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Full steam ahead for Aussie boat builder

15-02-2012
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Smooth financial sailing thanks to Enterprise Connect

With the help of Enterprise Connect, local boat builder Steber International has reinvented its business to withstand economic and market changes. The results have already exceeded expectations.

Steber International is an Australian owned, family operated boat building business based at Taree, on the mid-north coast of NSW.

Founded in 1946, Steber build custom designed commercial boats from 6m to 21m for patrol, sea rescue, medical support, surveillance and other commercial operators as well as recreational power boats for customers in Australia and throughout the world

In October 2009, Steber were looking to brace their business for the challenges the global economic downturn could present as well as create a culture at Steber that reflected ambition and dedication to creating superior quality marine boats.

Colin Steber, Business Development Manager for Steber International, approached Enterprise Connect for advice and support in transforming their business.

“Having been in business for more than 60 years we had a well developed supply chain and a good reputation for delivering high quality products with excellent customer service, says Colin. “But if we were to survive future economic downturns we had to take full advantage of the opportunities in the market and quickly make adjustments to the way we were doing business.”

Trevor Stuart, Business Adviser for Enterprise Connect was sent in to undertake the business review.

Trevor took the time to understand the business, the history of the business, current position in the market, supply channels, competition and helped Steber identify new market sectors they could capitalise on.

“Steber have a long and successful history in the boat building industry, says Trevor. “They’re innovative thinkers and have built a reputation producing top quality recreational and commercial boats, but they hadn’t ever developed a formal business plan to assist them in working towards their business objectives.”

Trevor recommended Steber apply for Enterprise Connect’s Tailored Advisory Service to engage a consultant to prepare a Strategic Business Plan and a Research and Development Plan that incorporates the vision and goals for the organisation. They also engaged Hunter People Solutions to review their skills requirements and assist with resolving staffing issues by developing a human resources management system.

With the external advice Steber established formal human resource management tools that defined processes in line with industrial relations requirements to better manage staff, encouraging engagement, building a dedicated and coordinated workforce, inspiring the values and culture of Steber International. With human resource management tools, an induction system, employee handbook and an appraisal system in place, Steber’s workforce are now well positioned for an industry upturn.

“Working within the Fair Work Act, implementing an appraisal system and providing regular employee training has really changed the culture of working at Steber International,” said Colin.

Extensive market research was conducted and Trevor provided an industry report on boat fabrications, which indicated trends and a real opportunity for expanding their boat refurbishment service.

“In this tough economic climate Steber’s clients were looking to refit and refurbish their boats instead of investing in new boats,” said Trevor.

Steber had worked on refits before at the client’s request, but they had not marketed their boat refurbishment service. They underwent factory extensions, expanded their infrastructure to accommodate the refit market, and developed marketing strategies promoting the service.

“Refits have become an important part of our revenue stream. We have gone from working on two refits annually to this year commencing our ninth refit,” explained Colin.

Implementing an integrated quality occupational health and safety (OH&S) and environment management system allowed Steber to secure more government contracts, particularly in the defence sector.

They won a $5 million contract to supply five purpose built vessels for the Royal Australian Navy to be used for clearance diver teams and general naval purposes.

Steber are also undertaking a sustainability program to develop sustainable business practices. This year the business attained silver level status in the Office of Environment and Heritage

Sustainability Advantage Program for efficiency and the upgrading of their manufacturing plant. Steber have reduced their electricity consumption and minimised waste by 25 per cent in two years and are well on their way to achieving their goal of 75 per cent waste reduction by 2020.

By identifying more efficient production methods, reducing operating costs and determining market opportunities, Steber has capped off its most successful year in more than six decades, being awarded Manufacturer of the Year at the prestigious 2011 Hunter Manufacturing Awards.

“Working with Enterprise Connect has really changed the structure of our business, says Colin.

“Our Business Adviser successfully helped us obtain external assistance to further build our business and enhance our business skills, and he continues to do so. This relationship has proven extremely important to us in helping to grow the business and strengthen our capabilities.”

Steber International has successfully reinvented its business and continues to strive for excellence.

The company provides its clients with high quality products and services to consistently meet their requirements – at a competitive price.

Enterprise Connect
Ph: 131 791
www.enterpriseconnect.gov.au