Research and development
Furst Electrical aims to reinvest about 3 per cent of its profit in research and development. This pushes along innovation and also provides marketing opportunities.
“Often we’ll do the research and development and we’ll give it to clients for nothing,” says Lee. “There will be an active project and we’ll see an opportunity to do something for them – so we’ll spend the money to work out how. We’ll check in afterwards and won’t necessarily charge them for it and we’ll use [the project] as a case study.”
As Furst Electrical has craft beer producers among its clients, they decided to experiment with technology to remotely manage brewing equipment.
“It means the brewers can remotely monitor and control the temperature or pressure inside their tanks. The capability to adjust key variables ensures they don’t spoil product. For us, it has given Furst a competitive advantage for use in our tenders and a unique case study for marketing how businesses can benefit from partnering with Furst.”
By their nature, businesses that rely on industrial automation are likely to face potentially huge losses if their machinery breaks down, so Mark and Lee took steps to ensure that Furst Electrical’s services were as accessible as possible.
Reliable communication is critical, especially as staff can be dispersed across several project sites. The solution is a cloud-based private bulletin board app that allows better communication with field staff and promotes collaboration.
“If a guy goes out and works on a project and isn’t there the next day, he needs to communicate to the person coming the following day. It creates that continuity of work. It also creates a nice culture within the team. It’s a team-based environment so the guys talk to each other and have a chat about whatever,” Lee explains.
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How technology helps
Technology’s positive impact on the bottom line shouldn’t be underestimated, adds Lee. As well as cloud-based services, including Xero for accounting and Dropbox to access designs on site, the business uses a mobile workflow app to analyse how much time staff are spending on multiple projects.
“It provides us with meaningful data to action in case we have allocated too many or too few team members on a project,” Lee explains. “That translates to higher project profitability. In one project this year it saved us the cost of three wages – in the order of $120,000.”
With analysts Frost & Sullivan tipping that the market for automation controls in the Asia-Pacific will hit $430 million by 2018, Furst Electrical is well-positioned for further growth over the next five years.
Winning ways from Furst Electrical
Training: “We teach our staff continuously. We attract staff because we do interesting things. We keep them because they’re constantly learning, challenged and engaged.” - Lee Furst
Marketing: Furst Electrical uses knowledge as a sales tool. Their marketing is tightly focused and aims to be useful to potential clients by offering information on changes and new tech affecting their industry.
Finance: “You need to keep overheads low in the early days because you’re going to have a volatile sales pipeline. It’s a matter of adapting until you are getting higher quality, consistent work.” - Lee Furst
The judges praised Furst Electrical for their innovative take on highly complex electrical engineering. The business has very effective project planning and risk management systems in place and, as a result, has won work against larger competitors. Furst Electrical has achieved impressive financial success in a short time, and the judges noted that its combination of highly developed technical expertise, focused marketing and process discipline was rare in the sector.