Niche Adelaide manufacturer Maric Flow Control last year celebrated its 50th birthday with record sales and exports.
While many small manufacturers struggle to get their products offshore, Maric is tapping into growing world demand for its hand-crafted water valve technology.
From its idyllic creek setting in the Adelaide foothills, the family-owned business has become a highly specialised producer of control valves, which provide constant, pre-determined flow rates regardless of water pressure.
Maric is a key supplier of various industries, particularly mining, water utilities, water treatment, pumping and irrigation. Aluminium producers in Australia and the US, including Alcoa World Alumina, are among the company’s biggest customers.
Over the past three years Maric has recorded a 10 percent increase in exports, which now account for 40 percent of total sales. Overall turnover has surged 15 percent in the first four months of 2013-14.
Director Grant Schroeder said recent investment in new production equipment is helping the business keep up with its expanding order book.
But it is the company’s ability to tailor high quality, long-life valves to meet very specific customer requirements that is a key point of difference – and that’s achieved by hand.
“The fact that we can deliver hundreds of different configurations involving different materials, body specifications, flow rates and pressure ranges is quite unusual in the marketplace,” said Mr Schroeder. “It’s why we’re now regarded as a leading manufacturer and supplier of flow control valves internationally.”
The original Maric flow control valve was developed by Mr Schroeder’s father Eric who established the business in 1963 manufacturing instantaneous electric water heaters for the domestic market.
To improve the heater he needed a valve that could deliver a constant flow of water despite fluctuating water pressures. The only valve available was produced in the US and cost half the price of the heater – so he studied rubber chemistry and set about designing his own valve.
Like all great inventions the solution was relatively simple – a precision-moulded rubber control ring that varies in diameter depending on the pressure.
“The Maric Valve was born and because of its water saving capability my father soon realised it had other applications far beyond water heaters,” Mr Schroeder said.
Grant Shroeder joined the business in 1987 and invested in machinery upgrades and more concerted marketing.
“Eventually the valves became our major product and we’ve now reached the stage where we produce very few heaters.
“New applications for the valves have prompted various adaptations to suit different environments and recently we patented a non-return feature for use in the mining sector.”
The company is also using some of the latest high pressure rubber compounds, titanium and super duplex stainless steels so that the valves can be used in more aggressive industrial environments involving high temperatures and potentially corrosive water supply.
Maric’s export markets include Europe, the UK, the US, South America, New Zealand, South Africa, the Middle East, China and Scandinavia.