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Next Big Thing: Brendan Mitchell

Under Managing Director Brendan Mitchell, Mitchell Plastic Welding has evolved from a small team building fish pens to an industry leader in plastic welding in Australia and abroad.

With an ethos of ‘finding the opportunity in challenges’, Mitchell Plastic Welding has built more than just a reputation for taking on jobs that stretches it in new directions; its also grown from a two-person team to an employer of over 50 full-time staff. And for Managing Director Brendan Mitchell, growing into his current role has required the same willingness to take on a challenge and to learn on the job.

Brendan says it was while taking time out to figure out what he truly wanted to do with his life that he recognised the extraordinary opportunities on offer with the company his father had founded. He was already familiar with Mitchell Plastic Welding, having worked for his dad while he was studying at the Conservatorium of Music, University of Tasmania, taking charge on sites and making innovative changes to the business to streamline day-to-day processes.

On choosing to dedicate his career to Mitchell Plastic Welding and start working full-time with the company, Brendan soon found himself taking on more and more responsibility. "To be honest, I was out of my depth a little bit, but sometimes you need to learn by being chucked in the deep end," he tells The CEO Magazine.

Growth on the job

A decade ago, while the aquaculture side of the business was experiencing a quiet period, Brendan applied for some tenders for a few large irrigation government works within Tasmania, including Midlands Irrigation Scheme, the largest irrigation pipeline for the state – and they got the job.

"We had to finance about A$1.2 million worth of equipment, which saw us in front of a bank manager and accountant. I went there with the worst presentation you could ever imagine, but they helped us fund it."

It was a huge period of growth; everything just kept on doubling.

Undertaking the job was a daunting and overwhelming prospect, Brendan says. "The customer, Hazell Bros in Tasmania, which is a huge civil construction company, were amazing and assisted us. Then we secured the next big job and at the tail end of that, Huon Aquaculture wanted us to work on one of their sites, 24 hours a day, seven days a week."

At the time, Mitchell Plastic Welding also had two large pipeline works on the books, and staffing was ramped up to around 40-to-45 people to accommodate the company’s exponential growth. "It was a huge period of growth; everything just kept on doubling," he says. "The Huon Aquaculture’s project took four-or-five years in total, and again, they were there with us through the whole journey."

From there, Mitchell Plastic Welding picked up more irrigation schemes, and the Huon Aquacultures expansion project led into an agreement with Tassal for the expansion of its pens and hatcheries as well as a contract with Petuna Aquaculture — a trio of clients that Brendan says have been "key to our success".

"At this stage, we had a store, a mechanical division, an estimating team, a research and development team and a business improvement team. We also had our fabrication shop down at Dover, about an hour away, so we leased and then purchased a cherry orchard nearby and imported about a thousand tonnes of gravel for the site, which is where a lot of our works happen now."

On the back of some sizeable grants for manufacturing and recycling modernisation, the company also added to its buildings and equipment.

Necessity mothering invention

The company has a couple of injection moulders, which makes them the largest injection moulding business in Tasmania. "For some products, we were actually giving away the our waste plastic and then purchasing it back," he explains. "We needed to rethink things. Our waste is a resource.

"Our customers were also having troubles with their materials and were asking if we could do anything," he continues. A company that doesn’t like saying no, Brendan and his team decided to build a recycling facility as well.

There are products that get to the end of their lifespan, and we can remake them back into products and resell or repurpose those materials back into aquaculture or other industries.

"There are products that get to the end of their lifespan, and we can remake them back into products and resell or repurpose those materials back into aquaculture or other industries," he says.

For Mitchell Plastic Welding, the immediate future is focused on growth through contributing to Australia’s circular and high-tech economies by moving into the plastic recycling and high-volume manufacturing streams. Brendan says this will include a significant capital expansion planned in the immediate future.

"What I’m most excited about is that this new challenge is a 100 per cent fit with our ethos," he enthuses. "It creates opportunities for the environment, our customers, the community and our people."

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