be very good for the company, and certainly very good for the shareholders.”