When it comes to materials handling, there are few people in Australia with more experience than John Brittain.
John is an industry pioneer.
He is the driving force behind five major Australian materials handling companies, including Materials Handling, Cornerstone Automation Systems (CASI), Schaefer Store Pty Ltd and A-Safe Pty Ltd.
His fifth company is involved in importing various materials handling products and ergonomic devices.
Materials Handling Pty Ltd is a national distributor of an extensive range of manual handling & materials handling equipment including turnkey systems. These products include lifting, conveyor, storage, access equipment, height safety, barriers, packaging, crowd & traffic control equipment, safety & waste management products.
Cornerstone Automation Systems (CASI) is a manufacturer that designs and implements state-of-the-art materials handling, warehouse order fulfillment and automation. CASI designs, engineers, and executes in-house manufacturing, software and controls.
Schaefer Store Pty Ltd is a national distributor of an extensive range of pallet racking, cantilever racking, long span shelving, modular multi tier shelving products for storage, logistics, materials handling, conveying and warehouse systems.
And A-Safe Pty Ltd supplies a unique range of polymer safety barriers for warehouse, personnel and forklift safety.
John Brittain is the classic Australian self-made man.
Success did not come on a silver platter – it is the result of hard work and dedication to industry.
John began his career working for a large engineering supply company.
“While I was there I had a trip to Sweden and saw an opportunity to introduce new ergonomic material handling products into the Australian market, he recalls.
“At that stage Sweden were the leaders in the field – and probably still are.”
So in 1981, when in his early 30s, John launched a materials handling company called MatHand.
“We wanted the name ‘Materials Handling’ but at that stage it was taken, he says.
He was able to secure the name in 1997 when it finally became available.
“We started off in Brisbane, the opened offices in Sydney and Melbourne.”
John started with three employees. He now has a staff of 25.
The reason for the company’s meteoric rise is simple.
“We offer a huge range, says John. “We don’t just focus on one particular product or industry.
“Our industries range from mining to pharmaceutical companies.
“This is our strength.”
John says the fact his products have a strong focus on safety has added to the company’s success.
“This is imperative in today’s market. Safety is paramount in all organisations – and if it’s not, it should be.”
The company’s motto: “Working with Ease” says it all.
“We focus on safety, productivity and efficiency,” John says.
His greatest achievement?
“We have introduced many ergonomic products that were previously unavailable in this country. We have brought in innovative products such as tube lifters and intelligent lifting devices to protect workers from potential injury.”
But though the products were very popular in Europe, Australians initially struggled to embrace them.
“Eventually everybody realized that rather than having one or more employees lifting items, it was more efficient and safer to use a lifting device.”
John says through know-how and experience gained over many years the company is able to introduce new technology and products to the Australian marketplace.
“We travel a lot and attend many Expos throughout the world. By doing that we are able to source the latest products and technology.”
Just recently Materials Handling launched a new product that will revolutionise baggage handling at airports across Australia.
Qantas is planning to install up to 20 of the new devices at Melbourne Airport in July.
“These devices are already operating at many airports throughout the world and London’s Heathrow just installed 40 units, says John. “Qantas is keen to use the new technology to protect its workers throughout Australia.
“Initially they are being rolled out in Melbourne and then to other capital cities.”
John says the new devices not only minimize the risk of injury, they also maintain efficiency.
Though John has been a market leader in his field for more than three decades it hasn’t always been smooth sailing.
His head office in Brisbane was destroyed by the floods that swept through Queensland in 2011.
“We lost more than $1 million and were closed for nearly 8 weeks,” says John.
The building has since been refurbished and is now operating at full capacity.
The business also came out of the Global Financial Crisis in 2008 virtually unscathed.
“We survived the GFC and the floods. I just hope we can survive the present downturn,” says John with a rare hint of pessimism.
But he still looks forward to the future.
“We will continue to roll out new and innovative products.
“And we will continue to strive to the lead the way.”