Catering automation to businesses near and far

A company’s priorities may vary depending on where in Australia they are situated. Miri Schroeter speaks with automation specialist Bunbury Industrial Controls (BIC) about the importance of responding quickly to customer needs in a regional area.

Bunbury Industrial Controls (BIC) is an automation company that mostly serves companies within Western Australia. It is about a two-hour drive from the hustle and bustle of Perth to the quaint town of Bunbury.

Coming from a regional setting, the team at BIC value customer service, meeting the companies face-to-face, and making sure even the most-remote businesses in Western Australia are receiving the help they need.

BIC sales manager Andrew Godber said as a small company with a couple of salespeople, it is important to invest in their customer’s time and needs. To do that, BIC needs reliable suppliers that can provide products and feedback on time.

For this reason, BIC has been working with ifm for more than two decades. “In the 23 years I’ve been dealing with ifm I haven’t had a problem. The people from ifm I deal with understand that working in a regional area is quite different to working in a CBD,” said Godber.

“Relationships are important in all aspects of sale and even more so in a regional area. That feeling of trust in a product and trust in the information is really important. That personal approach makes a big difference.

“When someone actually has time to listen to what we have to say and asks how the product may assist our customers, that’s positive,” he said.

BIC works with industrial companies, covering automation solutions for chemical, mining, refining, beef and timber industries.

“We do primary control systems for beef processing, for instance, and as a part of that we integrate ifm products. If there’s a sensing product on that equipment that needs to be replaced, we will typically replace it with an ifm product,” said Godber.

“Because of the nature of the businesses that we are dealing with, we can’t always wait 48 hours. With a lot of companies, it will take two working days to get products, but with ifm we get it overnight and they don’t charge a premium for it.

“It’s not surprising for ifm anymore. We just don’t get let down by them. It gets us positive feedback and it gets us return business.”

Godber said that while some other companies achieve similar performance, there are many that don’t, which can be detrimental to business. “It’s not nice telling a customer they are going to lose 24 hours of production.”

Valued relationships

Freddie Coertze, ifm product manager of industrial communications, said most customers in Western Australia have family owned businesses so they put value on building relationships within their regions.

“We find it hard to work against those companies. So when we do work with companies like BIC, we see it as a partnership.” Because ifm does not have an office in Perth, Coertze endeavours to visit every few weeks and keeps in touch with customer needs.

“In a CBD environment everybody just buys things from everyone. Whereas here it’s more about those relationships.

“We still come out and show them new equipment. Every time I phone Andrew, he always wants to see what’s new.”

Solutions for all

Working in a variety of sectors, BIC needs access to numerous products in order to give customers the best solution specific to their needs. Godber said that ifm provides a wide range of products that are well- stocked and well-priced.

“ifm has a really good condition based monitoring solution that uses their hardware.

“The solution provides the information to the frontline trades people in real time and warns them that there’s a problem forming. Then they can go to their condition based monitoring staff and get them to look specifically at an issue and determine what’s going on.

“In particular, that extends the length of time between changing motors out,” Godber said.

Godber explained that, in one instance, a customer was changing out a motor in their system every three months. With the right condition based monitoring solution, they were able to push that out by two years and it still hasn’t been changed.

Where new systems have been put in place, ifm offers training to BIC staff and its customers so they are well-equipped to use the system. “Our customers that are using ifm products have an expectation that they need the ability to look after and troubleshoot their own installations.

“They are good, interactive training presentations that take in to account what the customers want to learn about,” said Godber.

He explained that BIC relies on quality products that won’t give customers trouble. And that hint of orange from ifm’s products that sit in the work BIC does for its customers, reassures Godber that the solution they are providing is the right one.

“One of the things that’s really important is that if you see it laser- etched on a piece of equipment you know it’s going to be reliable. That’s priceless.”