EXCEL ROBOTICS may have started small, but the company has always had big ideas about developing Australian advanced manufacturing services that would drive success for its clients across the agriculture, automotive, petro-chemical and resources industries.

Dan Leech founded Excel Robotics in 2006 and has been its managing director – and sole owner – since its inception, having focussed on the automotive sector initially. His background in the steel industry then set him thinking about creating better and more specialised production machinery and that, naturally, led to the field of robotics.

“I started with one robot and one customer and a huge dream and desire to succeed,” Mr Leech said. “Money was limited back then when I worked on my own so I made the decision that a fork lift would add more value to my company, rather than build an office – so that’s what I did.

“I then proceeded to use my forklift seat as my temporary office to conduct invoicing and purchasing etc. Move on two years and I had saved enough money to build my own office. Then we took the unit on next door and put a powder coating plant in to give our customers a complete package.

“Another year on I had eight staff and generators running out the front to give us more power as we were so busy. We then moved into Wellard Street Bibra Lake with eight staff and a turnover of $1.2 million with 70 percent net profit. 

“Move forward five years and last financial year we turned over $6.7 million with a net profit of $1.275 million,” Mr Leech said.

“We now employ 34 full time staff, have four accreditations with Lloyds Register, three safety awards, have four running robots, three saws, the largest plasma cutting, drilling and oxy cutting machine in Western Australia and have a predicted turnover in the next financial year of $9.5 million.”

Key to success, Mr Leech said, was his concentration of face-to-face meetings with customers.

“As a small business operator being responsible for all facets of the business from production planning to administration, it was integral that time was always allocated to marketing and promotion,” he said. “As part of my weekly job planning and scheduling, every Friday was put aside to close the workshop and hit the road to meet with potential new customers face to face, and in an industry that is still strongly influenced by old-school principles, this practice was always well received.

“I strongly believe this was a critical component in gaining trust and creating opportunities for customers to take a chance on a new supplier.”

LOOKING WELL AHEAD

After making its name rapidly from a standing start in the automotive sector then into agriculture and mining, Excel Robotics’ expertise and reputation opened doors in other industries.

Now Excel Robotics has its sights set on venturing into the oil and gas sector and the company is planning to expand eastward into locations such as Tomago and Gladstone.

The installation of the largest plasma cutting machine in Western Australia in the past year was a paradigm shift for Excel.

“The installation on the plasma (cutting technology) was a real turning point for us,” Mr Leech said. “We also commissioned our biggest robot Number 4. This is a five-axis robot mounted on a 10-tonne horizontal gantry system.

“We use this mainly for 1554.5 high fatigue welding work. Our customers love seeing this technology in action. And we can weld continuously for up to 12 metres.”

These new systems have clearly demonstrated that the use of robotics can make production not only more efficient and less costly, but far safer.

“One item in particular we used to have rotate 19 times and, with it weighing 2 tonne, it was a hazard,” Mr Leech said. “Now that we use robotics we only have to rotate it four times. Plus, we get more continuous welding with less stop-starts and lower heat input and distortion.”

Excel Robotics has always kept a look out for services it can economically extend to its production line.

“One of the earliest of these was powder coating to our services and more recently it has included rubber lining and plasma cutting,” Mr Leech said. “This adds up to happy customers too.”

Over the past few years, Excel Robotics has successfully achieved AS4801, ISO9001, ISO14001 and OHAS18001 accreditations with Lloyds Register Australia. This has helped to secure the top four global screening companies as customers.

REACTING TO MARKET CHANGE

Excel Robotics’ diversity of capabilities and the way the company has continually developed new efficiencies in its manufacturing systems by utilising robotics is clearly paying off in the way it is able to transition between industry sectors.

“We are a strong believer in business diversity. Our biggest commodity at the moment is wool, then all the precious metals known to man,” Mr Leech said.

“When one is up, often the other is down, so we still benefit.” 

In fact, Excel Robotics has now become the largest supplier to the Australian and New Zealand wool industry of fabricated components – most notably its latest technology wool presses.

“The markets at the moment for us are very good,” he said. “Also the price of wool is good at the moment combined with higher quality and demand from China as we are still riding a surge in wool press sales.”

