Mal Close Waste Water Management Pioneer29-May-2007 Sunshine Coast Daily
In hindsight, it probably seemed an obvious move for Mal Close to set up his own waste-water management company back in 1983.
He was working for Maroochy Council at the time and his main role was to oversee the management of privately owned and run sewage treatment plants like the one at the Surfair resort at Marcoola.
He created Suncoast Waste Water Management (SWWM), and not surprisingly, Surfair was his biggest client.
Business went well for several years until the council sewered the resort.
Fortunately for Mr Close, losing his biggest client was a blessing in disguise.
“I ended up selling the treatment plant to a coal mining company in north Queensland ... not only that, they got me to build three more,” he said.
When he got back to the Coast in 1993, he started manufacturing the plants, producing one a week from the business based at his home.
“I lived on acreage and I already had a small treatment plant operating there that I’d built in the mid-’80s,” he said.
“It was very innovative at the time. I took out patents which are still in force today.”
While the basic process is still the same, a lot of other things have changed.
Not the least has been the material used to make the tanks. Originally marine-grade aluminium, they are now made of plastic.
The number being produced has also grown significantly.
“I was making one a week when we started; now we’re putting out one-an-hour ... that will become three-an-hour when we finish installing new machine,” he said.
More than 10,000 of the plants, marketed as Ozzi Kleen Sewage Treatment Systems, have been sold across Australia.
The business has gone from being a backyard operation to having not one, but two factories in Kunda Park.
And Mr Close said the company was about to change the way it marketed the systems, going from an exclusively distributorship model, to a combination of distributors and sales offices.
The first sales office was opened in Enterprise Street at Kunda Park on Friday, with plans in place to roll out a network of offices across the country.
“Bill Gates says to keep it all in-house, so that’s what we’re doing, although we’ll still keep the network of distributors,” Mr Close said.
Opening the sales office hasn’t been the only step Suncoast Waste Water Management has taken down the vertical integration path.
The business spent $500,000 on a moulding machine to enable it to make its own moulds to produce the various-sized tanks required.
And more recently, it has taken that strategy to yet another level, now manufacturing the moulding machines themselves.
And with the waste water treatment industry becoming the latest boom sector, SWWM is now designing and manufacturing rainwater harvesting systems, including everything from the underground tanks to the leaf strainers.