BREMNER GLASS EQUIPMENT PTY LTD was founded in 1968 by the Bremner family who, until that time, had been in the flat glass industry for more than 40 years.
The company was formed to develop and manufacture innovative and modern glass handling and processing systems, drawing on its experience gained over many years in the industry.
The company holds patents and registered designs and is continually designing new systems for greater efficiency and safety.
Bremner Glass Equipment (BGE) – A family-owned and operated company for four generations.
In 1926, William (Bill) Bremner started a glazing business from his home in Douglas Street, East Malvern, and was joined by his brother George a couple of years later. The brothers found it tough in those early years of glass replacement jobs, having to transport glass on their bicycle or by public transport. It wasn’t until 1933 when the business (Bremner Bros. Glass) was expanded to a small shop around the corner in Waverley Road that the company purchased its first vehicle – a 1929 Rugby flat tray utility with a canopy.
By 1938 the company had outgrown its premises and moved to Dandenong Road, still in East Malvern. The brothers employed their first apprentice and things were progressing well until the outbreak of World War II. While George and apprentice Reg Grass joined the AIF, Bill kept the business operating through the war years by glazing glass-houses for the multitude of market gardens that existed in that era.
When the war ended, Bill was joined in 1946 by his sons Bob and Ron, (who had served in the RAAF and RAN respectively). Both men later purchased a share in the company. George was also to return, but his years as a `Desert Rat’ prevented him from continuing as a partner.
The company (renamed W. Bremner & Sons P/L) boomed and in 1953 a further share was granted to Bill’s youngest son, Alan, on his 21st birthday. The business continued to expand and in 1954 another factory was built in Beach Street, Frankston, to service the growing Mornington Peninsula. (This became a landmark building that was later purchased by the Oliver Davey Glass Company in 1972 and changed hands through Pilkingtons to O’Briens, who closed the doors on No. 211 Beach Street in late 1997).
Meanwhile, W. Bremner & Sons was still operating out of East Malvern, and a new factory was built in the late 1960s nearby in Neerim Road, Murrumbeena. This was used as a warehouse for cased and block glass for merchandising to other glass companies. Alan Bremner, who had recently undertaken a welding course at night school, operated this factory. Alan’s newly-found skills were put into action and shortly after he commenced manufacturing racks and truck bodies at the back of the glass stock in the Murrumbeena factory.
And so from this, Bremner Glass Equipment P/L was formed in 1968 and, just like 32 years earlier, an apprentice was employed and the business grew. The glass stock was reduced, more steel stock was carried and further welders were employed. Alan’s designs gained favour by the glass industry at large, as until this time, there simply was no supplier of this type of equipment. In 1971, Greg Bremner (Bob’s youngest son), a draftsman, drew and prepared plans for the company.
Tray trucks were replaced by ‘A’-racks and tables were made to tilt. These, along with a host of other labour saving devices and tools are today a legacy of the Bremner brothers’ total working life and experiences within the flat glass industry. In 1977, Greg was employed by the company as a draftsman and shortly after as Factory Manager.
By 1978, Bremner Glass Equipment (BGE) had become the focus of the family and so it was, that the glass business, W.Bremner & Sons, was sold. However, it is still operating today in the same premises at East Malvern. Ron retired, with Bob following suit in 1982. Both moved to the little country hamlet of Wandiligong in Northern Victoria. (Bill Bremner passed away in 1982 aged 85 years).
Under Greg’s guidance, further expansion of the equipment business took place in 1987 with the purchase of second factory in Mentone, manufacturing new equipment, including the introduction of special vacuum lifting systems, cranes and tables that resulted in the employment of a mechanical engineer to keep the company moving forward into the 1990s.
It soon became apparent that BGE would find it difficult to compete in the huge international marketplace without the modern computerised cutting and processing machinery that was being manufactured in Europe, but the 1990 recession crippled many companies and certainly slowed BGE’s plans to import this vital machinery. Staff numbers were halved but the company survived through the manufacture and supply of the many and diversified products that it had on offer.
