CST Composites in Sydney, like many Australian SMEs, has had to re-invent its business several times over the past 18 years.
In 2008, CST was exporting over 70 per cent of its products to more than a dozen countries.
Despite the ups and downs experienced in the post-GFC world, including having to deal with the high Australian dollar, CST has maintained its heavy investment in R&D. The company has been averaging approximately 30 per cent of total revenue invested back into R&D over the past 10 years.
The business began in 1996, in the backyard of Clive Watts, Managing Director of CST Composites, and was originally known as Composite Spars and Tubes. It has evolved into a world leader in filament winding technology, supplying clients such as NASA, numerous Australian sailing teams, Lockheed Martin and Thales.
However, as the business grew larger, and the complexity of its product designs, ranges and manufacture began to increase, along with day-to-day operational and administration tasks and challenges, Clive found that the business was struggling to keep up.
“We knew we were making a great product and were good at filament winding, however like many small businesses as they begin to grow, we were finding it increasingly difficult to manage,” Clive explains.
“It goes without saying that the system makes our life easier, however, more importantly, it directly benefits our customers.” – Clive Watts, Managing Director CST Composites
“We were using loads of various separate spreadsheets to manage quotes, raw material costs and inventory, production schedules, machine winding codes, direct labour costs, etcetera. However it was difficult to get all these spreadsheets integrated and react quickly to customer requirements – we were often having to make customised orders on very short lead times. Also, at the end of the day, you want to know how much profit you are making on each of your products.
“As we started to diversify into new, higher value overseas markets, we found that higher tolerance and traceability requirements were demanded by our customers. To become more efficient, many manufacturers invest in new production equipment, yet they neglect investing in an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system. The ERP system is the way
all employees are able to interact with the business’ systems and procedures.
“The CST Metrix ERP system came about as we were trying to become ultimately more efficient in the way we did things. As we are a niche business, there was no software system that met our needs without huge amounts of customisation. So, we decided to develop our own. A software system should be there to support the business’ strategy and not be the strategy of the business. It has taken a significant investment in both time and cost, however it is now one of the major ways in which we differentiate our business in the market. Internally, we can measure just about any metric you can think of.
“It goes without saying that the system makes our life easier, however, more importantly, it directly benefits our customers. They get a fast response from us when we need to design, prototype and price a product for them. They get full traceability and repeatability. We can design a composite wound tube from scratch and we can begin to wind it, all within five minutes.”
CST has completed the additions of CRM (Customer Relationship Management) and sales pipeline forecasting modules for the system.
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