By Melissa Keogh
Once-struggling Thebarton crane safety technology company Robway Safety is reaching new heights after returning to South Australian hands a little over a year ago.
New owner and managing director Andrew Powell bought the 41-year-old business back from a US multinational company in March 2017.
He salvaged 15 local jobs and says the business is back on track.
“It’s a phoenix, we’ve come out much better than expected,” says Andrew, who first owned Robway for nine years before it was sold to a Canadian company in 2012, and then the US.
“We don’t owe any money, we have a really good team of people and we have money in the bank, we have stock, we have customers, a wealth of ideas and projects in a world that’s ticking along quite nicely.
“My main goal was to make Robway sustainable, so making sure it’s going to be here in the future and making sure 15 people weren’t going to lose their jobs, as they were going to. We’ve achieved that.”
Andrew entered the world of crane safety when he bought the business off its founder, Robert Way, in 2003.
Robway Safety develops and manufactures safe load indicators and line tension monitoring systems for cranes and heavy lifting equipment.
Established in 1977, the business has gone on to become a leader in its field, working with rated capacity indicators, sensors, and web-enabled data telemetry to improve crane safety.
The load monitoring system monitors the load of a crane to ensure the machine isn’t at risk of tipping over.
Robway Safety is driven mainly by the oil and gas, resources, and construction sectors, with 50% of its sales going to the international market.
Andrew says a major advancement in Robway’s operations includes the use of telematics to enable data to be collected from equipment in the field for analysis.
“We’ve had big advances in telematics, we can beam up to someone’s mobile phone (and tell them) that their crane is being overloaded, or if you want to know how hard your crane is working, the data logging will tell you that,” he says.
Andrew says he stepped back into Robway after hearing of its demise “by accident”.
“My wife has an art gallery at the front of the (Robway) building and we were having Christmas drinks,” he says.
“Some of the guys from Robway were there and told me they were going to be out of a job.
“I believed there was life in Robway yet, and there were sacrifices all round, but there was a complete change in company culture.
“Last year we stabilised things and I was prepared to take the risk involved in saving 15 jobs knowing it would be underpinned by the then-State Government’s Job Accelerator Grant.
“We’ve started hiring again and Robway now has a goal of sustainability rather than growth or profits.”
Andrew says the team at Robway comprises specialised software engineers who are the best in their field.
Such is their loyalty to the company that a number of employees have been with Robway for more than ten years, while one staff member is approaching almost three decades.
Robway load monitoring and safety systems are installed on cranes that are currently gracing the skyline not only across Australasia, but also here in Adelaide.
Among its clients is Port Augusta-based Max Cranes, while local construction projects, including the South Road corridor, “have cranes that have Robway systems on them for sure”.
Andrew says Adelaide provides good security for small businesses and that its working relationships are strong.
“Long term relationships are critical and seem to mean more in Adelaide,” he says.
“We need to jealously guard what we’ve got rather than letting it go offshore or wither away.”
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