Over the past four decades, Australian road maintenance equipment manufacturer Flocon Engineering has seen significant changes across the entirety of the road rehabilitation and construction sector.
Everything from the technology fitted onto its trucks and road maintenance units, to the specific requirements of the market and its customers, have been in a continuous state of change. One thing that has been consistent for the Victoria-based business – and will remain so into the future – is family.
Flocon has been building and supplying its diverse range of road maintenance equipment to the market since Jim Knight started the business in the early 1970s. It was a family affair since day one, with Jim’s sons Peter and Steve following in his footsteps – working and eventually succeeding him as heads of the company
Now, the next generation is leading the way and they have big plans for the company as it looks ahead.
Rory Knight, Flocon General Manager and son of Steve Knight, works alongside his cousins Ryan and Melissa – Peter’s children – in the business, all of whom are poised to take the reins in the next few years.
For Mr. Knight and his cousins, a key defining factor for the business has been the family-run work ethic and being involved in every facet of the business to some degree.
“As kids, we were here every weekend – I basically grew up at the workshop. Being a family-run business has always been to our benefit – we all have the same drive and same strong work ethic that keeps the business moving forward,” he says.
Flocon manufactures an extensive range of road maintenance equipment out of its Victorian premises, including road patching and repair units, aggregate spreaders, bitumen emulsion sealing units, cement or lime spreading units and more. Its road maintenance equipment is designed and built to handle hot mix, cold mix or premix asphalts, aggregates and bitumen emulsions, cement lime, soils and most quarry products.
With such a diverse product offering, part of Mr. Knight’s and his cousins’ introduction to the family business has seen them involved in different sides of the company.
“I started my apprenticeship as a diesel mechanic, then came into the family business working in the workshop. I began going through each section of the production cycle, including hydraulic systems, electrics, fabrication, emulsifiers, spare parts, fault-find processes and so on. This was so I could learn the entire breadth of what the company offers and understand how the whole manufacturing process works.”
His cousin Ryan is going through a similar process – currently working in the spare parts sales side of the business before moving into the management sector. Melissa, likewise, is set to take over accounts, having worked part-time in the company’s accounting and admin arms.
With the next generation of family members ready to take the lead, Mr. Knight says the business is now laying the groundwork for Flocon’s future.
“As a younger and more tech-savvy generation, I think we’re going to be bringing a lot of new ideas to the table going forward. There are a lot of challenges out there in the market, but also opportunities with the amount of technology being introduced,” he says.
“In the next 10 years we want to start improving our premises and start a new service area that will help us get more units out into the market, but also increase product innovation.
“Part of the challenge will be keeping up with everything – all the new standards being introduced and the new technology and equipment developments. We’re still sticking to the same field we’ve worked in for the past 40 years, but we want to increase our output and innovate what we offer the market.”
While the manufacturer will continue to build then sell or hire its high-quality units, Mr. Knight says the business has an eye to increase its production rate as well as keep their ears to the ground concerning new developments by continuing to foster existing industry relationships and establish new ones.
“We talk with a lot of suppliers about what they need for their business and they’re bringing new ideas to the table and asking for new systems. That feedback is driving where we go next,” he says. “We’ve also just recently started doing trade shows again. It’s been a while since we did our last one, but we see this as the next step in customer engagement for Flocon.”
As for Flocon’s future well beyond his own time Mr. Knight is already contemplating a succession plan. “I’ve got my own young son and I’d like to see him coming into the business, but that’s going to be up to him at the end of the day.”