Maryanne Edwards, GMBA consultant talks to Jason Cooper, General Manager of Poly Flex Australia who celebrate 40 years in business, no mean feat for any business in today’s competitive environment.
Poly Flex is an Australian based manufacturer of a large range of anti-vibration engine mounting systems and couplings for the marine, industrial, agricultural, mining and power generation industries. Poly Flex now has over 1700 models capable of carrying weights from as little as 2kg up to over 4000kg per mount and a range of couplings to suit a large range of gearboxes not only used in the marine industry and many other industry sectors.
The company was started in 1981 by Brian Gagen, a true entrepreneur who clearly had a keen eye for product development and a talent for employing the right people. 50 percent of his staff have been with the company for over 10 years.
tarting Poly Flex is not Brian’s only claim to fame. He was an Australian household name in the hay days of rock-n-roll back in the 50’s and 60’s. An accomplished woodwind musician, especially as a saxophonist, he formed a group called The Planets. The band were regulars on the Saturday night TV shows of the time.
In recent years, with Brian stepping back from the business, the company has been driven by General Manager, Jason Cooper and alongside Brian’s daughter Administration Manager Tracey Gagen, is set to be the driving force behind Poly Flex into the future. Jason’s son Jesse, an impressive young man, is now taking greater responsibilities as a sales representative within the business and wife Tanya supports Tracey in the administration area. As Brian has mentioned it is important for every family business to have a succession plan and if you can keep it in the family, you are more assured of the culture and heart of the business continuing.
Poly Flex has always had a strong push to develop their export market and to this end they have been regular exhibitors at METS, IBEX, Workboat World, Asia Pacific Maritime and many other international and domestic shows over the past 40 years. Their international efforts have led to Poly Flex’s significant distributor and client base, with Jason Cooper reporting, “There are not many countries we have not exported to over the past 10 years extending as far afield as Iceland.”
Jason emphasised Poly Flex is always looking at design features and improvements commenting, “In the past 24 months we have upgraded our CNC Mill, CNC Lathe, and our CNC program to the latest technology giving us greater capability and production capacity. We have introduced a Laser machine and purchased a Semi CNC Lathe and new smaller lathes. To accommodate the new machines, we have also extended the factory and made a new linishing room. Effectively we have executed our plan to keep moving with the times, ensuring a programme of continuous improvement, consolidating our position as a long-term successful manufacturer in Australia.”
Many sectors of the global marine industry have thrived over the past 18 months particularly in the boat building and refit sectors. Being a supplier to this sector and to the commercial sector has meant business for Poly Flex has not slowed down. Whilst covid restrictions affected many businesses in terms of staffing it has given Poly Flex the opportunity to review production schedules, staff hours and shifts leading now to most staff working longer hours over 4 days and having 3-day weekends. This is seen by staff as a significant benefit and has led to improved productivity and greater flexibility for the business.
With borders closed and travel restrictions still in place the Poly Flex team cannot travel to international shows or to visit customers. However, the use of social media, liaising with existing customers, being kept informed on industry trends via online media news and forums, has seen their business continue to grow through this period.
When asked about their marketing strategy going forward Jason said, “We are excited to be exhibiting in person at the Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show this month and will have a presence also at the Sydney International Boat Show at the end of July. When we can travel internationally again obviously METS/IBEX etc will be on our radar. We always exhibit where we can under the AIMEX umbrella in the Australian pavilion. We do miss the personal interaction and social side of our industry so SCIBS and the ASMEX conference is exciting to look forward to.
To stay abreast of the times Poly Flex have kept up with the latest technology which has allowed increased production capacity, reduced production timeframes, improved cost efficiencies and ensured excellent quality standards. All are key ingredients to thrive and survive as a successful manufacturing business on the global stage.
When asked about the keys to Poly Flex ongoing success, Jason stated, “Quality product and design, reliability, good customer service, fast response times, innovative design, and the ability to modify/customize product to meet our customer’s needs. Our team are all very focused around the customer and delivering on their needs and requirements.”
Exporting in today’s environment is extremely competitive and as Brian Gagen once told me his biggest competitor was imports. With sovereign capability at the fore of government thinking and many companies both domestically and globally reviewing their supply chains, there are still many opportunities on offer for Australian businesses. Companies that can react quickly, have strong manufacturing capacity and capability and build strong customer relationships are doing well and congratulations have to go to 40 year old family owned and operated Poly Flex a company that embodies the ANZAC spirit and has built a well-deserved reputation as an established global exporter on the world stage.
Disclaimer: Global Marine Business Advisors and its associated website www.gmba.blue are not registered legal entities. GMBA is a network of independent marine industry advisors.