Written by Kerryn Caulfield, Executive Direcor for Composites Australia Inc.
This year marks 40 years in business for Marky Industries and the husband and wife duo behind the composites manufacturing firm, Krystyna and Martin Nikolas. While they are both clearly in awe of the milestone, they now proudly reflect on their journey from a young married couple with $50 in start-up funds, to employing over 70 people in their purpose-built facility in Crestmead, Queensland.
In 1978, Martin worked for an artist who also made car spoilers, Krystyna explained. “The company defaulted on Martin’s wages of $1,400 – a lot of money for a young family – leaving him with only $50 as a consolation payment. That $50 got us started in business”.
Both from migrant families escaping the depravations of post war Europe, the young couple’s work ethic was defined early. “When we first started, there was no book that we could pick up to teach us how to run a composites manufacturing company. Our plan was simple – we just needed to survive. If you’ve nothing to fall back on, you have no choice but to keep working and to move forward”, said Martin.
The company they formed, Marky Industries, was named by combining both Martin and Krystyna’s names. That team approach has resulted in long term success for the composite specialists, manufacturing products for the mining, transport, construction, chemical, defence, recreational and building industries.
Employing a number of composite processes, Marky Industries manufactures a diverse range of components, many for the transport sector, including an award winning fully fitted sleeper cab for client truck production lines. The sleeper cabs are now state of the art, fitted with built-in seats, desk, fridge, TV, microwave and even coffee making machines.
The company’s production output also includes over 4,000 components for trains in the Perth Urban Rail System including cosmetic internal panels, as well as train driver dashboards and whole cab fronts for Queensland Rail; all made of fire-retardant resins and specialised composite materials to ensure compliance with ballistic and high impact requirements.
“We’re particularly proud of the longevity of our client relationships”, says Martin. “We have supplied Mack trucks just-in-time daily deliveries for 35 years. Others such as Volvo, Iveco, Ford, Western Star and Navistar branded trucks have been loyal to us, as we have to them”.
Their view is that composite companies can only compete in an environment where there is a reliable and efficient local supply network and a healthy composites manufacturing sector. For this reason, the couple have generously hosted a number of open days at their factory, allowing hundreds of people to tour and witness their production facilities. Martin has also contributed to the industry as a founding member of Plastic and Rubber Technical Education Centre, now known as PARTEC in Brisbane. He has been on the Board of Composites Australia Inc. for many years and is currently serving as Vice President.
A devoted customer base, loyal people and great production capability are key components in business and manufacturing success. However, Krystyna believes these factors are not enough to stay in business. She points out that: “Cash flow is the lifeblood of any small business. Managing cash flow effectively through the good times to weather the bad times, is absolutely essential. As with all SMEs around the world, the financial turmoil following the GFC of 2008-2009 caused an 80% drop in orders for Marky Industries. If we hadn’t left profits in the business and had a handle on our cash flow, we wouldn’t be here today”.
The couple also attribute the company’s success and longevity not only by the orders they accept, but by the ones they decline. Seared in their memory is a trip to Canada to sign a global contract with a major truck manufacturing company. “We wanted that contract so much, it clouded our thinking. Just before signing, we did a quick recalculation on the contract presented to us and said, hang on a minute, there is only 1% margin in this. We walked out and flew home”. The need to test the economic viability of every deal has been the company’s core business motto ever since.
Other company success factors include a dedication to continuous improvement and innovation in processes and inputs. A defining moment in the company’s journey was achieving Ford Q1 Certification in 1994 that recognised excellence in four critical areas: capable systems, continuous improvement, ongoing performance and customer satisfaction. According to the couple, the indisputable value of Certifications, including the Quality Management System AS/NZS ISO 9001:2008 for products and services, comes from their power to open up international supply chain opportunities.