End-to-End Water, Gas and Irrigation Capabilities

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-By Robert Hoshowsky

On the threshold of its fiftieth anniversary, Comdain Infrastructure Pty Ltd can look back on a history of achievements that have led to it today being of Australia’s foremost experts in conception to completion delivery of construction and maintenance services. Comdain has successfully managed projects in urban and rural areas, and in culturally or historically significant and environmentally sensitive locations. Comdain Infrastructure is renowned for its ability to deliver world-class infrastructure, its wide-ranging construction and maintenance management expertise and its strength in providing end-to-end capabilities for its many customers.

Under the umbrella of the Comdain Group, the company owns and operates two other business entities in addition to Comdain Infrastructure: Comdain Homes and Comdain Property. With sound financial backing and a skilled workforce of 400 employees across 10 operational centres, Comdain Infrastructure believes in working with clients as partners in all projects, thereby ensuring a smooth process and results that are fair and equitable to all stakeholders. One of the ways in which this is achieved is through openness, diligence and working with clients and stakeholders to create results built on trust and a shared vision.

Comdain Infrastructure’s solid track record, combined with state of the art management systems and time-tested processes, is implemented by highly qualified professional staff who not only take full responsibility for their work and actions, but have an enormous amount of pride in a job well done, fulfilling the company’s slogan, “Intelligent Doers, Dependable Delivery.”

Years ago, hard-working Irish immigrant Jim Coen came to Australia with the dream of forming his own company. Comdain – Gaelic for the family surname Coen – was established by Jim in 1962. Almost half a century later the company bearing his name has gone through some changes, yet remains proudly family-owned. Today, the Comdain Group continues to prosper under the management of Jim’s five sons, each with individual skill sets yet the same business philosophies of integrity, honesty and client satisfaction.

“We aim for diversity,” says Peter Coen, who serves as Chief Operating Officer and a director at Comdain Infrastructure, along with his brother, Tom, the company’s Managing Director. Although the Comdain Group is involved in a number of different areas, Coen says there are many similarities with Comdain Infrastructure when it comes to thorough pre-planning and intelligent coordination of any project. “Whether it’s a luxury residential development or a complex government-funded capital works project, the key factors remain the same; there’s always project management, a number of stakeholders, deadlines and budgets to achieve – managing those areas is something that, as an organisation, we have excelled at over the years and we are very proud of it.”

As is the case with many family businesses, Coen became involved with the company at a young age. In time, he formally studied applied economics and marketing with a particular emphasis on micro and macro economic issues and trends. Coen’s education has proved highly beneficial to the company; since 1996, he has been a force behind Comdain Infrastructure’s growth, providing leadership, strategic planning, information technology, management reporting, occupational health, safety and quality management, and human resource management.

Like any business that has expanded to the size of Comdain Infrastructure, the Coens have strategically developed and employed some of the construction industry’s best management and field personnel, contributing to an ingrained positive culture and corporate professionalism.

Since its establishment, Comdain Infrastructure has evolved into a dynamic organisation with an enviable reputation for being a leading construction and maintenance services business specialising in the nation’s growing gas, irrigation and water sectors. The company success with delivering end-to-end project life cycle capacity and a drive for successful outcomes on all projects – including meeting and often exceeding client expectations – has earned Comdain Infrastructure respect in the industry, and repeat business. Its approach to customers and partners is founded on trust, fairness, professional respect and the goal of delivering value at all times. These goals are supported by Comdain Infrastructure’s hands-on approach, time-tested systems and platforms, and large workforce capabilities.

A Victoria-based organisation, Comdain Infrastructure has taken on a number of projects nationally over the past decade, with a particular emphasis on the eastern seaboard. In addition to an office in Brisbane and a number of offices throughout Victoria, the company regularly takes on projects throughout New South Wales. “We are looking at possible expansion into other states when the opportunities arise,” says Coen.

At Comdain Infrastructure, the company’s integrated and highly-developed management systems – along with its proven quality systems and processes – have enabled the firm to go far beyond just meeting contractual requirements. These systems exist not only to ensure consistent, quality work from one project to another, but are critical to ensuring safe standards on job sites for all employees and shareholders, along with care for the communities in which Comdain Infrastructure works, and the environment.

To ensure the best for its customers in all areas and on every project it takes on, the company has tri-certification in the areas of quality management, occupational health and safety, and environmental management systems. Combined, these certifications comply with requirements of ISO 9001:2008, AS/NZS 4801:2001, and ISO14001:2004 and FSC accredited.

Comdain Infrastructure offers its clients a variety of highly specialised skills in a number of areas, including core capabilities in program and project management and construction delivery under various contracting models including early contractor involvement (ECI), alliance, design, construct. This is supported by excellent processes to manage and mitigate risk, plan and schedule operational activities, efficiently procure goods, manage complex community expectations, manage key stakeholder and liaise with other authorities and manage cultural heritage and environmental issues. This is all backed by the company’s robust integrated management systems.

