A Brisbane fourth-generation family manufacturer is commissioning a huge new machine this week — with mixed emotions.
While Everhard Industries’ new 5500T injection moulding machine will bring impressive gains and efficiencies to meet increased demand for its recycled plastic septic tanks, its arrival ends a significant chapter of the 97-year-old family business.
To make way for the new machine, the original, steeped in history, had to be decommissioned.
That machine, the first to enable the production of 4000L polymer septic tanks in Australia, was put together by Selwyn Davis, the grandfather of Everhard Chair Gina Boyce-Rowe.
A German-made Hemscheidt, it was the largest of its kind in Australiasia when commissioned in 1994.
“We were certainly nostalgic about saying goodbye to the ‘Hemi’,” said Ms Boyce-Rowe, pictured (left) in front of the mammoth new machine with brother Bede Boyce, Everhard CEO Moira Harris and mother Sue Boyce.
“It was a direct link to my grandparents and cutting edge at the time.”
The changeover has taken eight months and mind-boggling planning.
“The roof of the factory was removed to install the Hemi, but this was not an option when it came to taking it out,” Ms Boyce-Rowe said.
“Instead, we had to dismantle it inside a working factory.”
Then came the new machine — the size of two buses, weighing 480 tonnes and measuring 20m long and 7m wide.
“It’s so large, we needed to source a ship big enough to transport it, in three parts, from China,” Ms Boyce-Rowe said.
“It came to our Geebung factory in eight truckloads, three of which were oversized and needed a police escort and subsequent permits.
“We had to build a crane inside the factory to lift heavy items into place.”
To allow for continued supply during the changeover, Everhard manufactured 2500 tanks beforehand and had to find space around Brisbane to store them.
“It has been a massive undertaking, operationally and for the family, but to stay in the market as an Australian manufacturer, we needed a more efficient machine that uses less power and water and more recycled material,” Ms Boyce-Rowe said.
“Modernising has also prompted us to start investigating and investing in solar to become more self-sufficient, and we’ll be introducing robotics to help get the finished product off the machine.
“All these measures will help us reach our target of having 80 per cent of sales comprising goods we manufactured here in Brisbane.”
The new injection moulding machine will continue the manufacture of Everhard’s giant 3000L and 4000L septic tanks, all made from 100 per cent recycled plastic.
“Wastewater treatment systems, called Aqua Advanced, are a significant part of our business, and that allows us to keep making these huge tanks,” Ms Boyce-Rowe said.
“The increased efficiencies also mean we now have the capacity to take on contract moulding opportunities, as well as grow our own product range.”
Everhard, established by Ms Boyce-Rowe's great-great uncle in 1926 as a manufacturer of Queensland’s first concrete laundry tubs, makes a range of polymer and concrete products primarily used in the plumbing, draining and construction industries.
While the family’s history is cherished — Ms Boyce-Rowe's brother, Bede, keeps a small piece of the Hemi on his desk as a reminder of the past — its future is being nurtured.
Ms Boyce-Rowe and her two siblings involved the next generation, five girls ranging in age from eight to 13, in paving the way for the new 5500T injection moulding machine — literally.
The girls, above, were allowed to leave their handprints in the newly poured 600mm concrete pad needed to support the additional weight of the Hemi’s replacement.
The cousins are also becoming involved in succession planning and family retreats.
In one recent leadership challenge, they were each tasked with putting together a presentation to help the family’s Everhard Foundation decide which charity to support next.
“They had to convince us to select their charity of choice,” Ms Boyce-Rowe said.
“Each did a great job. The future of the company is bright.”
Everhard Industries has been a member of Ai Group since 2018.
“We regularly contact Ai Group for workplace health and safety and industrial relations support. I'm also pleased to be on Ai Group’s Queensland Advisory Council, and I've recently done quite a bit of work in the field of standards with Ai Group expert James Thomson. Ai Group supports us in many, many ways.” — Gina Boyce-Rowe, Chair, Everhard Industries.
Wendy Larter is Ai Group's Communications Manager. She has more than 20 years’ experience as a reporter, features writer, contributor and sub-editor for newspapers and magazines including The Courier-Mail in Brisbane and Metro, News of the World, The Times and Elle in the UK.