Magellan buildings - Home Office (left) Factory in 1999 (middle) and Magellan today (right).
This week Magellan Powertronics is celebrating 25 years in business, marking a quarter of a century of Australian innovation, Australian manufacturing, establishing and propagating power electronics and creating smart jobs.
An interview with Managing Director Masoud Abshar tells the story.
How did you start?
I came to Australia as a young power electronics design engineer in 1988, wanting to keep my life interesting by creating products in this field. I soon got a dose of reality when I realised that most of the equipment used in power electronics was imported from overseas, and there was very little need for those who wanted to make things here. So I had a choice - accept the situation and get a job to feed the family, or try and make it on my own. I chose to give it a go. Two things I believed in; my own abilities and the abundance of engineering talent in this country. It turned out that it is not only possible but very viable. All we needed was always here - a lawful society, stable business environment, excellent infrastructure, demand, smart people and a lot of like-minded supporters.
Where did you start?
That’s a hard question with maybe a very simple answer. I didn't know where to start so I just started anywhere. In 1991 the solar industry was in its infancy with very few players. One of them asked me to make some small 24V, 10A solar chargers. I thought to myself, "well that’s as good a start as any," so I made a few solar chargers and that’s how the business started. By the way, thank you John Hall for giving me a go!
I went and saw anyone and everyone in the power industry to see what they needed. Chargers, inverters, motor drives, small UPS - anything power electronics. I stuck to my knitting, I knew I could do power electronic design and that’s what I would carry on doing.
Single phase and three phase chargers for Western Power. The only problem was that we didn’t have the three phase design ready. We had the order but not the design! The answer? Work like hell and as fast as you can to design PCB's, prove them and make the chargers. We just made it in the nick of time. Now three phase MCRI and MCRII chargers are one of the most used and relied upon chargers in operation in Australia.
We won a contract for nearly 2000 high reliability extra low noise mil-spec power supplies for the Jindalee Over the Horizon radar Network (JORN). They are still operating after 20 years of operation. To those who think Australia is not capable of manufacturing defence equipment and instead choose to rely on foreign imports I say - just have a look at your local suppliers!
Evolution of Magellan Products over the past 25 years.
25 years is a long time, and there are a lot of defining moments but one that stays with me is when myself and a technician had to work for 36 hours continuously to get a customer order out. It was in 1997 and I was trying to get into the Queensland Utility market. After a long time of trying, Ergon Energy (then NORQEB) gave us a chance with a charger for one of their substations on the proviso that we supply it in two weeks . At the time there was only 4 of us. Myself, a technician and two assemblers. A few days before the delivery was due all the components were ready and the charger assembly was about to start. As `luck’ would have it, the assemblers didn’t turn up. We waited another day - but no assemblers again. We just had two days to deliver it and we were left with no choice but to do it ourselves - to assemble, test, pack and send. Myself and my technician worked for 36 hours straight to make sure it went to the customer on time. That night we were absolutely shattered, but we kept our promise and now years later Ergon Energy remains one of our best clients. This also taught me the value of good staff!
What are you most proud of?
In 1991 I set out to make a `real’ power electronics company. One that had an active R&D department, manufactured its own products that have a lifetime of at least 20 years, one that steadfastly supported its products, created smart jobs, competed with the best in the world, and added real value to Australian society. Australia is a hard place to achieve the above goals. Cost and size of the market, together with other business constraints puts a limit to what can be achieved here. After 25 years I think we have achieved it all in some degree. We now have a first class R&D department that continually develops new products, we collaborate with universities on cutting edge technologies, we have an excellent engineering department that can customise our products to suit almost any customer requirements, and we make excellent products that last 20-30 years, plus we support our customers no matter where they take our equipment. Of course there is still a long way to go...
What do you attribute the Magellan success to?
I know it is a cliché but the guiding principle is putting customer first and putting yourself in his/her place. You have to feel their pain and joy. After that a good team that can make everything happen. I am one person and I can achieve a limited amount alone but a dedicated team can achieve much more. Everything else somehow falls into place.
Where to from here?
More Australian made innovative products. More dedicated service. More utilisation of amazing talents here in Australia.
A few of the Magellan team members at the HBF Run for a Reason, 2014.
From the team at Magellan Power - we wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
Please Note: Magellan is closed from the 21st of December 2016 until the 4th of January 2017.