Precast state of play: Western Australia

Roads & Civil Works Magazine talks to two WA precast concrete suppliers about their thoughts on the state's current market and what they expect for 2016.Despite being one of the younger firms in Western Australia’s precast concrete sector, Alberto Ferraro views PERMAcast as one of the major players in the state.

“We were the young firm in town and we were mixing it up with companies that have been in the market for 30 years,” says Mr. Ferraro, Managing Director of PERMAcast, also a National Precast member. “We ended up really having to have points of difference, and that was service, quality and performance.

“Now we’re probably one of the biggest project precasters in the state, and that’s put us in a pretty strong position in a pretty turbulent time in the market.”

It is this attitude and open ability to adapt that has seen PERMAcast go from strength to strength since its inception in 2007, and survive the volatile market downturn in recent years. “The civil and infrastructure precast sector is pretty stalled. It’s also quiet and very competitive,” says Mr. Ferraro. “The volume of work is centred on the drop of the mining sector and some major gas and oil projects coming to an end – we’re vying for all the same projects.

“We’ve been quite fortunate from 2008 to today as we’ve had one major precast project per year, and that’s really given us a good base to work from,” says Mr. Ferraro.

Clients have also tried to cut costs while maintaining quality, Mr. Ferraro explains, which is something PERMAcast and other suppliers have had to take into account, especially when competing for tenders.

PERMAcast has supplied a number of significant jobs within the state, including the Wheatstone project – one of Australia’s largest resource developments. “We’ve grown into the Gateway project, where we were supplying various bridge beams, concrete crash barriers and retaining walls, and from there we have now moved on to the new Perth Stadium.”

Mr. Ferraro says that PERMAcast’s success and consistency in securing high-profile jobs comes down to great service, high quality and its strong team on all levels of the business. This, he says, has been done through PERMAcast’s flexibility and adaptability when it comes to meeting the client’s needs, even in the face of a downturn in the state’s precast sector.

Mr. Ferraro says they have also seen some success in the state, in part due to PERMAcast shifting its focus to producing bespoke products and tackling second tier contracts in the civil and infrastructure sector. “It was a step up for the business and we came out working on various sides of the market,” he adds.

Mr. Ferraro admits that it easier said than done in many cases. “It’s easy to talk about what we can do but actually executing it is a different story,” he says. However, he suggests that being flexible, open-minded and versatile when it comes to meeting their customers’ needs has worked well
for PERMAcast.

With a number of federal and state-funded projects on the horizon, including the Perth Freight Link and NorthLink, Mr. Ferraro is optimistic about what 2016 will hold for the local precast market. “I’m very confident that the second half of this year will be very strong and lead into a number of good years for the state.”

Like PERMAcast, MJB Industries is another Western Australia supplier of civil precast products impacted by the drop in the mining industry.

“Coming off the mining boom, we had a bit of a boost for a while,” says Bill Wright, the company’s General Manager. Demand for precast was high and MJB Industries was supplying a number of high-profile projects, including the Kwinana Freeway, Roe Highway approaches as well as Great Northern Highway.

However, for the Western Australian supplier, the recent downturn in the mining sector has resulted in a more competitive market. “In our game, there are four major players in the project and precast
sector – it’s very competitive.”

Mr. Wright says that being an independent civil supplier with a strong history in the state enables MJB Industries to be more flexible and proactive when meeting its clients’ needs.

“We’re pretty versatile in our business range from prefab options to doing total precast,” he says. This, in part, has helped the company keep abreast of the turbulent Western Australian market.

Despite being based nearly 160 kilometres from Perth, MJB Industries secures a lot of work in the state capital. The firm also continues to secure competitive tenders in the regional market. Mr. Wright attributes this to its versatility and strategic location from which to supply both metropolitan and regional clients and projects.

While 2015 hasn’t yielded the most profitable and forgiving market for precasters, Mr. Wright, like Mr. Ferraro, is confident the state’s precast market will take a favourable turn in 2016.

This story has appeared in the Roads & Civil Works February/March 2016 edition – get your copy here today!

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