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KSB Australia

KSB Australia

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A positive work flow

 

There are many different roads to success, and sometimes the recognition of that comes in the form of other companies taking an interest in what you have established. This is the case for KSB Australia, originally known and established as Ajax Pump Works, and founded in Australia in 1939. The company would grow to become one of the most recognisable brands for industrial and commercial water pump systems in Australia. The KSB brand itself dates back even further, founded in 1871 by Johannes Klein, Friedrich Schanzlin and August Becker. Over the last 130 years they have established themselves as a world leader in the manufacturing of high quality pumps and valves. It is little wonder that when the German based company was looking to establish a foothold in the Australian market they looked to a company that had a similarly long history to align themselves with. “KSB Australia is a subsidiary of KSB International Group,” says Harry Katunar, National Sales & Marketing Manager at KSB Australia. “In 1991, KSB, our German parent company, acquired Ajax Pumps here in Australia. Ajax had been operating here since 1939, so there is a proud history of manufacturing right here in Australia,” he says.

This factor is very important to the company, seeing that they have held onto the Ajax brand, and the familiarity and trust it has engendered over the years. “One of the biggest advantages that we have is that we have access to the global catalogue and abilities of the international company from the KSB Group,” Katunar explains. “Previous to that, Ajax Pumps was a well-known brand in Australia, and it is associated with building services – for example in the air conditioning and fire protection industries. Whereas, KSB manufactures a range of products and solutions for anything from a power station to a desalination plant.” It is these synergies of expertise that KSB has capitalised on to successfully enter the Australian market. “As Ajax Pumps, we really only played in the building industry and irrigation. Now we have access to, and are successfully winning, projects such as the Sydney desalinisation plant, for example, where we are having our pumps installed,” he says. He also points to the Kogan Creek Power Station in Queensland, where they are also utilising their pumps and systems. “That is one of the largest and cleanest coal power stations here in Australia.”

Doing it here, doing it right

KSB has maintained their specifically Australian product range under the Ajax brand. With this comes another important aspect of their operations – they manufacture most of their products within the country. “Our main manufacturing plant is in Tottenham, which is a suburb of Melbourne. We do manufacture a range of pumps, in particular for the building industry and also for mining,” Katunar says. “These are very important market segments at the moment.” To give a better idea of the sizes and capabilities of their pumps, Katunar uses the example of their test facility that is located in Germany. “The facility there is capable of testing a pump up to 40 megawatts – which is 40,000 kilowatts. That’s large,” he says. As a more solid example of the application of their products he cites a specific application and project: “The pumps that you will find on pipelines here in Australia – we have done a number of these large pipeline projects like Sugarloaf Pipeline in Victoria, which is well known if not controversial – the pumps on that were about a half metre discharge with a three megawatt motor.”

In March of 2011, KSB opened a new facility in Bundamba on the outskirts of Brisbane. “This is our competence centre for water, wastewater and standard pumps. Our main manufacturing plant is still in Tottenham, we have just built a smaller plant here in Queensland to focus on products for our general business,” Katunar says. KSB has maintained a fairly diversified service and product catalogue, and this has helped them through some of the effects of the GFC. Katunar points to the construction industry as one of those sectors that has felt the worst of the financial storm. “Mining is a sector that did not suffer a large amount of impact, and I would say we have had a very successful year in it. As gold process went up, so did our sales of products made for that industry,” he says. “It has definitely made us a bit more resilient, and it is the ownership by a large multi-national that has really helped here, because we have access to all these other markets. So if one market is down we have all these other market sectors that we can go to.”

Building on strength

Right now Katunar says that their strongest offerings are in the mining industry, but again points out that they have a broad range of products. “We offer a lot in water and sewage, energy, and building services,” he reports. In this, he sees the fact that they have multiple sites across the country as another competitive advantage that KSB Australia enjoys. “We are a full service company, and what I mean there is that if you look at our sales offices and branches, even in Townsville for example, we have our own service people to provide after-sales service for the products,” he says. This includes both commissioning and field service support, and this is offered as a 24 hour, 7 days a week service. “This is important because a lot of our products are installed in critical applications. For example we have installed a feed pump at a power station and if that pump goes down, the grid could be out of power if we do not respond quickly. We have the capability to support our products in all the capital cities, and also in Townsville and Newcastle.” This is an important distinction for KSB, says Katunar, because many of their competitors in the market do not have their own support facilities, and rely solely on subcontractors. “Being a full service company means that not only can we manufacture the pump, we can support that product with our own service technicians,” he says. He does say that many in their service department do work weekends in order to accommodate their clients’ needs. “It is nice to get positive feedback and thanks when we do this, it makes it all worthwhile,” he says. In this, KSB Australia is not just making satisfied customers, but many times forming friendships as a result of their close and dedicated work. When they do utilise outside sources, they do so after careful vetting. “We prefer to partner with reputable sub-vendors and manufacturers – including WEG Australia. WEG is known for their reliability and the fact that they can offer support globally,” says Katunar.

“Right now across all of KSB’s operations in Australia we employ about 140 individuals,” says Katunar. Of course with the industry they are in, finding the right people has presented itself as a constant challenge. “We need skilled people for this work, and right now it’s the mining industry that they are all going to.” To meet this demand they have begun to train their own people in-house, and recruit graduates coming out of the post-secondary system. “We have apprenticeships for both our service technicians and our manufacturing plants.”

Katunar credits much of the direction the company has to their Managing Director, Dave Alexander. “He is certainly looking at making sure we have some growth, and right now we are going through a definite growth phase,” says Katunar. “This is evidenced by the investment in the building of the new facility here in Bundamba, Queensland. His strategy has been to become a full service provider wherever we are.” This, he says, means that they will be increasing both their sales and service departments across the country in order to serve their clients that much better. He also says that they will be focusing particularly on providing more support for their customers in the mining industry. “I think we will also be taking advantage of some of KSB’s innovative technology to offer intelligent solutions. One that we are looking at is automation and drives, where we have already made the investment into establishing it as a business here as well,” he says. This automation is linked to an industry wide desire to get more energy efficient devices into service, which will increase production, distribution and constancy.

 

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