Best Bar’s steely devotion to customer experience reinforces their position as a disruptor on the move.
What element of a building is rarely seen when construction is finished but can be seen at any time? It’s a bit of a trick question, but from a business perspective the answer is nothing short of astounding: reinforcing steel from Best Bar, Australia's premier manufacturer of rebar.
“If you say to any customer, ‘I’m going to open up completely, show you what our business does and where your products are at any moment in time,’ you can’t hide. They can see if a product is on the machine, when it’s coming to them, they can see absolutely everything,” affirmed company CEO Grant Johnston. “We have nowhere to hide. We have to be great. That’s the difference between us and our competitors. They’re not prepared to make themselves transparent, and we are.”
The powerhouse combination of best-in-class products with a bone-deep commitment to customer satisfaction sets the innovative fabricator leagues above their competition. Founded in 1995 by the Johnston family, and headquartered in Perth, Best Bar serves the nation’s largest builders and has supplied some of the most important infrastructure efforts of the past two decades.
In addition to manufacturing reinforcing bar, mesh, product accessories, and concrete sealing, Best Bar offers a comprehensive selection of services, from scheduling, estimating, and delivery, to 5D modelling and cutting and bending rebar for civil, commercial, and residential use. With over 350 employees in eight offices across the country, Best Bar is on track to renovate the industry through advanced manufacturing, digitisation technology, and praiseworthy customer, supplier, and employee experience.
“We’d like to grow our business not through price but through service levels that give our customers the feeling that they want to deal with us over anybody else,” Johnston said.
From establishing their own software arm, Bitberry, and building their own ReoNet online ordering system, to being a trusted advisor to customers and industry insiders, Best Bar is more than equipped for the challenge. “We’re investing in high tech, cutting-edge equipment. We’ve worked closely with equipment suppliers to influence what that equipment looks like worldwide through some of the innovations we’ve put together to reduce our own overall internal costs,” he said.
Consider their investment in 5D modelling. “It improves the efficiency of the product by 90%. We're seeing problems before the customers do and that’s a lot of money being saved on site.” Not only did they onboard the technology, they turbocharged it. “We made it part of our system and fully autonomous. Anyone else using 5D modelling now has to go through multiple processes to get to the end result. Ours feeds into our operating system automatically,” Johnston noted.
Australian General Manager Gavin Futcher added, “The close engagement with the engineers on site helps us improve buildability. We can see issues and prevent them, and we can identify prefabrication opportunities because a lot of the sites prefer to get as much done as possible off site because of the issues they face on site.” Customers can keep track of project costs, improve and simplify design, and scheduling accuracy is greatly improved.
“When the engineer onsite and reinforcing supplier work together you end up with a better model, reduce rework, and all kinds of frustrations are taken away. But unless it's a seamless, fully integrated system, it doesn't quite work, so we’ve gone away from what others are doing and have gone to a more fully integrable system where everybody can have access to it and it's transparent, and as a team we end up with the best outcomes,” he added.
Customers and partners also benefit from generous supply availability, a byproduct of the company’s relationship with Infrabuild, Australia’s only steel mill, and Singapore’s NatSteel, part of the global giant TATA. “We maintain competitiveness by having access to other steel. This is about focusing on customer requirements,” he stressed. “We’ve got a competitive edge in terms of supply and the services that we offer.”
Best Bar is the biggest player in the Melbourne market for housing slabs, including waffle pods, supplying material for thousands of slabs annually. “Combining the whole lot as a package and delivering that ‘one stop shop’ has been highly successful for us. We lead the way through technology, through tracking, and making it very easy for our customers with seamless estimating for the housing market, and so on. You have to have that level of sophistication to do about 100 slabs a day. Logistically you have to be very much on your game.”
As Futcher pointed out, “We’ve worked with our partners in all sorts of different areas, and we focus them on better outcomes for the customers in terms of commitment, delivery, transparency, accuracy, and support. Our partners all know that commitment is very close to the founding members of this business and to the staff, and therefore we align to deliver the best outcomes for our customers and their experience.”
Developing lasting supplier relationships has also been key to Best Bar’s success. “We have mutual respect and longevity, and once you have those foundations the rest is quite easy,” Johnston said. “Our suppliers know that if we say we’re going to do something we do it. ... When the chips are down they know they can come to us, and they’ll get honesty about what we can and can’t do, and we deliver on that.”
Every investment, improvement, and innovation comes from the family’s business ethos, stated by Johnston: “We must be totally customer-focused and we must drive every system we have in our business at speed to make it easier for a customer to do business with us.”
Family values underpin everything. “If we have people with a good healthy family life that come to work and do their job it's a better place. If we can influence that we will. That influence is through giving people the time they need and the compassion they need. That's what we do,” he continued.
“Continuous improvement and training is critical to ensure best world practices. We mix that with our strategic advantage of owning a technology business as many of our solutions for our staff’s day-to-day workflow is heavily influenced by technological innovation,” Futcher said. “That helps us to make mundane tasks go away so our staff can focus on the bigger picture. That's also true with our customers’ projects, which are built on time, on budget, and within specification. If we look after our staff they will look after our customers, and that will remain a focus of this business.”