WE Smith tries to keep edge
ONE of the first things Tuang Chieu Mok did when he arrived in Coffs Harbour was to put the company’s skills on display in the WE Smith Engineering boardroom.
The cabinet of polished metal components may be incomprehensible to the layman, but Mr Mok said it was an eye-opener to those in the industry.
Mr Mok, the chief operations officer for WE Smith, said the Boambee-based engineering firm had world-class skills and expertise and he wanted clients to see this for themselves.
WE Smith Engineering, which makes huge, sophisticated pieces of equipment for the oil and gas, petrochemicals and minerals processing industries, is everything that the futurists say they want for Coffs Harbour.
It is a nimble company that is part of an international group; competes for tenders worldwide; is at the leading edge in a niche market; has a focus on research and development; is the holder of a worldwide patent; offers a variety of skilled jobs and careers, and provides apprenticeships and scholarships for young people.
So why is the company ringing alarm bells?
Mr Mok said the high Australian dollar and the help given to overseas competitors by their governments was hampering the specialist manufacturer.
Mr Mok is also the chief operations officer for two other companies in the worldwide KNM Group, which owns WE Smith, and a director of the international holding company KNM Pty Ltd.
The Malaysia-born engineer and executive, who travels widely, listed a string of countries that had put up barriers which were blocking his firm from winning tenders on merit.
WE Smith, which last month shed 10 casual staff, is fighting back by ratcheting its specialist skills and research and development work up even further and partnering with a specialist German firm, but the company is suffering.