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Cox celebrates 70 years of high achievement

Their Vision Statement says it all: “The centre of excellence for all materials handling and hospitality equipment in Australia.”

RJ.Cox Engineering division of E W Cox Pty Ltd has certainly achieved that status.

The company, which proudly celebrates its 70th Anniversary this year, is at the forefront in supplying the Australian manufacturing sector with viable engineering and materials handling solutions.

R.J. Cox Engineering is a leading designer, manufacturer and supplier of materials handling and hospitality equipment for the hospitality, medical, manufacturing, mining and engineering industries.

E W Cox, as they are widely known throughout Australia, has been involved in engineering solutions since its establishment in 1938.

Eric Cox, a man with ambition and deft engineering skills, launched the business. Soon
after, he started making wooden trolleys for the NSW railways during the war years.

Now 70 years on, Cox is still distributing and supplying manufactured customized and
standard trolleys – no longer wooden, but state-of-the-art using twenty-first century
materials and processes.

But right from the start E W Cox was more than just trolleys. The company has always
displayed a flair for engineering.

The company now provides both customdesigned and built engineering solutions as
well as an extensive catalogue of products from the foremost manufacturers of materials handling and hospitality equipment.

From its humble beginnings E W Cox Pty Ltd has remained a family business in the true sense of the word.

The Cox dynasty now spans three generations and the company boasts a proud, rich history.

Eric Cox first set up shop in a three-storey council building at 14 Wentworth Ave, Haymarket in Sydney and established Hereford Manufacturing Co in Hereford St, Glebe.

In 1955 the company had expanded with premises in Melbourne – E W Cox Victoria P/L
– and had diversified into manufacturing Building Maintenance Units or just BMU’s, conveyors and bucket elevators.

His son Richard joined the business in 1963 after serving an apprenticeship at Lane Cove Engineering. He spent three months in North St Paul Minnesota USA and was appointed as the exclusive agent for Vertical Document Conveyor systems in Australia.

The company relocated shortly after into new premises at 2 McLachlan Ave Artarmon in Sydney’s northern suburbs.

At this time Richard was playing a more active role in the business.

By the mid 1960’s, E W Cox Pty Ltd Sydney had further expanded into Brisbane covering
general engineering, fabrication and machining, manufacture, service and installation of Conveyor Systems and other materials handling equipment and Sales and Installation and servicing BMU’s.

Richard continued his rise through the company ranks until disaster struck in 1971.
Fire destroyed the company’s Sydney operation at Artarmon. Richard saw the company’s stateof- the-art premises reduced to ashes.

After two years, with great commitment and determination, the company was resurrected
into a new site at Woodpark Rd, Smithfield in Western Sydney. Here they expanded the
merchandising, materials handling, hospitality equipment, wholesale hardware distribution, rainwater goods and accessories, sheet metal fabrication together with sales and service of building maintenance units in NSW, ACT and Qld as well as SE Asia.

Then, just four years later in 1977 the founder Eric Cox, the family patriarch, died aged 72.

The business suffered another major blow in 1982 with the sudden death of Richard’s long standing managing director Dick Lean who had been with the company for 36 years.

Richard took over as Managing Director of the E W Cox Group of Companies to continue
the ambitious program of diversification as well as an opportunity to spread its wings
internationally by manufacturing more complex BMU’s for export.

Major international projects included the Connaught Building in Hong kong, Sine Darby
Building in Kuala Lumpur and Chartered Bank Building in Singapore.

In Australia, E W Cox Victoria landed plumb contracts for building maintenance units at the Rialto Building Melbourne, CP1 Brisbane and R&I Towers in Perth all worth more than $1m.

Richard’s proudest achievement was in setting up and running the Vertical Document
Conveyor system at Australia’s Reserve Bank.

“After experiencing electrical problems we worked all weekend including Saturday and
Sunday night to make sure it was ready on Monday morning at 9am”, Richard recalls.

“It was very satisfying to see it in full operation working successfully.”

More recent projects include:

Designing, manufacturing and installing smoke baffles for the refurbished Customs House in Sydney Designing and manufacturing archival storage space and delivery systems for the extra large artworks held by the National Gallery of Australia.

Designing, manufacturing and installation of a new entrance canopy to complement the
outstanding conversion of the old wool store of Goldsborough Mort in Sydney E W Cox Victoria P/L was sold off in 1990 in the aftermath of the 1987 stock market crash
and subsequent recession.

But the real crunch came in 1995.

A series of interest rate rises, a change of Government in NSW and a series of delayed
major contracts proved a recipe for disaster for E W Cox P/L.

At that time they had 35 staff members and no orders coming in.

Despite Richard’s desperate attempts to save the business, he had no option but to place the company into voluntary administration.

All staff were laid off and Richard was forced to sell the Smithfield site along with the company equipment and vehicle fleet.

“I decided to start up again on my own,” Richard recalls. “I had to start again with nothing. It was only with the support of my customers and suppliers and Advance Bank that we were able to do it.”

In 1996 R.J. Cox Engineering was born and progressed to becoming a division of E W Cox.

Richard re-launched the business with a clear vision and ambitious plans for the future.

The company now has about 3000 customers Australia-wide.

In 1999 R J Cox Engineering won the prestigious SWAP NSW Small Business of the Year award.

Today, R.J. Cox Engineering is a lean, highly efficient operation.

Based at Terry Hills in northeast Sydney, sales and agency’s continue to increase steadily each year. But the staff has been reduced to a handful
– the majority of whom are Cox family members.

“At one stage we had more than 150 staff members in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane,” says Richard.

“That is when we were manufacturing products. We’re now a manufacturing agent
and distributor.”

Earlier this year Richard stepped aside as Managing Director, handing the reins to his 39
year-old son Robert.

Richard also has a daughter as well as both daughter-in-law, and son-in-law involved in the business.

In the early days Richard’s wife Jennifer also played an active role in the business, working from home providing great administration and general support, while losing the use of the family’s garages.

As well as three children Richard has six grand children ranging in age from six months
to nine years.

The company continues to evolve and grow. “With the growth of the internet my son
Robert and my son-in-law Matt are broadening the company’s horizons and taking us into new areas,” says Richard.

The Internet has meant more opportunities for Cox Engineering.

This includes a recent contract with mining heavyweight Fortescue Metals in West Australia for the supply of 205 litre hydraulic drum rotator and another contract for BHP Port Hedland for Dust Control System.

“I couldn’t have done it by myself", says Richard with great humility.

“My son Robert has been a great asset to the company."

“He came to work for three months in 1995 and has been with the company ever since being responsible for accounts, sales, marketing in the merchandising division.”

Though retired Richard still advises on engineering and administrative issues.

And the future for R.J Cox Engineering has never been brighter.

“I have every confidence in Robert and Matt’s ability to take the business forward, says Richard.

“R.J Cox Engineering is definitely in safe hands.”

RJ Cox Engineering
Ph: 02 9486 3006