Stronger Than Ever

Covid-19 drives business growth for Whitlands Engineering.

For many industries in Australia, 2020 will be the most challenging year in their history. Early on, it seemed like   the bushfires were as bad as things could get, then the Covid-19 global pandemic hit, causing global recession. By July, business confidence plummeted, particularly in Victoria, where case numbers informed the strict lockdown policy.

Whitlands Engineering has been operating in regional Victoria since 1993. The business has grown steadily over this time – they even survived the GFC with relatively little  impact.  According  to their CEO David Burder, their sales are more reflective of energy policy, tax write down incentives and drought impact, rather than the financial markets.

Although the widespread drought in 2019 impacted sales negatively, it did present an opportunity for more focused R&D   and product development. In 2019 the design team launched the new Log Buster, the new X Splitter and a redesign of the Rex 900 Firewood Processor – all of which were successfully launched into the Australian market in early 2020.

But when whispers of the pandemic hit Australian shores it  seemed reasonable to predict a continued drop in sales from the 2019 figures and instead focus on employee safety and order fulfillment. No one predicted business growth, let alone an explosion in sales.

David says: “We had no idea that this pandemic would translate into a massive increase but we started to see a pattern of customers investing in firewood machinery as a way to produce income; essentially the demand for firewood is so strong at the moment that if the customer has access to logs, there is good money to be made selling split firewood or kindling.”

With all machinery being built-to-order, the challenge has been                managing the production schedule and wait times. When times started to blow out, customers were rightly becoming frustrated that their orders were taking too long. In response to this, the business has expanded their workforce by 25 per cent and offered more  hours to existing part time staff. They have just signed a lease on a third factory and will hire another four people when that is ready – bringing the total workforce to 34.

David says: “No one thought that our biggest challenge this  year was going to be growth, but the whole team has shown such remarkable resilience and put in such a massive effort this year – we couldn’t have done it without every single person. We’ve not quite caught up yet, but we’ve managed to catch our breath and look forward to the exciting things in the works for 2021. Watch this space.”

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