Remarkably, this four-year-old business is exporting its home-engineered and home-manufactured products to Europe, the US, Canada and Asia, along with a handful of sales within Australia. By Wendy McWilliams.

Engi-O was established by Andrew Ogilvy in 2012 and after 18 months is nicely settled into its third location in Macquarie Place, Boronia. The company designs and manufactures sophisticated filling solutions for the aseptic and the ESL (Extended Shelf Life) bag-in-the-box industry. The bags/bladders come in a range of sizes and fitments from two litres to 2000 litres.

Customers come from a variety of industries and filling applications, including wineries, dairies, pharmaceutical, olive oil, juice, syrups and water. The company employs six casuals and has just taken on its fourth permanent employee, a fitter and turner.

“Going from three to four permanents is a hard thing to do,” said Andrew. “The nature of our business is that it has the potential to be very roller coaster. Because individual made-to-measure aseptic filling machines can take a few months to complete, we need to ensure that everyone has work to do every day.

“It’s been an extraordinary journey so far and orders are way above our expectations. I’m fortunate to have a fantastic team of people including the inventor of the bag-in-the-box technology and another person who also worked at the company who owned the patent.”

Inventor on board

When the patent expired and the company who had owned it decided to go offshore with their manufacturing, Andrew, who was Technical Manager with this company, saw an opportunity to keep the technology in Australia and build a business, utilising the services of the inventor, Ian Anderson, and a fellow employee.

Investing heavily in R&D is paying off and demonstrating how a small business can take advantage of opportunities; a new order has led Engi-O to becoming a contract packer with two shifts a day. Being a small business means working smarter, which is what Andrew and his Macquarie Place neighbours do when it comes to solving problems.

“When we need a forklift we borrow one from Martin Marine and provide services in return,” Andrew said. “Another neighbour makes soups and purees and we are helping each other with our different expertise, and another business owner is a good machinist so we are looking at utilising his skills.”

Andrew’s advice for other start-ups is to be careful and never outlay too much without testing the water; and value your suppliers, keeping their payments up to date so they will look after you. Another tip is to take advantage of government assistance. Andrew has taken part in the Victorian Government’s Business Development Plan and Strategic Review where half of the cost was met by the government.

“We are also going to apply for R&D tax incentives as we are doing quite a lot of research,” Andrew added.

Kindly reprinted with permission from Knox City Council’s Economic Development Unit, KnoxBiz.