Contracting Solutions for Complex Projects

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-By Aleisha Parr

When Ian George set out in 1988 to establish a construction company of his own, he did so on the back of a well-founded career in the pharmaceutical industry. With a team of only two at the time, Mr George endeavoured to grow the company using his pharmaceutical contacts as leverage and his past experience with high-end finishes and strict quality standards as his guide. Nearly a quarter decade later, George Rydell Constructions Pty Ltd is one of Victoria’s most diverse and dynamic construction companies, generating an annual turnover between fifty and sixty million dollars through the dedication of an expert staff of over forty.

While working in the pharmaceutical industry, Mr George had overseen numerous construction projects, and was launched into action via an opportunity presented to him by a former co-worker who moved to Bonlac Foods. The project involved the construction of a sugar manufacturing plant where milkshake products were created and processed before being shipped overseas.

Recalls Mr George, “They wanted to improve their construction techniques – they’re not the same as pharmaceuticals, which require very high-end finishes, expensive finishes, as you can imagine – but they wanted to head towards producing pharmaceutical finishes within their building. We achieved that on their first job and from then on we have started getting a lot more work in the dairy industry.”

Over the years, George Rydell Constructions Pty Ltd has been the contractor behind such projects as the thirteen million dollar Warrnambool Cheese and Butter manufacturing plant, a seven million dollar Milk Distillery Dry building for Goto Foods, and numerous projects for Fonterra Foods, one the world’s largest dairy companies.

Mr George explains his company’s success in this area as a result of being in the right place at the right time whilst maintaining a level of quality and specialty knowledge second to none. “We understand the complexities of the process,” he says. “You can’t just go and build a building then throw the process in, the process has to be established while the building is being built and that’s what we’re very good at, understanding how those things work.” He adds, “The process contractors know that so they prefer to use us rather than any other builder.”

In addition to this area of specialty, George Rydell Constructions has also done a considerable amount of refurbishment and new construction work in the retail sector. In particular, the company has been very successful at converting retail locations for new purposes, such as a recent conversion of a Safeway into a Woolworth’s supermarket, with twelve retail shops and the associated carparks and amenities.

Many of these multimillion dollar projects were undertaken whilst the shopping centres were still operational to the public, a feat Mr George boasts displayed the quality of workers under his employ. “Of all our processes or policies – people are the most important to us,” he remarked. “We’re general contractors that have been around for a long time, and we’re a family company.”

In fact, Mr George has been the sole director of the company since its inception up until two years ago, when his son Ben George and step-son, Adrian Herrmann – both civil engineers – joined him from the ranks. “They’re both project managers and they’re coming through the business to one day take over,” explains Mr George. “We’re a family business and we employ people and we employ children of those people. We have a lot of people who have worked for us over the years and who have had their parents work for us, and so they’ve come to our attention and they typically do a very good job.”

As a result of that family-oriented workplace culture, George Rydell has recently taken an interest in developing not only for the company’s clients, but also for the company’s own holdings. The company is presently at work on a development in Werribee in the western suburb of Melbourne. The project, owned and operated by the George family, involves the development of a serviced apartment hotel above an IGA supermarket on the ground floor. Construction is wrapping up and arrangements are underway for Quest to commence operations closely followed by the opening of the IGA Liquor plus Supermarket.

Last year, the company completed another project from which it will generate rental income, located at 64-98 Bridge Road in Keysborough. Of the five offices constructed for the project, one has become the firm’s new home.

In addition to these numerous areas of specialty, the company has also seen its fair share of school construction projects as part of the recent BER stimulus grants. Again, the expertise with which employees of George Rydell Constructions approach each project, including their attention to fine detail and their commitment to the highest quality standards – has earned the company a large amount of repeat business in this and all areas of work in which the company has been involved.

“We have a very good reputation,” Mr George says with pride. “But it’s very difficult at the moment with the world financial situation. Last year we had to start looking at our business in a new way.” Unfortunately, that did come at the loss of a variety of in-house positions. These positions, says Mr George, were simply too expensive to keep in-house during these trying financial times and so, despite the company’s desire to continue to support those specialty workers, the difficult business decision had to be made.

“We employed one hundred and twenty employees including our own plumber and plumbing crews, our own labourers, our own carpenters, and so we have tried to simplify the business a little bit. We’ve cut down to about forty employees, and we’re going to use more contractors rather than our own employees. It’s just too expensive when you’re looking at down time.”

At the same time, Mr George stresses that the company continues to place its focus on developing and nurturing its human capital, with a particular focus over the last five years on improving its OH&S standards. The company currently has its OH&S AS4801, and is working towards achieving its ISO 9001 : 2008 accreditation for all strata of quality control.

“It’s becoming more and more prevalent in the construction industry to get on top of your health and safety,” says Mr George, “but even if it weren’t, that would still be a strong area of focus for us. We take care of our people.”

Looking to the future, despite the financial difficulties shared by companies the world over, George Rydell Constructions is set to enjoy another quarter century of growth and development on the strength of the solid foundation laid by Ian George himself, in the skilled hands of the next generation.

Home Automation

Call it ‘domotics,’ and you are likely to receive a blank stare, but refer to it as ‘smart home’ or ‘home automation,’ and you will get a nod of acknowledgement. For the past few years, consumers have heard the word ‘smart’ attached to countless products and services, from food and drink to snacks like popcorn and mobile phones, which no one seems to refer to as a ‘cellphone’ anymore. Yet what, exactly, constitutes ‘smart’?

January 25, 2021, 9:22 PM AEDT