Leo D'Angelo Fisher Columnist

Leo covers management and leadership issues, business trends and corporate strategy. He is a former senior business writer at The Bulletin and a former host of The Business Hour on 3AW.

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Keech Australia

Published 30 August 2012 04:19, Updated 30 August 2012 05:01

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Keech Australia

Steel castings manufacturer Keech Australia is defying the malaise in the manufacturing sector with 60 per cent growth in the past three years. It is also establishing itself as a global competitor with markets in Canada, Indonesia, Japan and Russia. Last year Keech established a South American subsidiary in Chile. All this activity is from its headquarters in Bendigo, 150 kilometres north-west of Melbourne. Keech began in Sydney in 1934 and relocated to the former gold rush city in 1994. It designs and manufactures cast steel products for mining, earthmoving, dredging, agricultural and construction equipment. Owned and operated by the Keech family, in 2008 the family appointed Herbert Hermens , pictured, as chief executive. He has pursued an aggressive strategy of innovation, global growth and investment, spending $10 million to redevelop Keech’s principal foundry and $3 million to construct a second foundry. “We have substantially transformed ourselves from a foundry producing products to order to a global provider of innovation, services and products,” Hermens says. Keech has annual revenue of $50 million, employs 165 people and is growing but attracting engineers and technical staff to Bendigo is difficult. Hermens has had to recruit staff from as far afield as South Africa, India and Ireland. He is determined to attract and retain skills in Bendigo. “This is such a vibrant city,” he says, Keech has opened a research and innovation centre and has partnered Bendigo TAFE to introduce engineering traineeships for year 12 graduates.