Local instrumentation manufacturer does brisk business

The biggest problem for SensMar managing director Alan Neale is not a lack of business, or operational costs, but the uncertain foreign exchange rate.

Considering the current state of the global economy, that is reasonable. But it is also an indication of just how successful the export strategy is for this local company.

SensMar designs, manufactures, distributes measurement and control instrumentation products and systems, specialising in the process and marine industries.

It is thriving on a brisk export business, reaping income in the form of Euros, US dollars and Pounds, while retaining product and skills development and manufacturing in Australia.

"In our first 12 months of trading, 70 percent of output (all locally manufactured) was sold into the European, US and South East Asian Markets," Neale told PACE.

It’s certainly an unusual situation for a local company to be in, considering the heyday of manufacturing has long passed.

"Some years ago, there were many manufacturers here in Australia," Neale said. "If you look at the makeup of the industry in Australia today, it’s largely overseas owned or it’s salesmen who represent overseas products…we are just another outlet to the multinationals."

Alan Neale, managing director, SensMar.According to Neale (pictured alongside), the secret behind SensMar’s success is its differentiation from larger manufacturers, with a highly organic and customer-centric approach to the manufacturing and design process, whether it pertains to the hardware or the accompanying software.

"We talk to the customer, we can respond to their needs, we can tailor-make the product to suit their application, and we can do these things on a short time scale," Neale explained.

"We always put great effort in being close to the customers in terms of understanding the product."
Neale, a consummate entrepreneur, has retained a well-developed customer base and connections from previous companies he managed.

SensMar was founded to respond to demand from customers and suppliers. At first, it was run out of Neale’s garage, but in June this year, it moved into a dedicated facility in Warriewood.

There, Neale, his son Chris (who is the commercial director of the company) and two other employees draw and define the parts needed, and source them from local manufacturers. Of course, some electronics components are inevitably imported from factories in Asia or Europe.

They are currently in the process of finalising an in-house calibration laboratory, which, after NATA accreditation, will be able to certify items and products to meet international standards for sale around the world.

Neale is keen to emphasise that SensMar is still in its early days as a startup. "At this stage, it’s more pressing to get the production up to meet outstanding orders. We’ve got an order book that runs for more than 12 months now," Neale said.

The company is currently building more than fifty level measurement systems for a large European engineering group, and previously provided a number of flow devices for research projects at the University of Melbourne.

Besides the marine and naval sectors, SensMar also has its eye on the water industry, where it expects growth due to the strength of that market in Australia.

In the future, Neale hopes to find distributors to resell the company’s products in Australia, so SensMar can concentrate on its key operations of design, manufacture and testing.

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