At the same time, the more demand rises for precious metals – and sometimes the lower price of a commodity can be a driver – the  higher the demand for Excel’s custom-made screens that it builds for mining customers.

“With roughly 70 percent increase in sales and 50 percent in profit last year, things are moving along just nicely,” Mr Leech said. “We expect to double our turnover this year but not the profit as last year was an expansion year, as we call it.

“This happens every second year where we expand in one way or another, hence us spending more than other years.”

And right from his early days, Dan Leech has kept an eye on the basics to ensure growth can happen.

“Cash flow is king and if you take your eye of the ball someone else with start kicking it for you,” he said. Keeping an eye on the basics has driven Mr Leech to develop a long list of capable people to keep their eyes on the ball day-to-day in operations.

Mr Leech said the company has grown by between five and eight new full-time staff per year over the last three years and that is a carefully nurtured process.

He said Excel Robotics worked continuously with At Work Australia, South Fremantle Senior High School (SHS), Curtin University, Thornlie SHS and Rossmoyne SHS to give people the chance of gaining an apprenticeship “and come to our facilities to give the industry a try”.

“We have seen all walks of life come through the doors, some staying for longer than others, and others starting apprenticeships in the trade,” Mr Leech said. “We also take part in Indigenous employment and training.”

The company has also helped to rehabilitate people back into the industry after imprisonment, addiction, or illness, Mr Leech said.

It shows how paramount the development of people is for success – even for a robotics company.

Excel Robotics has been recognised as a leader in staff development and that has brought a string of awards over recent years – especially highlighting the way the company develops with workplace health and safety paramount. In both 2018 and 2017 Excel Robotics won the IFAP Safe Way Achiever Award Gold Category, in 2017 it was awarded the WA Government Worksafe Gold Certificate of Achievement and previous to that won the 2015 WA Government Work Safety Award for Best Workplace Safety and Health practice.

Anything that hinders his staff development goals are a problem – so it’s no wonder Mr Leech singles out one particular imposition on Australian companies that bothers him: payroll tax.

“Why should we be penalised for growing our companies?” he asked. “Abolish payroll tax!”

Such niggling impositions aside, Dan Leech and his team are accelerating by sticking to the company’s foundations.

“We want Excel Robotics to continue to exceed our customers’ expectations by constantly producing high quality fabrication in the safest, most efficient and professional manner possible,” Mr Leech said. “We will continue to grow the company lawfully and carefully.”

About Excel Robotics 

Excel Robotics is best known for its development of highly specialised production machinery across the agriculture, automotive and resources industries – and the company’s related capabilities in high quality welding, steel fabrication, powder coating, plasma cutting and rubber lining

Excel Robotics has grown to 39 staff over two shifts, led by Managing Director Dan Leech and Operations Manager Tom Poupouare, and is expected to turn over $9.5 million in the 2018-19 financial year.

Excel Robotics has won many awards over the years, most recently the Gold Safe Way Achiever Award for the 2018IFAP/CGU Safe Way Awards and the company is currently a finalist in the 2019 IFAP Safety Innovation Award.

Accreditations Excel holds include Quality Management ISO 9001:2015, Environmental Management ISO 14001:2015, Safety Accreditation AS/NZS 4801:2001, and Safety Accreditation OHSAS 18001:2007.

www.excelrobotics.com.au

FOR ALPHABIZ it has been a 10-year journey from acquisition with a handful of clients with an ambition – to help business owners and CEOs take back control of their business –  using a range of modem whole-of-business software solutions to future-proof their organisation.

For AlphaBiz clients, it must seem like only yesterday that the AlphaBiz team worked closely with innovative operators to better equip their staff with the right tools and provide better service – ultimately achieving greater efficiency, effectiveness, economical and greater agility.AlphaBiz, Shadi Khede, Jacqui Robb and Jason Marriott.

And it has paid off all round. It sounds simple, but the ‘smarts’ behind AlphaBiz are more about the interpretation of useful software into business processes – to optimise them – than about the technology itself.

