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One of Street Furniture Australia founders, Bill Morrison. One of Street Furniture Australia founders, Bill Morrison.
28 May 2017 Posted by 

Stellar growth of Australia's top street furniture maker

By Iliana Stillitano
IF you’ve sat on a seat at a Sydney train station or sipped from a drinking fountain at your local park, chances are you’ve enjoyed the fruits of labour of Western Sydney company Street Furniture Australia.
 
As the name suggests, the Regents Park business designs and manufactures public street furniture like seats and benches, bins and bollards, planters and parking bays for bikes - winning a swag of design and manufacturing awards along the way.
 
Since its inception in 1986, the company has delivered thousands of public and private projects around Australia and even the world.
 
And with its team of 40 designers, engineers, production workers and project managers, Street Furniture Australia is revolutionising the manufacturing system.
 
Since moving to Western Sydney from inner Sydney’s Alexandria, the business has tripled its output – not by employing more staff or working overtime but by simply adopting different manufacturing principles.
 
Operations manager Chris Morgan said the company had streamlined production using the philosophy of “lean manufacturing”, a method of simplifying work activities that ups production and ultimately reduces waste.
 
“Quite simply, if you don’t need to do it, you don’t do it,” Mr Morgan said. “It means we don’t keep stock on the floor and the work space is very clean.
 
“Three days before an order is due to go out, we discuss the order with the customer, we confirm a dispatch date and 99 per cent of the time, that order goes out on time. For a made-to-order company, that is really amazing.
 
“It’s a different mindset to before when we worked on an estimated date and if it was a day late, it was still close.
 
“Changing the way we work means everyone is focussed on doing what we said we would do and when we would do it.”
 
Workers also employ the ‘5s’ lean tools – the five principles that start with the letter ‘s’ like sort, set in order and standardise, to help workers better organise their work space so that it is efficient and effective.
 
“It’s a process that encourages you to look around and if there is something you haven’t used in a while you put it aside. If you’re still not using it, discard it,” Mr Morgan said.
 
“We’re conscious of not leaving things on the floor, things get stored and when they’re not, it’s noticeable.”
 
It’s those principles that allows the company to double and even quadruple its output when needed without having to hire extra people.
 
Mr Morgan said production rates fluctuate according to orders but typically the factory produces about 50 items a day. Some days, that number rises to up 140 items a day.
 
“Our previous site was an old warehouse where there was no real method to how everything worked. We moved because we’d run out of room but there we would produce between 15 and 20 pieces a day,” he said.
 
That every worker followed the company to Regents Park is testament to its unique vision and dedication to delivering innovative products, Mr Morgan said.
 
Regents Park was chosen for its centrality between three motorways which meant ease of transport and is nearness to a train line for its staff using public transport, he said.
 
The Street Furniture Australia story started in 1986 with renowned designers Darrel Conybeare and William Morrison who pioneered street furniture development in Australia with their now classic plaza seat found in parks, hospitals and malls around the country.
 
“Many people would have sat on or walked past one of our products somewhere,” Mr Morgan said, adding staff were currently working on stage two of an order for 700 concourse seats for Sydney Trains.
 
“Our furniture has a very distinctive look that has been copied by some people but effectively, ours has been around for a long time.”
 
Unlike its competitors, Street Furniture Australia is a one-stop shop for high quality, locally designed and manufactured street furniture using superior materials for its either standard or tailored pieces.
 
“Seeing what the guys can do on a daily basis is amazing,” Mr Morgan said. 
 
“A challenge comes up and they deal with it and make sure the customer gets what they want. We’re very much a customer-focussed business, producing well designed products with the end user in mind.”
 
 


editor

Publisher and editor, Michael Walls.
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