Building supplier Stoddarts operates by a motto: it is the often unseen ever-present backbone of the construction of a new home.
The company offers essential product lines in residential construction such as roofing, cladding, eaves, gutters and fascias throughout Australia.
Its branches have a strong presence in regional areas and as of this month Stoddarts has expanded into Western Australia, which means it now services every state of mainland Australia. Isuzu Ute Australia remains the vehicle supplier of choice, with over 300 of its utes delivered to Stoddards since 2011.
These are mainly assigned to company building supervisors, who access work sites and transport a basic payload of ladders, hand tools and additional stock when it is needed.
After experiencing ongoing issues in the past with other manufacturers of utility vehicles, Stoddarts tested the waters with a 2011 D-Max, the first Isuzu model it hitherto had trialled.
That resulted in an order of an additional 241 units of just that model alone. The company has since converted the entire fleet to D-Max, a process, subject to terms of leasing, which took three years in total to complete.
It’s a decision already vindicated by the improved reliability and servicing the company now gets according to Jon Stoddart, Governing Director Stoddart Group.
“Isuzu utes just never stop. If we need something fixed it’s easy to repair,” he says. “We found Isuzu to be more cost-effective than what we’d used in the past. Their reliability and their serviceability, everything about them has proven it to be a better vehicle for us.”
In January of this year, Stoddart Group placed an order of 67 2021 Isuzu D-Max SX Crew Cab Chassis Auto 4×2 for its national fleet.
These have been scheduled for delivery across April-June.
The business prefers to order dual cabs for additional comfort and space for supervisors as it allows them to secure tools safely in back of the vehicle. Getting on site and off it, as conditions are always changing during a build, needs to be easy.
The high clearance of the Isuzu vehicles is another advantage. Fleets of this nature must also balance commercial application with domestic viabilities. For many of Stoddarts’ staff these vehicles will need to fit into the routine of family life.
Recent upgrades in fuel economy made to the all new D-Max are complemented by enhancements in drivability, thanks in large part to pinpoint electric steering and the standard inclusion of an Intelligent Driver Assistance System. It’s also the first vehicle in Australia to achieve a 5-star rating across the range against the new rigorous testing criteria introduced by ANCAP.
At present, the residential construction market is booming across the country. The only challenge for the business when it comes to the vehicles is getting enough supply, with COVID-19 disruptions still impacting supply chains globally.
Even so, Jon estimates the company is currently experiencing unparalleled growth not seen since prior to the Global Financial Crisis.
Federal grants and incentives to encourage new home buyers has helped kickstart residential projects while lockdowns have also been a major factor as people have seen it necessary to upgrade their homes.
Meanwhile, there has been a seismic shift in demand from consumers who are making the move away from cities.
“Units have become less attractive along with contained urban living and so people are moving into more standalone housing,” says Jon. “That’s pushed a lot of growth and I think that’s going to continue. We’re flat chat.”
Jon and his team project the housing boom will sustain itself even as late as mid-2022. The company, at the minute, is experiencing record growth unlike anything he has seen in his 40-year history in the business.
The business was founded in 1959 by Jon’s father Tom Stoddart and his brother Albert, as a steel fabrication manufacturer, specialising mainly in hot water systems and urinals.
In the late ‘70s the company changed its product focus, by moving, with immediate results, into the residential building market and namely a metal fascia using a new supply and install model.
By the 1990s, with Jon assuming the mantle of Director, the company partnered with BlueScope. That began the dawn of a new era in which Stoddart Group began to broaden its product line, starting with a new roofing arm followed by revenue streams dedicated to steel framing and renewable energy. It now employs 500 full time staff and around 3000 full time contractors.
In 1990 the business was turning over $20 million. This year it will turn over $350 million.
The opening of its first branch in Western Australia, in which Jon envisages needing additional Isuzu vehicles, is one of several recent developments coming into effect at the business, where innovation undergirds its evolution. A Research and Development team, for instance, is charged with understanding where the industry will be in the next two or three years.
“Part of the company ethos is asking the question ‘what is the future of building in Australia?’” Jon says. “Our R&D team is constantly looking at where the residential housing market is headed and how are we going to service our customers in the future.”
Such a mandate, in which there is an onus placed on future industry developments, keeps producing on many fronts.
A new contract with Knauf Australia, one of the biggest plasterboard manufacturers in the world, has required Stoddarts specialise some of the D-Max vehicles more recently added to the fleet, so as to better carry the new inventory on site.
A different configuration of some of the utes, according to Jon, will now be necessary. Although Knauf have worked with smaller suppliers in the past, Stoddarts is the first national company they have awarded an account to in Australia.
“That has led to a lot of growth within our business and enables a lot of future growth as well,” says Jon. “That requires a different racking solution to transport and service that product line for the client.”
In 2019, the company conceived Lock Up, where a builder sets down the concrete slab for Stoddarts and 12 days later they will deliver a completed locked up house. This involves erecting a standard frame, with fascia and gutter, and roof, eaves, external cladding, internal cladding and garage door before its given back.
It was launched 18 months ago as a slow burn project to get it up and running in Queensland. They are at present looking at expanding it nationally.
Stoddarts, what’s more, has commenced supplying EV chargers for builders to integrate as part of house construction. In addition to fitting the solar product on the house, Stoddarts will also supply and install an EV charger, at a low price, in anticipation of changes the team foresees in relation to the uptake of electric vehicles. Jon expects it to be widespread eventually.
“We believe electric vehicles will take off and future proofing houses is about starting to put EV chargers in those houses,” he says. “Hopefully Isuzu will bring out an electric ute soon.”
Should the Japanese automaker announce it was launching one in the near future, Stoddarts, having ordered well over 300 D-Max models over the last decade, would be favourite to acquire the first of the series.
“Isuzu have been great. They’ve done a lot to help us with promotions,” Jon says.
“If I had to specify one thing they do better than anyone that would be reliability. It can’t be underestimated how important that is to a business like ours. If the vehicle is due a service its easily fixed. Maintenance is easy. They have spare parts. Everything is there if you need to get it done.”