 

“At AlphaBiz, our mission is to equip businesses with modern software solutions to help them operate with greater control, efficiency, visibility and future proofing the organisation,” co-founder and director Shadi Kheder said.

“Together with our skilled and dedicated team, we provide our clients with powerful software solutions that solve the everyday challenges faced by growing companies with the visibility to key focus information to help business owners, executives, and management make informed and effective decisions.

“However the focus has always been on delivering the right solution in a friendly yet professional manner while building long lasting relationships, which is what sets us apart.”

TAKING ‘HARD’ OUT OF SOFTWARE

AlphaBiz Solutions understood the growing need for fully integrating software solutions from day one in 2009 when the company was kicked off by Shadi Kheder.

Due to the lack of support for many Sybiz customers, the team members that formed AlphaBiz saw a great opportunity to provide quality support and improvements with the product, finance and business knowledge they had gained over years implementing and supporting Sybiz software along with other services like IT Infrastructure, Report Writing and Software Development.Joanna Wu, Shani Rai Sinha, Shadi Kheder and Jacqui Robb.

“After months of planning, it all became a reality on August 1, 2009, in a tiny office space with a small team, working with limited resources but high optimism and passion,” Mr Kheder said. “We had one vision, the same as today, to help businesses take control by centralising and streamlining there business systems.”

AlphaBiz has developed its service and training offerings across the board for the past decade and the business continues to go from strength to strength.

“We are true believers that when it comes to business software solutions there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach,” fellow Director, Peter Coole said. “We understand that buying a business system can be a big investment for companies and despite significant costs, software sometimes fails to meet critical requirements..

“To combat the frustration and hardships that can stem from implementing unsuitable systems or multiple softwares, we follow the 80/20 principle of software selection. Through our careful needs analysis process we help to select the right software which caters to 80 percent (or more) of the business’s critical needs and the final 20 percent is accomplished by customising or enhancing the software to suit the client specifically.

“This approach has helped us offer the most suitable and best value for money solution to our clients.

“It is a credit to the whole team that we have never walked away from a problem and we stand by every system we implement. Sometimes it can be tough going but the team rallies to the cause and pushes back he boundaries to find the best solution.”

MANAGING CHANGE

Matching and tailoring the software is only part of the challenge for both AlphaBiz Solutions and their clients. Managing and interpreting the change to the business the new software represents is the truly challenging part.

“It is critical that when you need to assist in the change management process that you work with your audience, to gain their trust so they come down the path of change with you,” Mr Kheder said.

“Our teams are continually working to refine the process of change in a friendly non-confrontational way, yet ensuring that the path to required outcome is followed in an effective manner.”

And there is only one way to successfully integrate technological change into a business: person-to-person. AlphaBiz focusses on delivering the highest levels of personable customer service – and that builds lasting relationships through really effective user and business change management.

“What sets AlphaBiz apart from other competitors is our personable approach,” Mr Kheder said. “From the very first meeting, our goal is to communicate honestly and openly.

“We encourage every member of the AlphaBiz team, from the directors, the consultants, the business development and administrative team, to establish a trusted bond with our clients.”

And it works because they work hard at it and build trust.

“Currently we have a team of 20, comprising of extremely adept and enthusiastic individuals to deliver this promise,” Mr Kheder said.

AlphaBiz’s integrated information systems incorporate modules supporting  Finance, Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Inventory Management, Job and Project Costing, Service Management, Point of Sale (POS), Fixed Assets, Analytics, and Reporting.

“We also offer payroll and human resources management (HRM) systems and hardware solutions which can be integrated into any new Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, creating a fully integrated business management solution throughout a business. We also provide customised solutions to meet the unique needs of any business and industry requirements.”

BRIGHT FUTURE

Even as more business software options come on the market – and the power and intelligence of the software increases – successful integration is always going to be the key to success.

“The pace of innovation has increased and as a technology company we aim to continually evolve and adapt to technological growth, automation, mobility and cloud computing,” Mr Coole said.

“As solutions like electronic trading (B2B & EDI), artificial intelligence, IoT, automation become readily available and affordable to adapt, we want to empower our clients to stay ahead as the business landscape becomes more competitive and demand for reduced operational costs impacts us all.  