“We commit to a strong engagement with our designers, using our previous experience and knowledge to enhance project delivery, which commences at the design phase,” says Coen. “We have very strong estimating experience, and with almost 50 years of experience, we believe that we’re intelligent doers. Our experience greatly benefits our clients, and ensures projects are delivered to budget.”

Comdain Infrastructure’s ability to take on large scale project delivery is exemplified in the recent FutureFlow Irrigation Modernisation Alliance. The project commenced in February of 2008 and was completed in February of 2010. This immense project for Goulburn-Murray Water saw Comdain, Transfield Services and Sinclair Knight Merz (SKM) in an equal alliance with Goulburn-Murray Water. Constructed with the purpose of achieving significant water savings by delivering upgrades to the irrigation infrastructure in the Goulburn-Murray Irrigation District in Northern Victoria, the project remains one of the largest in the history of Comdain Infrastructure. In just two years and at a cost of $283 million, an unprecedented amount of irrigation infrastructure works were delivered not only on schedule, but under budget.

“It was a substantial management of mobilisation, systems integration and project delivery. A highly successful project in how well it was delivered, on time and under budget, which are very simple things to say, but hard to achieve,” says Coen. “That project received wide acclaim throughout the industry.”

A factor in the success of FutureFlow remains Comdain Infrastructure’s unprecedented knowledge and ability when it comes to planning and delivery. “We believe that 75 per cent of a project is done in the planning phase,” says Coen. “If the project is well-coordinated and has a structure, it will be delivered on time and on budget. We have many field staff who are highly qualified, well-managed, and take on responsibility themselves to ensure projects are delivered and completed. At Comdain, we also understand the importance of project closure, and we believe that work is not done until that phase is thoroughly undertaken.

“In the water and gas sectors, we adopt a philosophy of having a narrow industry focus but a deep and integrated skill offering. Our areas of expertise include operation and maintenance of customers’ distribution networks through to specific capital projects,” comments Coen. “Our combined high level of engineering expertise and strategic attention to innovation and technology utilisation provide clear differentiators for Comdain Infrastructure. We are involved with planning right through to delivery and documentation. We have a key focus on irrigation, and are currently the leading deliverer of irrigation works in Australia.”

The works undertaken at FutureFlow include an impressive array of irrigation-related systems, from 1,692 automated Flume Gate channel regulators to 3,220 electronic meter installations installed to replace dethridge wheel meters, the installation of 27 kilometres of gravity pipeline (500mm to 1200 mm) to service the Katandra area, 26 kilometres of channel lined with plastic, 32 radio communications towers installed or upgraded, and more. Approximately 30 per cent of the field workers, and 50 per cent of the professional delivery team, including the Alliance Manager, were Comdain personnel. The professional success of FutureFlow was reflected in a number of awards, such as the 2009 Young Professional Engineer Award for Comdain Project Engineer Alesha Printz, the Engineering Excellence Award for Infrastructure (projects over $20 million) FutureFlow – GMW’s Alliance providing irrigation renewal to Northern Victoria, and the AWA Infrastructure Project Innovation Award 2010.

At Comdain Infrastructure, there are four operational general managers working alongside engineering teams, support staff, estimators, and others to ensure success of all projects in water and gas. “To do anything properly, you have to have specialists in those areas,” says Coen. “We’ve delivered over $400 million of infrastructure for both the private and government sectors over the last four years.” In Victoria, the company has retained the management, maintenance, installation, renewals and replacement of APA’s gas distribution systems for over 15 years, and provided similar services to APA in Queensland for over six years, with gas sector capabilities such as fabrication and installation of city gates and compressor stations, operation and maintenance of gas networks, civil, mechanical and electrical works, front end engineering and design studies, 24 hour/7 days a week emergency response, and more.

Another way Comdain Infrastructure stands out from its competitors is the company’s accreditation with the Office of the Federal Safety Commissioner (OFSC). Achieved last year, this allows the company to work on a number of federally-funded programs. “We are one of the few organisations to have that accreditation,” says Coen. “It is essentially a prerequisite for compliance to be able to undertake works. It states we have the systems and processes in place which are accredited at such a high level that enable prequalification and shortlisting for a number of projects. The auditing process to achieve this prequalification is extremely thorough and detailed and we’re pleased to have our systems and processes recognised. It enables us to be in line and short-listed for a number of federally-funded projects.”

While the process of achieving OFSC accreditation was challenging in terms of the company’s time and resources, it validated the time-tested systems the company has worked on over the years. “Many of our systems and processes are already in place and what is suitable for one organisation may not be suitable for the next.”

No matter the program or project, Coen says Comdain Infrastructure’s clients keep working with the company because of its professionalism, experience, and collaborative approach. “We’re not a contract-driven organisation,” says Coen. “Our culture is not to drive to the contracts; our culture is to drive to the project’s best outcomes. Again, that’s our family philosophy coming through. When clients engage Comdain, they’re not engaging in paper warfare, they’re engaging someone who is looking for the best outcome to a project or scope of works, and to create an ongoing relationship for both organisations.”

Home Automation

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June 26, 2022, 12:08 AM AEST