Rising to the Challenge

Gordon McKay

Back then, agriculture was the engine room of the regional economy. But electricity was driving change and the industrial boom in the post-war period created opportunities for Gordon’s business to grow. Sixty years later, the company is a national provider of electrical contracting and maintenance services to some of the biggest names in Australian industry.

Now owned and operated by Gordon’s son Gavin, Gordon McKay is proud of its tradition and family heritage but just as important are the values of exemplary service, customer loyalty and workplace excellence that have underpinned its operation for more than half a century.

“At Gordon McKay, we pride ourselves on the long-term partnerships we have with our clients. We take a collaborative approach to their needs, ensuring we create sustainable and fit-for-purpose solutions,” says Gavin.

“One of our key strengths is our highly skilled and dedicated team. Many of our electrical specialists have been with us for 10 or even 20 years. We are committed to ongoing training and technological development. This gives us the capacity to deploy to any site, at any time, whether for emergency maintenance or for a long-term ongoing project. We have the capability.”

Gordon McKay’s can-do capacity is well illustrated through its work on the West Gate Bridge strengthening project. In June 2011, the company was commissioned to complete the electrical upgrade of the iconic Melbourne bridge through the construction of new high voltage substations, replacing and upgrading the bridge’s low voltage infrastructure and installing a new security system incorporating more than sixty cameras.

Contracts Delivery Manager Andrew Sargent says working on the bridge while it was fully operational was a huge challenge but safety for both workers and the many thousands of motorists who use the bridge each day was the overriding consideration at every stage. “Our biggest issue was the access we required to various work areas in a bridge of that size; we needed to be really innovative in our thinking. This was a project where the depth of experience among the members of our team really shone through.”

Gordon McKay is currently undertaking a major upgrade for a paint manufacturer in Melbourne’s western suburbs which also requires keeping the plant operational while work is underway. The $1.5 million project involves a plant expansion as well as installation of new and relocated manufacturing equipment. On this project, the combined skills and know-how of the Gordon McKay team has ensured safety procedures and hazardous certification has been maintained throughout the duration of the project.

Gordon McKay’s experience in the petrochemical industry has seen it play an ongoing role at Shell Geelong Refinery, where Gordon McKay has been the resident electrical contractor at the refinery for almost a decade. The company is currently completing an upgrade of the refinery’s primary electrical distribution system. Again, this project requires completion while the refinery is operating.

“Basically, we are duplicating the primary high voltage distribution network so we can replace the existing network in a staged ‘cut over’ process,” explains Andrew. “It is quite complex, a bit like open heart surgery on the HV electrical systems for the refinery.”

In readiness for the stage two ‘cut over’, new switch-rooms, 22Kv switchboards, 6.6Kv Switchboards, HV cabling and LV cabling have to be installed through the use of some very innovative methods. “One of the refinery engineers said he considered this to be one of the most challenging projects in the refinery’s history.”

The multi-million dollar project will take around two and a half years from start to finish. Once stage one is complete, the Gordon McKay team will spend considerable time coordinating and scheduling activities to successfully complete the stage two ‘cut over’. In spite of its size and complexity, the project remains on track for scheduled completion.

Gordon McKay’s experience on hazardous sites is also ensuring excellence in service delivery at GrainCorp’s Geelong Terminal. Here the team is incorporating new technology into a purpose-built facility being constructed to enable the fumigation of grains before export.

“Any design and construction project has its challenges. But our team has the range and depth of skills to deliver these projects from the concept stage through to a fully operational plant and we’re extremely proud of that,” says Andrew.

Through the decades, Gordon McKay has developed a capacity for managing complex and remote projects, such as its ongoing work in the Kingdom of Tonga. The company is about to start upgrading the primary power generation network in the capital, Nuku’alofa. This is the fifth upgrade Gordon McKay has undertaken in Tonga; the first began in 2005. Overseeing improvements to the main power source for the capital is a responsibility and a privilege.

“Our aim is to ensure an uninterrupted power supply through the duration of this project. It is absolutely imperative when you consider vital infrastructure such as hospitals and airports are dependent on this power for the critical work they do,” says Andrew.

Working remotely throws up a unique set of challenges. In Tonga, the closest electrical wholesaler and supplier is based in New Zealand. Planning is critical since break-downs and equipment failure can cause costly delays that can have an adverse impact on the project schedule. But Gordon McKay has the capability to ensure success for this and other projects, whether in the Pacific or throughout Australia.

“We have completed projects in South Australia, New South Wales and Tasmania,” says General Manager, Vicki DeBono. “Our team is highly focused and adaptable and their ‘go anywhere, anytime’ attitude has really shaped our business and developed our expertise at every level.

“Our strength in innovation and collaboration really benefits our clients because there’s nothing we can’t manage, no problem that can’t be solved. We share our knowledge and experience and work with our clients to get the best results for them. It’s fantastic to see those outcomes.”

Underpinning the commitment to training and skills development, Gordon McKay is a strong supporter of the apprenticeship system. The company is one of the largest employers of electrical apprentices in Victoria and has a minimum of 15 apprentices on its books at any time.

“We are particularly proud of our apprenticeship program. Gordon McKay is an employer of choice in this region. The huge variety of work we do really benefits our apprentices because it gives them opportunities to gain experience across a range of sites throughout their training. It’s a win-win situation. Some of our most valuable employees started as apprentices and have now been with us for more than twenty years,” says Vicki.

Gordon McKay’s commitment to training and development doesn’t end with its apprentices. The company ensures its team has the skills and qualifications to operate across a range of specialist fields, whether it’s hazardous area electrical installation, instrumentation or High Voltage endorsement.

Gordon McKay’s fully integrated management system incorporate OH&S, quality and care of the environment. “We are externally accredited to AS 4801 (Occupational health and Safety Systems), ISO 9001 (Quality Management Systems) and ISO 14001 (Environmental Management Systems). The company is also certified by ISNetworld to operate at petrochemical sites.

“Our systems ensure our employees come home safely and we meet our client’s requirements in all aspects. In fact, we like to think we do more than meet our client’s expectations; we like to think we exceed them. It’s what drives every aspect of our business – our commitment to achieving the best possible outcome for our clients. And we are proud to say, we think we do that job pretty well.”

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 17, 2019, 4:57 AM AEDT