“AlphaBiz have audacious goals to establish itself as one of the biggest and most trustworthy names in WA in the ERP and IT space.”

And it is doing so by delivering on its vision by innovating in key technology systems areas that ordinarily form blockage points for most businesses.

These range from developing fully automated systems to ensuring the multiple reusability of key modules.

AlphaBiz is renowned for its standardised but flexible implementation methodology. Another benefit the company offers are AlphaBiz Core Training Videos.

But at the end of the day it is the people that make the difference in this innovative tech company.

“People have always been at the centre of everything that we do,” Mr Kheder said. “And the absolute best part of building and growing a company has been the opportunity to attract and retain exceptionally talented individuals that share the mindset of working together as a team meet our client’s needs. Our sincere thanks to the entire crew.”

www.alphabiz.com.au

Jason Marriott.

About AlphaBiz Solutions

Started in 2009, AlphaBiz Solutions is a fully owned and operated Australian consultancy specialising in ERP solutions, Payroll/HRM, Time and Attendance, Custom Applications, Business Intelligence and Software Automation and Integration for small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Ph: (08) 9277 2226   www.alphabiz.com.au

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DRONES can be high-level problem solvers. That is the premise behind Mahmood and Laura Hussein’s founding of Global Drone Solutions in Perth in January, 2016 – and it is resonating in the local market and across Australia.

Global Drone Solutions harnesses state-of-the-art drone technologies to solve both social and business problems and create new business opportunities, according to Mahmood Hussein.

“We help individuals and organisations understand the benefits of drone technology, and how they can integrate drones into an existing business, start a drone business, or gain employment in the Remote Piloted Aircraft (RPA) sector,” Mr Hussein said.

Global Drone Solutions is an innovative growth business that helps introduce drone technologies to benefit other businesses. Global Drone provides tailored drone pilot training and solutions to a broad range of industries, reducing operational costs, lowering risk, improving operational efficiencies and, most importantly, improving safety. 

The company’s aim is to build a global brand which is respected for its professionalism in the drone industry.

“Our strategy is to use pilot training as a platform to launch a drone consulting service,” Mr Hussein said. “To fast-track this, we have forged alliances with other like-minded organisations that already have good reputations in the marketplace and share a similar business ethos and culture.”

The company is literally ready for take-off.

“We plan to go national this year and international in 2020,” Mr Hussein said.

According to the latest research, Mr Hussein said, the global drone industry will be worth an estimated US$127 billion by 2020. The industry is growing rapidly, and he expected it would positively impact large numbers of people and “transform industries across the world”.

 

UPWARD TRAJECTORY

If the flightpath of Global Drone Solutions is anything to go by, the industry may be accelerating even faster in Australia – a country which can historically boast a fine record of aviation technology early adoption.

Over the past year, Mr Hussein said, the company has doubled in team members and revenue. It has also introduced both an online learning option and its Certificate III in Aviation certification.

“We see a lot more organisations recognising drones as a valuable tool, rather than a toy,” Mr Hussein said. “The reduction in the price and improvement in reliability and quality of drone platforms over the past 12 months have been key factors in this change.

“Furthermore, the risk from a customer’s perspective has been reduced dramatically, as companies like Global Drone Solutions offer consultancy services to help organisations establish compliant drone operations within their businesses.”

Drone aviation is an early-stage industry that is developing fast – and innovating even faster.

“I am always surprised with some of the applications our clients are using drones for,” Mr Hussein said. 

“For instance, we recently trained a client who was using drones to muster cattle. This has been done before, but in this example, the client was using a thermal camera with the drone and was able to get live data on the head of cattle (total) in any paddock at any time – but more importantly was able to tell when an animal was either ill or pregnant, due to the increase in the heat signature.”

This increased the farmer’s operational efficiency dramatically.

Some of the innovations Global Drone Solutions has brought through have been specifically to meet the challenges facing businesses wanting to utilise drones. This was a strong impetus for developing an online training curriculum.

“We understand that some of our clients will not be able to take five days away from work,” Mr Hussein said. “So we introduced an online learning option, where the theory training is completed online and then we catch up for two days to complete the practical training and assessments.