A focus shift
By 1993 the industry was on the move again and the company looked to change its focus in order to succeed in the future.
In 1994, the decision was made to employ Greg’s brother Ian as Sales Manager for imported machinery. BGE became an agent for a number of manufacturers in Italy that Greg had pursued overseas. Ian was no stranger to the glass industry and also had a wealth of knowledge gained from working with his grandfather Bill and Uncle Ron at the East Malvern Factory for 11 years from 1965 through to 1975 and beyond.
In 1997 it was decided to move both factories to a new location in larger premises under the same roof to streamline the company’s activities and allow for further growth. As the tempo of business increased and ideas and directions changed, Alan decided that he would retire from the business that he had initiated 30 years earlier. Unfortunately, as there were no formalised succession plans, Alan’s forced retirement meant the entire fabric of the extended family had been severely compromised. Alan later died in 2005 and Ron in 2008. BGE isn’t the first and won’t be the last company to cause/suffer family crisis during succession or the lack of it!
The new generation
All was not lost. Greg and Ian were joined by their brother Ken in 1999, purchasing the business from their father and uncles, commencing a third generation of family ownership after 73 continuous years. On officially taking over control of the business (BGE) in February 1999, the three brothers put together a comprehensive procedural and succession directive based upon a 10-year business plan. This plan was designed to turn the business around with new ideas and take it in a different direction into the new millennium.
The company altered its operation to include the use of contract labour to streamline manufacturing of new products and reduce total full-time staff.
Ken’s 14 years’ experience in OH&S was a great asset to a company that manufactures and supplies potentially dangerous machinery and equipment. Nowadays, every product (plant) sold is accompanied by OHS risk and hazard management documentation i.e. job safety analysis. This has since been expanded to include on-site operator ‘competency-based’ training and proficiency testing/accreditation for Vacuum Lifting Equipment, Block Glass Grabs and Glass Transportation and Restraints methods.
The imported sales division received a boost when BGE was appointed Bottero Agents at the end of 1999. Hence, a full-time Spare Parts/Service Manager was appointed to improve back-up and minimise critical downtime in the rapidly moving and competitive market. An Imported Sales Representative was also appointed and took up the position in Sydney to handle all NSW and Queensland enquiries.
Back in Melbourne, 10 percent of factory space was allocated to a fully interactive display showroom housing glass processing machinery from the major Italian manufacturers.
Merchandising strategies were overhauled and marketed with a knowledge of cost effectiveness through revised and upgraded accounting processes and procedures. As a result, some lines were replaced with more popular items and others that offered better margins.
As part of the endeavours to explore new sales opportunities, BGE formed a partnership with a New Zealand company in 2004 to supply modern glass transporters, bursting with new ideas and functions. If nothing else, it made BGE improve the breed locally and now the company designs and builds state-of-the-art transporters that are second to none.
In 2005, directors and management made a decision to have BGE’s trolleys and A-frames constructed in Vietnam. Later this was extended to China, along with selected truck hardware and components. The comparative cost of supplying in-house was becoming prohibitive. Vacuum lifters are now sourced from the USA with specials made in-house.
Likewise, in 2009, Ian entered into the Korean and Chinese markets for the supply of tempering furnaces, insulated glass lines and washing machines.
While keeping a tight grip on the purse strings during the global recession of 2008-2009, pro-active companies in the glass industry used the downtime to ‘gear up’ and modernise their plant and equipment, which kept the BGE wheels turning, unaffected.
Today, and for the past five years, what was an interactive machinery showroom has been converted into a vacuum lifter service centre (hospital) for SMP. This part of the business is very successful and currently talks are being held with a national testing company to provide Australia-wide SMP coverage.
In all, BGE has transformed over a 10-year period into a profitable market-leading position. In February 2009, the business loan was fully paid down with the property,loan following suit at the end of 2010. Being debt-free in 2011 will afford the company a great deal of flexibility moving forward.
The company, now in its 85th year, employs more than 20 full and part-time staff and credits its strength to always adapting the latest concepts and ideas to keep it at the forefront in machinery and equipment for the flat glass industry.