Western Metalworx in AMR’s “Companies Gearing Up”
Do you know how Western Metalworx became the leading aluminium and steel fabrication company you know today?
Managing Director Anthony Chiera worked as a contractor for the previous owner before eventually purchasing the business himself in 2014. Starting out with two fabricators, Anthony has worked incredibly hard over the past seven years to build a reputation and skilled workforce.
Today, our Malaga premises hosts 34 employees – and counting! Read the full story in the September issue of the Australian Mining Review to see how far we’ve come, where we’re going and how we’re going to get there.
You can read the piece below, or see it in the original format in the August 2021 issue of the Australian Mining Review.
Fabrication, Innovation, Determination: Western Metalworx Isn’t Slowing Down
With 35 staff, an expanding purpose-built Malaga workshop and a reputation for uncompromising quality, Western Metalworx is one of the state’s leading providers of steel and aluminium fabrication for the mining and industrial sectors.
Describing the company as a trusted fabricator, however, is only telling a small part of the story. Western Metalworx has always represented a different way of doing business, focussing on relationships, innovation and problem-solving in an industry that can often get bogged down in the details of everyday production.
“A lot of older operators in this space can be single-minded,” says Managing Director Anthony Chiera. “I like to see my business as being an advisor, helping to solve problems and overcome issues. We’ll suggest cost saving initiatives, new ways of doing things. We try to be dynamic and creative in everything that we do and always prioritise the longevity of a business relationship over a quick win – it’s in our best interests that all of our clients succeed.”
Western Metalworx has been on a growth pathway since 2014, when the industry was suffering the effects of an economic downturn. Anthony’s one-vehicle mobile welding operation had been travelling to all corners of the metropolitan area in search of more work when Western Metalworx (then a small business with two full-time fabricators) contracted him to manufacture stainless steel cement silos and undertake bucket repairs. The partnership was successful, and by the end of the year Anthony was heading up the business.
A larger company couldn’t solve the problem of slowing ore prices, though, and the team noticed other fabricators beginning to shut up shop. To avoid the same fate, they hit the road again. They drove around the city knocking on doors, quoting for work, building a profile and a reputation with zero marketing budget. That practice – actively seeking and quoting for jobs – continues to this day, as does the basic philosophy of working to deliver a product that’s better than the competitors at a reasonable price.
“We don’t stop at fabrication,” Anthony insists. “You have to look at the problem that the client is trying to solve.”
While usually seen as negative, the Western Metalworx team tend to think of problems as opportunities to move forward and try something new. “We get excited about problems. They give us an advantage, a drive to innovate.”
This commitment to innovation can be seen through Western Metalworx’s unique product offerings. Using Solidworks, a powerful piece of solid modelling computer-aided design (CAD) software, the team draw up new designs in real space, test them out and refine them. This results in custom-built, one-of-a-kind pieces developed in direct response to genuine client requirements.
Sometimes, Anthony will pre-empt the need; in his spare time, he’s putting together a data logging device which uses a Raspberry Pi microprocessor to sense vibrations. This prototype will identify sources of fatigue and stress in steel platforms and structures, avoiding potential frame cracking. “We have a client in the goldfields region expressing interest,” says Anthony. “I think it’ll be an excellent tool for predicting product wear and identifying possible improvements for fixed and mobile plant maintenance.”
There are plenty of other ideas brewing, too, but they’re not all product related. A key driver of growth and innovation is fresh blood, and Western Metalworx is always on the lookout for young talent. There are currently eight apprentices on the team, two of whom were recruited as part of an Indigenous engagement initiative. In a time when many are talking about a skills shortage, Western Metalworx is actively investing in the future of its people.
“The talent is there,” says Anthony. “You’ve just got to nourish it. We’re reaching out to schools, collaborating with TAFEs. The reality is that times change, people come into the industry and people leave it. If you plan for the future, if you invest in people, they will repay you with their talent and you can keep moving forward.”
For Western Metalworx, ‘moving forward’ means growth. From the two employees on the books when Anthony took over, the company has grown to 35, a number which will soon be much higher. A 1200m2 expansion to the Malaga premises is on the cards, raising staff capacity to at least 50, and there are no plans to stop.
The next goal is to manufacture in Kalgoorlie, and possible sites are already under consideration. With plenty of scope for shutdown work, mobile welding and fabrication, the company’s goal is simply to better support its regional clients and engage with the wider industry as it continues to develop.
The growth isn’t limited to people and plant; a recent transformation project saw the office fitted out with state-of-the-art project management software running on a wall-length touchscreen, enabling real-time job tracking and process control. With Jared Dale (Operations), Justin Hollis (Production) and Brad Harrop (Procurement & Logistics) rounding out the management team, Western Metalworx is poised to continue innovating long into the future.
No matter how large the organisation becomes, though, there are some things that will never change. “We stand for quality,” Anthony says, “and we create our own opportunities. We’re an Australian business building products for Australian industry – and we do it better than anyone else.”
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