The story behind one of Victoria’s longest standing precast companies clearly represents what it means to be an Aussie success. Hard work, learning from others and seeing an opportunity led to a fearless leap of faith that years on makes NVC Precast an organisation that has seen it all.

For more than 30 years NVC Precast Managing Director, Dan Kleinitz has been providing precast, constructions and piling services to Victoria and Southern New South Wales. Having spent three decades in the industry means he has seen the highs and the lows.  C4 Business Bulletin writer, James Parker asked Mr Kleinitz to share his career, learnings and insights in to an industry that he says is continually evolving.

How did you get into this industry?

In some ways by default. At the age of 21, I was asked to join a small crew as a subby constructing bridges on the Princess Hwy between Eden and Cann River. This work was almost completely new to me and the challenge of doing something different excited me. I quickly learnt the skill set I had gained as fitter welder, from working in the Agriculture industry, coupled with hydraulics and pneumatics experience and as a plant operator made me an all-rounder and go to person on site.

To stay in this industry for as long as you have, what has made it rewarding?

In the early days advancing my knowledge base to include all facets of reinforced concrete structure construction. I enjoyed the work as an outdoors person. Advancing into roles with responsibilities also made it rewarding. By the time I was in my early twenties I was a working foreman. By my mid to late twenties, I took a blind leap, and decided to take what I had learned to work for myself in my own business with a couple of employees.

What makes it rewarding today?

Continuing to grow the business to accommodate the demands of the civil construction sector, in particular the offsite precast to become our core business.  Embracing new technologies and standards that come with this, and seeing the end product as there are introduced. As an employer encouraging people to grow in their roles and responsibilities.

What are the challenges you have faced?

The challenges have been many and varied depending on the economy and the peaks and troughs this industry is renowned for – we still experience these peaks and troughs today. The “recession we had to have” was a very challenging time as a business owner and tested us all.  We learnt to be adaptable by up-skilling, having a workforce that can flex and fold to make the most out of the opportunities that were presented. The challenges these days are meeting tight timelines, keeping abreast of quality systems, meeting our clients environmental and social targets that form part of the precast supply contract. I wanted to build a business that could not only survive a recession but had potential to grow as required during one. NVC needed to be self-sufficient, with the ability to complete a contract with minimal external recourses. However, where external assistance is needed, those relationships must be strong.

Was there ever a time where you thought about doing something else?

Loaded question! Yes, would be the honest answer. For a very brief moment I reconsidered Agriculture.  Then I consider the challenges and rewards I have experienced in this industry and again they motivated to push the boundaries a little further.  I have always maintained that continued growth of any business is a mandatory requirement otherwise why do it.

How has the industry changed in your view over the years?

Construction contract periods are shorter, generally the scope of works is larger therefore program deliverables are tighter, driving the necessity to complete works off site and off the critical path. This has seen growth in the demand for precast concrete elements delivered to the civil infrastructure sector. The necessity to have third party accreditation in our industry has also made us think more about how we do business and with whom and has introduced a layer of management to assist in compliance at all levels.

How has NVC Precast changed?

Our core business at one time was to complete the onsite works. As this area of our business grew it allowed us to self-perform the manufacturing of the precast components. This also provided the opportunity to supply others external to our business. The range of elements now precast, in-lieu of casting on site.  The growth seen in precast and skill set retained has allowed us to refocus the business and rebrand to a precast operation.

How has the concrete process changed?

Concrete additives weigh heavily for early high strengths to enable faster cycling times and we are now seeing third generation additives to assist with high early strengths. Measuring equipment to reflex real time strengths is very much a part of this with the data recorded and collated for clients as part of each supply along with all other elements been traceable through the supply chain.  We are far more productive and flexible with moulds; allowing for greater complexity with efficient turnarounds.

Skill shortages, what do you think needs to happen to build Australia’s future workforce?

The skills shortage is very real and triggers the need to train people for multiple roles. I think governments at all levels need to step in to this space and provide more tangible employer and employee support and funding for upskilling our labour market.

Providing there is strong, direct incentives from governments at all levels will give employers much more confidence to be proactive. Longer terms for governments may also assist with reducing the depths of the peak and troughs we currently experience. The flattening of these curves will provide employer confidence to train and retrain people.

Tradespeople are needed but we must be able to incentivise people to obtain real qualifications relevant to our industry even if that means paying full wage rates, or close to it, whilst they’re in training rather than pulling back to “apprentice” rates, a legacy of years gone by.

I believe these lower pay rates detract from people becoming tradespeople because they can earn more as a labourer.  Hence the need for a complete overhaul of our current rates if we are to attract people to the ‘Trades’.  Employers know all too well how quickly they lose skilled and experienced trades people simply because there is and will continue to be a shortage.

What can the industry change for the better?

From a business owner and employer perspective we need to take the sharp peaks and troughs we continually experience out of the civil infrastructure market.  I believe there is a direct link to short term governments at both state and federal levels, that prohibits proper planning and delivery of large infrastructure projects because the politics behind them demands they are completed within the current term of government so they pick up kudos for re-election.

Increasing the term government is in power for would mean better planning for larger projects delivered over more realistic time frames with more favourable risks weightings and therefore better returns on the investment of taxpayer dollars.  This would require governments to have a say 5 year terms enabling planning more in line of 5 to 10 years, common practice elsewhere in the world, and ultimately flattening the curve creating sustainable businesses and continuity for employees in the industry.

What do you see ahead for NVC Precast and the industry?

I believe the precast sector of the infrastructure market will continue to grow. We are witness to this in the rail projects we have been involved in over the last few years. NVC Precast are well and truly prepared as the business has positioned itself with heavy lifting crane capacity, large hardstand areas for storage and future growth.

What impact has Covid-19 had on your business?

As an essential service, little from a work volume perspective.  Like everyone there is much more cleaning, distancing, sanitizing, health checking and monitoring of the situation.

If the Government brings forward a number of infrastructure projects to restart the economy does that give you concern for a trough, as you mentioned previously, in the industry later on?

If governments deliver on what they are advocating, we may see a small dip for a short period of time in volume, as projects gear up, but I think overall, we will experience a reasonably longer than normal, high level of work in the market.

COMPANY BACKGROUND

  • Company Founded: 1989
  • Number of employees: 60+
  • Industry: Construction, precast concrete
  • Public/Private: Private
  • Annual Revenue: Undisclosed

LINKS:

www.nvcprecast.com.au
LinkedIn: Here

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