Rock solid innovator

SEP 2010

INNOVATIVE environmental management products are driving geosynthetic engineering company Elco Solutions into South East Asian markets.

The Molendinar-based manufacturer has supplied the Australian mining, road building and construction sectors with erosion and landfill containment products since 1978.

Now strong demand from the Asian markets is increasing its export operations. The company is forecasting $3.4 million in international sales from revenues of $13 million for FY11.

General manager Craig Sweepman, says the company’s geosynthetic containers and clay liners are yet to be replicated by Asian manufacturers.

“We could never compete with the Asian suppliers on cost alone because they would always win hands-down. We just need to stay ahead of them with the differential of product offering,” he says.

“The products being produced in Asia are fairly standard industrial textiles whereas the market is really after stronger, vandal-proof products like our geosynthetic solutions that can’t be cut or easily damaged.

“The push specifically into SE Asia was part of territory agreement with the company’s sister factory in South Africa. We were allocated this region whereas they will do the rest of the world.”

Elco Solutions’ geosynthetic clay liners are typically used for landfill containment and at 10mm thick is a space-saving alternative to traditional clay liners that can be up to one metre in thickness.

The company’s other major exporter is its product line called Elcorock. The various sizes of Elcorock containers are used in coastal erosion and shoreline protection.

The products are also used to build temporary and offshore structures including the Gold Coast’s Narrowneck reef and New Zealand’s Mt Maunganui artificial reefs.

Sweepman says the product may be technologically advanced compared to traditional solutions, but in many circumstances can in fact save costs.

“Many beach locations don’t have any rock formations or materials available to them to protect against wave erosion, but what they do have is a lot of sand,” he says.

“It’s a far easier and cost-effective solution to purchase empty geosynthetic containers and fill them with readily available sand rather than ship boulders across the ocean on barges.

“Elcorock is a fairly new product and replaces things like gabions (boulders and rocks wired into mesh cages) or construction groynes, so it will take a while for the international markets to realise that it’s a softer and aesthetically nicer solution.”

Elco Solutions won the August Gold Coast Business Excellence Award for environmental management. The company recorded $12 million in annual revenue for FY10 and exports to Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia.

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