Third-generation manufacturer Queensland Gaskets is preparing for the next chapter in its long history. Carl Quarterman, the company’s managing director since 2012, told Brent Balinski about some of the reasons for the family-owned business’s endurance.
There’s over 150 years’ worth of experience on the floor and over 150 years’ worth of it in sales and management at Queensland Gaskets, according to Carl Quarterman’s count.
Quarterman is managing director at the third-generation company, which began at his grandfather Quentin Shelley Quarterman’s house in 1953 and has been headquartered in Salisbury since 1983.
It’s a close, intensely committed team of a little under 20, attacking a niche spanning a big number of industry verticals.
“A number of our current staff have been with the business for over 20 years and a few have been employed with Queensland Gaskets for over 35 years,” Quarterman told Manufacturers’ Monthly.
“Our longevity is born out of our can-do attitude and willingness to embrace the challenge from everyone involved in the business over that time.”
Its endurance can be put down to a few things, but hard-won experience (and the retention of this) is certainly high on that list, as is versatility, adaptability to different problems and clients, and a commitment to excellence in the huge range of what’s produced.
Customers are all over Australia, in industries including defence (products can be found in the Collins Class submarines and embedded in the F-35 Strike Fighters’ electronic warfare and mission systems), in hospitals, ships, refineries, food processing plants and many other settings.
In 2011, after discussions with its clients, “an easy decision” was made to move on from QG’s internal QMS and to acquire ISO 9001 QMS certification.
Other significant developments in recent years have included acquiring a CNC router in 2013, which added a “‘3D’ cutting ability with chamfers, rebates, grooves and engraving,” explained Quarterman.
Through this and other investments in two high-pressure waterjet cutters, overhead presses, guillotine and roll slitters, the company has upgraded from being just sealing specialists to thinking of itself as cutting specialists as well.
This year the company also invested in a 3D printer, further broadening its range of manufacturing services.
“We wanted to be able to offer our customers this service with confidence and we have already delivered a number of parts to customers in a range of industries,” said Quarterman.
“We believe that our experience in manufacturing can give us the edge over other suppliers for 3D printed parts.
Earlier this year, its commitment to and success in serving its broad-ranging client base earned it a Manufacturers’ Monthly Endeavour Award in the Outstanding Small Business category, as judged by an independent panel of experts.
The story of QG’s adaptation, commitment to its staff and customers, and its longevity (“who even makes gaskets here nowadays?” one judge said with admiration at the awards dinner) impressed the panel.
“We are pretty successful at applying our experience and good judgement and as a result it increases our chances of getting the “right goods – right first time” to the customer,” said Quarterman when asked about how the business had sustained over 63 years.
As for its way with adaptation, this will be put to the test in coming years.
As with many Australian SMEs, there are issues to deal with in terms of an ageing workforce and replacing its know-how when this moves on.
According to the managing director, a 30 per cent turnover of staff is expected due to retirement in the next six years. The company will be doing its best to document as much of the soon-to-depart wisdom as it can, then pass this on to the next generation of staff. Then there’s the matter of making sure the new workers are the right ones.
“We engaged an external HR consultant to review our current business structures and collaborate with us to create a viable and sustainable business model for the Queensland Gaskets of the future,” said Quarterman.
“Part of the challenge is understanding what is so special about working at Queensland Gaskets and why so many have spent most of their working lives committed to the business.”
Developing the right succession plan will be one of the major issues occupying this enduring manufacturer in coming years. But it’s survived many stumbles as well as many victories, said Quarterman. The stumbles are there to be endured, and the victories to be celebrated.
“The Endeavour Awards gives us an opportunity to celebrate the members of staff who contributed to the success of Queensland Gaskets over such a long time,” he explained.
“The Outstanding Small Business Award which we won this year as exactly that, the nomination recognised the excellent effort by our staff but the victory was a real feather in our cap.”
The 2017 Endeavour Awards will be held on May 11. Nominations will be open shortly. Click here for more information.
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