For Queensland’s Everhard Industries, water really is everything – and it all started with a humble concrete laundry tub.
Long before interior designers embraced concrete as a luxury finish to be pebbled, polished, and presented as a form of high art, the humble aggregate was a central part of Australian domestic life. In particular, the concrete laundry tub was a fixture in homes across the land. Those modest necessities helped Alfred T. Davis and his family to build an enduring legacy of creativity, ingenuity, and philanthropy.
The company he co-founded in Bulimba in 1926, Everhard Industries, is today one of Australia’s largest suppliers and manufacturers of plumbing fixtures and commercial solutions for surface water drainage, stormwater drainage, and wastewater systems. The business passed from Alfred to his brother, Frederick, and then to Frederick’s son Selwyn Davis, who led the firm for roughly 60 years. Selwyn Davis retired in 2008; the company is currently chaired by his daughter, Sue Davis-Boyce.
While precast concrete formed the company’s foundation, the development of new manufacturing technologies drove a shift away from the heavy, hard-to-ship material into plastic injection moulding. In 1976, Everhard created the first polymer tub in the Southern Hemisphere. In the next decade the firm became the largest manufacturer of recycled plastic in the country. (The firm continues that legacy to this day, using at least 300 tonnes of recycled plastic every month.)
Over the next decades, the firm innovated an array of water storage and drainage products and equipment, from stormwater reservoirs to drain channels and grates, and 4,000-litre polymer septic tanks. In addition to their manufacturing capabilities, Everhard now markets almost everything needed to contain and drain water in kitchens, laundries, and bathrooms, from vanity bowls and taps to – you guessed it – the kitchen sink.
“We have four divisions, these are front of wall products and back of wall products, Concrete and Aqua Nova” explained Everhard CEO Simon Higgins. “Front of wall products, affectionately speaking, are anything nice and shiny that's inside your house that touches water — mainly in the kitchen, bathroom, and laundry. Our back of wall products are typically anything black and polymer that sits outside and helps water flow away.”
The Aqua Nova division produces a wastewater management system, and the fourth division specialises in civil construction products. “That division is an homage to our roots because we do concrete infrastructure work. We cover lots of ground that makes us competitive in each of our divisions because nobody else really does what we do.”
A network of global partners manufactures Everhard’s front of the wall lines; everything else the company sells is manufactured in Australia. “What originated as a business very much focused on manufacturing in Australia evolved to support its customers with more complete offerings to make their lives easier,” Higgins added. “Since those days, we've never looked back.”
At Everhard, Everything is New Again
Four generations of the Davis family shepherded Everhard into the 21st century, and in 2015 Davis-Boyce brought Higgins in to lead the firm into a new generation of success. Higgins describes his role as matching verve and dedication to the longevity and experience of a trusted brand. “We are acting like a 92-year-old startup,” he laughed.
“The management of this business has always been very forward thinking, driven by Selwyn for almost 60 years. He was a powerhouse,” Higgins continued. “To go back 25 years, it was a very brave decision to invest a lot of dollars in different technology considering their history in precast concrete. He could really see the environment was changing and the new products coming into the market needed to weigh much less. Thinking ahead, looking for markets, was a strong point of the business then, as it is now.
“We're disrupting our market through developing new products, and we're focused very heavily on sharing our new brand, which is essentially the same company but with the energy and passion that comes with revitalizing the team. We're delivering it through significant investments, significant new technology, and delivering new products to the market.”
Earlier this year, the company invested in a pair of plastic injection moulding machines to boost production of its recycled polymer surface water drainage and wastewater disposal offerings.
Everhard’s back of wall products aren’t just in demand – some of them are a requirement for homeowners.
The company’s Aqua Nova® (AQ) aerated wastewater treatment system is required for use in properties that aren’t connected to main sewer lines; essentially, the AQ system is a miniature council water treatment system suitable for the backyard. The system reduces the nutrients in wastewater, transforming it back into clean, safe water that can then be safely used for irrigation. The company also manufactures commercial systems, and works with governments of developing countries to bring AQ systems to communities in need of clean water.
The Pursuit of ‘Familiness’
Everhard is deeply committed to a very special set of family values. “Family business doesn't mean you can't be professional, structured, and successful, but it does mean that you don't have to be corporate,” Higgins stated. “I had a chance to spend a little time with Selwyn before he passed last year at the age of 92. He was always willing to do things without looking for any benefit or any publicity. This is something the family holds very dear.”
They call it “familiness,” and it’s an attitude that also happens to bring great results in the trenches. “That willingness to want to be something without expecting anything is part of my sharing of a vision (of) how to bring cultural alignment into the family business, to get engagement, because engagement helps profitability,” Higgins affirmed.
In that spirit, in 2017 the company introduced an extra leave day into the schedule, and now employees can take their birthdays off. “It was a little way for us to show that whilst we as an organisation talk about being different, we could actually show what it meant. We're currently working on flexible arrangements for mums and dads around parental leave, we're working on definite changes in gender equality, and we've also helped people out in times of hardship.”
The notion of familiness is echoed in the Davis family’s philanthropic endeavours. The Everhard Industries Foundation, established in the 2000s, supports charitable causes including Wetland Care, Water Aid, The Climate Institute, UNICEF, and others. As Everhard moves closer to its centennial, that sense of charity and familiness will undoubtedly serve the community and Everhard’s customers very well.