Bondor opens door to a new era, creates 50 more jobs

Insulated building products maker Bondor is preparing to both mark its 65th anniversary and announce a new $20 million facility in Melbourne. Brent Balinski spoke to General Manager Geoff Marsdon about what has shaped the company´s diversification and longevity.

Handled smartly, tougher standards for building products have presented new opportunities for Bondor in the last decade or so.

Formed in 1951 as a maker of doors (its name is French for “good door”) it tried its hand at making insulated panels for Pennell´s Cold Storage after this. It has been willing to diversify wherever it´s made sense since then and now self-describes as a thermal building solutions provider, with a range of related services as well as manufacturing.

Its evolution has included pushing into new markets, driven by stricter building standards and enabled by newer, high-performance materials such as Polyisocyanurate (PIR) and mineral fibres for panelling cores. (Panel skins are made of BlueScope’s Colorbond.)

“In areas such as structural (and cyclonic) performance, fire performance and thermal efficiency, this has had a positive effect on improving the quality of building products on offer,” Bondor´s General Manager, Geoff Marsdon, told Manufacturers´ Monthly.

“There is also an increased focus on energy efficient and sustainable materials: we have moved from a scenario where there was no `energy requirement´ for buildings, to a three star and now a six star rating.”

Marsdon´s company has adapted to economic, regulatory and other changes over the years, and is preparing to celebrate its 65th anniversary on May 1.

It currently employs over 200 in manufacturing, over six sites, and is about to announce a new, $20 million state-of-the-art facility at Melbourne. According to Bondor, this will add 50 new jobs to its operations when it opens later this year.

Part of the company’s longevity has been the emphasis on local products built for local conditions, a strength sometimes pointed out by proudly Australian manufacturers.

As well as leading its market locally, Bondor exports to numerous countries in the Asia-Pacific and Europe regions.

The last decade has also seen the company stay relevant through investments in R&D – managing to release a new product every year of the last five – and process improvement. They are also the only in their industry to have invested in a National Association of Testing Authorities-certified structural testing facility.

It still serves the market’s needs for cold storage and freezers, though margins there have shrunk and competition increased.

Product ranges have grown to include walling, roofing, architectural facades and building systems. Projects include in settings as varied as stadiums, hospitals, shops, schools and distribution centres, all serviced with a thorough understanding of Australian standards – an area where they believe they have the edge over imports.

“The real change has been Bondor´s extension into new markets, driven by increasing building standards and regulations, an increased awareness and desire for energy efficient buildings and also a need for reducing build time,” said Marsdon.

“All of which are more easily satisfied by insulated panels than any other type of building product. Today we supply walling, roofing, architectural facades and building systems to the entire industry.”

As has been the case with its cold storage products, there have been challenges in recent years via increased competition from imports.

As with the increased pressure from higher building standards, Marsdon focusses on the positives: a fact that it forces the company to lift its game.

“The introduction of imported products has assisted us to become more efficient and competitive within the industry,” he offered.

Asked about the idea of a level playing field – which can be a controversial one for those in the building products sector, often competing with nonconforming and potentially dangerous goods– Marsdon was careful in his response and didn’t offer specifics. He did, however, acknowledge that it’s a serious issue for his sector, and can be a test of reputation.

“Incidents involving non-approved, foreign imports reinforce the importance of sourcing reputable Australian approved building products, while highlighting the need for improved regulation in relation to product substitution,” he said