Innovation is part of the DNA of TechPlas, a Pendle Hill-based business that has been creating new products from plastic since 1985.
Irfan Virk is the company’s financial controller and has been with the business for 10 years. In that time, he has seen the team almost double to 44 people as TechPlas’s solid reputation for research and development and an increasing appetite for sustainable products has fuelled strong growth.
“We are one of the largest PVC recyclers in the country and that is definitely a major reason customers choose us. People want their products to be sustainable, and able to be recycled. We recapture a lot of waste product from our own operations and also from others in industry, and the products we make are almost all recyclable.”
All up, TechPlas collects and recycles between 500 and 1,000 tonnes of plastic per year.
But recyclability is not the only benefit of plastics. It also allows customers to create the most robust and customised products.
“Innovation is the very nature of our business, because people come to us with an idea, not an order. They know what they want to achieve, and we help them achieve it.”
“For example, a customer came the other day wanting to develop a new eave joint system. He had the idea but not the capacity to turn it into reality. We worked with him on prototyping, 3D prints, material specifications and so on.”
Due to its friendly culture, many have been with TechPlas for 10 or 20 years or longer, and that accumulated experience and knowledge translates into benefits for customers.
“Customers will come to us with their ideas, but we are always coming up with ideas, too. We have our own brainstorming sessions where we think about products that could be replaced or enhanced with a plastic design. We’ve had the opportunity to solve problems for some big projects including major infrastructure works and we are very proud of that.
“Recently we were engaged to help renovate a major infrastructure pipeline and drainage system underneath a railway tunnel. The original system was built from concrete and the usual approach to upgrading would have involved formwork and pouring new concrete, which would take a lot of time and cost a lot of money. Instead, we were able to design a prefab plastic lining to sit inside the concrete and protect the utilities from water damage. We’re probably one of the few manufacturers in Australia that would have been able to extrude such a heavyweight product.”
While TechPlas is a long term CommBank customer, Banker Mariano Torrisi has only recently started looking after them, but he says he can vouch for the family-like feel of the business.
“When I go there, they introduce me to every person on site. They know everyone’s story and so many people have been there for such a long time,” Mariano says.
He says TechPlas has been transparent with the Bank and that has allowed him to give the business useful insights and help them achieve their goals.
“I’ve tried to be very proactive, especially during COVID, to help them stay ahead of challenges.”
Irfan says every CommBank Banker they have worked with has had one thing in common: a desire to understand the business.
“I’ve been managing finance for businesses for 20-plus years and when the banker doesn’t understand the nitty gritty of your business, it doesn’t work. I’ve seen businesses go to the wall because the banker didn’t really understand them.
“We are lucky that we have always had Bankers who are very aware of our routes to market, our abilities and strengths, and our challenges. During COVID, Mariano has been able to come to us with proactive ideas because he already knows what our cash flow pinch points are and where we might need support.”
“Those relationships are critical, as is knowing they are backed up by a major bank that has the products we need.
“When a switched-on Banker can see that a trade finance facility would be better than an overdraft because he understands the working cycle of our business, and how and where we buy, then we need to be with a bank that can deliver that. CommBank has been able to bring us options that are better for our business and much cheaper and much more flexible.”
Ultimately, Irfan says good relationships have been the foundation of the business since the start.
“We were very resilient through the GFC and Covid, because we had built good relationships with all our stakeholders, including customers, suppliers, employees, bankers and shareholders. People trust us and want to work with us, and we want to work with the people we have been partnering with.
“That includes the Western Sydney community. Virtually our whole business family is based in Western Sydney, and a lot of our customers too, though we have been able to service projects even on the other side of the country. If we weren’t here we would not be what we are today.”