“This has been an overwhelming success. Already 50 percent of training is completed through the online portal.”

Global Drone Solutions also overcame certain pre-existing barriers to develop the certification.

“We are also pleased that we have been approved to deliver the Certificate III in Aviation – remote pilot qualification,” he said. “This is a VET qualification, which opens up new opportunities in the education sector.”

 

FUTURE ARRIVING FAST

Although the drone technologies themselves have come to market rapidly and had an impact across many business sectors, fundamental new technologies are also impacting the drone sector.

One of the big ones is ‘lidar’ – sensors using light detection and ranging – which opens up the drones to new environments where they can have a big impact on workplace health and safety.

“The use of lidar technology and applications are increasing due to miniaturisation of components, improvements in technology and price reductions, making it a commercially viable option,” Mr Hussein said. “This opens up the potential for some very exciting applications in underground mining, for example.”

He foresaw drones leading inevitably to so-called ‘air taxis’.

“Jetsons, here we come,” Mr Hussein smiled. “There is a considerable amount of talk and action about the use of air taxis both in Australia and globally.

“In Australia, Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia’s state governments have started discussions about the possibilities of drone taxis in the next 3-5 years. As a matter of fact, a local Perth property developer has just lodged a planning application for an apartment block in South Fremantle, which includes an air taxi landing pad on the roof. 

“In Dubai and Singapore – they have just completed successful trials of a two-seater drone taxi by Volocoptor (www.volocopter.com) which I expect will be in operation sometime in 2019.

“There are new applications being found across a broad range of industries every day. It certainly is an exciting time to be in this industry.”

Global Drone Solutions is gearing up to meet anticipated demand in Australia’s drone industry, no matter what direction it takes.

“We have more than doubled our turnover in the past 12 months, signed up new partnerships and tier one clients, and it’s looking like we will beat this in the coming 12 months,” Mr Hussein said.

“We have more than doubled our team, with new trainers, marketing personnel and admin staff.”

 

LANDING PARTNERSHIPS

Importantly, Global Drone Solutions has also struck up some important partnerships and alliances, to help the company achieve its humanitarian goals. The latest is a partnership with WeRobotics.

“Our partnership with WeRobotics allows us to deliver on our company’s ‘why’ which is ‘making a real-world difference through drones’,” Mr Hussein said. “It also allows us to pay forward and use technology to make the world a better place.

“We chose WeRobotics as our goals are aligned. We wanted aid to reach disaster-affected communities more quickly, meet the health needs of remote communities more rapidly and help achieve sustainable development goals faster.

“We believe we can accelerate and scale the positive impact on these communities using drones. And we both want to build local capability.”

The alliance in Africa with FlyingLabs began in late 2018 and was an immediate success.

“Since our partnership in September 2018, we have trained pilots in FlyingLabs in Tanzania, Kenya and South Pacific, with another 15 Flying Labs taking the online training in early 2019,” Mr Hussein said. “The online component focuses specifically on the theory section required for a drone pilot licence.”

Upon completing this training, Flying Labs pilots are issued a certificate of completion by Global Drone Solutions, which already carries weight in many countries in which Flying Labs operate.

“We are exploring ways to expand this meaningful collaboration further to bring additional services to the global network of Flying Labs,” Mr Hussein said.

Last year proved to be a big year for the commercial drone industry as a whole and it certainly was for Global Drone Solutions. 

Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) sent out the draft Manual of Standards (MOS) seeking feedback, and Global Drone Solutions participated.

“The MOS will help standardise the drone’s industry by setting specific training and operational requirements,” Mr Hussein said. This aligns with regulatory frameworks which are being introduced globally.

“Those are just a few of the highlights,” he said. “I believe that 2019 is set to be even bigger for the industry, as major developments with regulations, new products both in hardware and software and Unmanned Traffic Management have been predicted to come together in a big way over the next 12 months.

“We are very excited about 2019. Our services are in high demand, the partnerships we made during 2018 are starting to bear fruit, we have been approached by international organisations to explore new opportunities and our team is growing,” Mr Hussein said.

“Let’s go ahead and making a real-world difference through drones’

www.gdronesolutions.com

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