Complete Capabilities

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-By John Boley

Brunton Engineering and Construction Pty Ltd was founded in 1996 to service industrial organisations with specialised civil engineering requirements. Building on proprietor Geoff Brunton’s extensive industrial and engineering background, the company aims to provide a complete structural, civil and mechanical engineering, design, implementation, manufacturing and project management capability. Operating from a modern office and factory complex in Somerton on Melbourne’s northern fringe, Brunton Engineering is strategically situated in the northern suburbs of Melbourne, close to all major highway connections.

Geoff told us that Brunton Engineering’s core advantage is the fact that “we can do the civil work and the mechanical work. You have got a combination of talents and experience that can look after the complete project.” This means a client does not have to engage first a builder, then a mechanical contractor, and then an electrician or plumber. “We can do the whole show.” Brunton Engineering carries out a lot of factory relocation work. “In the past we have done a lot of relocations of machinery and plant and the refurbishing of sites to prepare for a move.”

The company has an extremely useful brochure for clients who want it to prepare for a move. Geoff says it’s all about the little things – no-one ever gets a move 100 per cent correct but taking account of less obvious but nevertheless important items makes the move go smoother. He recounts a tale of a client who had failed to notice that his new premises featured gates too narrow for semitrailers to enter. Other tips that one might expect to be taken into account (but often aren’t) include making sure the fire regulations are in order and that there is sufficient power, gas, water and compressed air. “Sometimes it is the most obvious thing that no one looks at, but usually it is not the big things that get messed up but the little things, and no matter how many times you do it there is still something that will go wrong, I can assure you.”

While Geoff does not like the term ‘one stop shop’, he says “we are a complete company for anybody that wants a project done that involves both civil and mechanical work. We combine with electrical and plumbing contractors we know and can trust to get the job done. These are people that we have a certain synergy or rapport with. We know that we can trust them to get the job done for the people that contract us or commission us.” After 16 busy years, he adds, he and his team have “seen a lot of people come and go” and sorted out who can do the job the best. He acknowledges that Brunton Engineering’s ‘right first time’ and ‘get it done fast’ approach is not always likely to be the cheapest, and the company has lost a client from time to time to a cheaper tender. But it’s also not unheard of for said client to come back to Geoff Brunton 18 months later and, admitting the realisation that it was a false economy, ask him to put things right for them.

Another element of the cost equation is that Geoff and his team always try to ensure “our first price is our best price.” It is not uncommon for construction companies to start with a cheap quote but if anything unforeseen occurs it gets more expensive. “We try to avoid that scenario. It sometimes costs us because we can see things other people can’t see and sometimes we miss out on work because I would rather be able to do that and sleep at night than have to worry about waking up every morning and know I am going to have to argue about extras with a client.” The client, too, can sleep easier because there are no unforeseen extras.

“I would say our biggest attribute is the flexibility of our workforce and the calibre of our workers,” says Geoff. He adds that the company also has excellent facilities including an ability to design and, more importantly, modify a client’s own design in the light of Brunton’s extensive experience to achieve a better result. “For example, there are very few workshops in Melbourne now that have a 50 tonne crane and can lift really heavy gear.” He admits the big crane is not currently used to its maximum – but “the important thing is that we have the facility as well as the workforce to do that class of work.

“All our people are very highly trained in areas such as elevated work platforms, confined spaces, working at heights, forklift licences, riggers and all the other necessary training.” Everyone has some basic first aid skills too, including CPR (although Geoff himself worries that may just be because the staff think they might need to practise on him!). “We are probably one of the few companies in Melbourne that has its own defibrillator on site. We try very hard to keep our staff happy and safe.”

Brunton Engineering keeps its safety policies up to date, and the company is about to go through the 5S procedures to improve efficiency of dealing with rubbish. Geoff says that on a recent business trip to Switzerland he looked round a local engineering company’s plant and “it looked more to me like a typical Australian pharmaceutical plant – it was so clean. I was horrified at the way we deal with (or perhaps fail to deal with) rubbish here.”

Geoff is considering ISO 9000 accreditation but says few if any potential clients demand it, although government departments tend to take an interest in whether a company has it or not. Brunton Engineering is actively pursuing more government and council work. “We have the ability to build bridges, for example – not Sydney Harbour Bridge, but given all the flooding in eastern Australia over the last two years, there is a plethora of bridges that need rebuilding and we are quoting for many of them.”

Doing jobs to specification and doing them quickly – that’s what Brunton Engineering’s clients value. Geoff says two of his best customers are Toyota and Ford. Car manufacturers tend to appreciate the ability to come in and work around an existing factory schedule with complete reliability. After all, he points out, on a car assembly line job, “If you muck up on Sunday afternoon, you have a whole workforce waiting for the cars to come down the line on Monday.” This does not come cheap and clients of this stature appreciate the firm’s capabilities. They also appreciate that Geoff’s workforce is so flexible and ready to get the job done. “We have got to a point where we work probably 35 weekends of the year for car companies and it is not unusual to only have Christmas day off and work the rest of the Christmas holidays. Likewise, we’ll work straight through Easter. The only other day we don’t work is Anzac Day.” The company’s reputation has been extensively built on its work for the carmakers.

During 2011 Brunton Engineering reconstructed a recyclable rubbish plant for SKM Recycling Pty Ltd. This included construction of conveyor pits, 104 belt conveyors and installation of associated equipment at a plant that sorts and recycles approximately 80 tonnes of recyclable rubbish per hour. The workforce then moved to Toyota Motor Corporation Australia “where we combined with Control IT to expedite 300 containers of engine manufacturing equipment from the wharf, to unpack, position, align and commission approximately 600 machines.”

Brunton Engineering has grown from its original two staff in 1996 to around 45 now. “We started off in a factory that was 250 square metres and now we have got 2,450 square metres. Our office now is actually bigger than the whole factory was when we started.”

Despite a somewhat gloomy industrial outlook regionally, Geoff is not keen to look too far afield. “I think with the people we have and the opportunities that there are in Victoria, and given the workshop that we have, we have got very good opportunities.” In the meantime, life has not been too unkind. “If you had told me in 1996 we would be where we are today I would have told you that you had rocks in your skull!”

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’?

July 16, 2020, 11:16 AM AEST