Australia’s Sell & Parker focuses on long-term relationships to underpin its steady growth in and around Sydney.
Sell & Parker Pty Ltd. has its roots in ferrous scrap recycling, says company Group General Manager Morgan Parker, but that hasn’t prevented it from following other opportunities when they present themselves.
Morgan, son of company co-founder Ross Parker, says iron and steel recycling remains an important source of revenue for Sell & Parker, which is based in Banksmeadow, New South Wales, Australia, near Sydney.
But the company has steadily built up its nonferrous scrap business, in part because it has been operating a 4,000-horsepower auto shredder since 2002. It also runs two steel plate profiling shops and its subsidiary Australian Frontline Machinery specializes in refurbishing and reselling or disposing of and recycling Australian Defence Force vehicles.
Since its founding in 1966, Sell & Parker has gone from operating two collection trucks (with no property of its own) to owning more than a half-dozen yards throughout New South Wales, with the potential to expand into other Australian states in the near future.
Roots in Steel
In a detailed timeline on the Sell & Parker website, www.sellandparker.com.au, the first entry is made in 1966, when “Max Sell advises Ross Parker that he intends getting out of the scrap metal business” and subsequently sells his two trucks to Ross (on installment terms).
Max also agreed to stay for six months to show Ross how he operated the business and to introduce him to customers.
True to his word, Max retired in 1967, but Ross adopted the trading name Sell & Parker because “Max had a very good reputation in the business,” he says.
Officers: Managing Director Luke Parker, Group General Manager Morgan Parker and Nonferrous Trading Manager Trent Raines
Location: Headquarters and scrap yard in Banksmeadow, Sydney, Australia; five additional plants throughout New South Wales state in Australia
No. of Employees: Approximately 200
Equipment: A Lynxs auto shredder; two Lindemann shears; one Metso shear; an IPS high-speed nonferrous baler; Caterpillar and Fuchs material handlers; and a truck fleet
Services Provided: Collection and processing of ferrous and nonferrous scrap from industrial, commercial and retail sources; sale of prepared scrap to domestic and export customers.; Precision Oxycut service plasma cuts steel plate to customer specifications; and refurbishment and resale or recycling of former Australian Defence Force vehicles
Picture above, from left: Morgan Parker, group general manager, and Luke Parker, managing director.
During this early phase, the business operated from the two trucks, with sorting taking place “in back lanes” or wherever Ross could find room to work.
By late in 1967, however, Ross rented some property in Sydney on which he could sort and store scrap, and two years later, in 1969, he was able to hire his first employee.
Throughout the next two decades, Sell & Parker grew by volume and by adding locations. “The recycling business was primarily built on ferrous recycling,” says Morgan. “Ross’s motto was that steel was preferred as ‘people don’t steal steel,’” he recalls, indicating that metals theft was an issue even in the late 1960s.
Sell & Parker made a foray into a niche beyond scrap in 1972, when it started a business called Oxy Profile Cutting (later shortened to OxyCut) that cut steel plate to specifications.
The company also ventured into the solid waste industry from 1980 to 1985, but during this time it continued to expand its scrap business in New South Wales in terms of volumes and new locations.
Sell & Parker also invested in equipment and has done so consistently throughout its history. The era from 1995 to 2000 saw the company grow in another important way, as the next generation of the Parker family began working full time for Sell & Parker.
While Sell & Parker’s growth has been fairly consistent during its 47-year history, it has been marked by pivotal capital investments as well as the introduction of new talent.
On the equipment side, the company currently operates a 4,000-horsepower Lynxs auto shredder that was installed at its Blacktown (western Sydney) site in 2002. A fleet of some 10 material handlers works at the Blacktown yard, keeping material moving to and from the shredder as well as an 800-tonne Lindemann shear at the site.
At the company’s headquarters plant in Banksmeadow (southeastern Sydney), a 1,250-tonne Lindemann shear is joined by an IPS baler that processes nonferrous metals and another small fleet of material handlers. These major investments in processing at the Banksmeadow location were made in 2005.
Most of the company’s other locations are primarily feeder yards, though the Newcastle facility (north of Sydney) hosts an 800-tonne Metso shear for processing.
Also on the operations side, Sell & Parker has devised its own scrap weighbridge (scale house) software called Scrap Assist. “It allows us to see real-time purchases at all yards and generates some very useful reports,” says Morgan. “Our customers find it very hard to leave the system once they get a taste,” he adds.
In addition to investments in processing and technology, the second generation of the Parker family also has invested itself into the business.
In 1995, Ross’s son Luke Parker joined the business as managing director after having obtained degrees in both law and commerce at the University of New South Wales and an MBA from Northwestern University near Chicago. As well, Luke had spent five years working in management consulting roles.
Five years later, Morgan joined the company as group general manager after he had earned an economics (actuarial studies) degree at Macquarie University in New South Wales. After graduating, Morgan worked for more than 10 years in the finance industry.
“After 12 years in the banking industry, I joined my brother and father in the family business and have loved every minute since,” says Morgan. “I don’t think there is an industry like it. If you see a truck with a load of scrap on a Sunday, you slow to learn where it has come from and where it is going. It’s a forever changing industry and one which you clearly never get bored with,” he comments.
Although Morgan is proud of the growth in volumes and the considerable capital investments that have been made by Sell & Parker, he also points to a philosophy of committing to people as an important company philosophy.
On its company timeline, the year 2008 is marked by this event: “Franc Obal, Sell & Parker’s first employee, officially retires after 40 years of wonderful service. Retired, but not forgotten, Franc still comes in to help out from time to time.”
Providing an Assist
Among the services Australian scrap recycler Sell & Parker Pty Ltd. offers to its customers is the use of its Scrap AssistTM software.
On its website, www.sellparker.com.au, the company says the software is “simple, it works and it’s unique to Sell & Parker.” The company assigns the following attributes to Scrap Assist:
- It handles “the entire process, including truck bookings, weighing and payments.”
- Scrap Assist automatically e-mails details of every load (truck registration, grade of metal, gross, tare and net weight, customer documentation references, etc.) “to every e-mail address you nominate. This provides you with the ability to monitor and reconcile your scrap account easily, quickly and accurately.”
- The Scrap Assist reporting system is linked between all Sell & Parker locations, enabling it to report, collate and pay its customers “accurately and quickly.”
- The software also produces all invoices and remittance advices allowing customers to cross reference and reconcile their accounts.
- It generates “every conceivable report your company may require to monitor your scrap production and control the revenue, in either printouts or as an Excel file,” according to Sell & Parker.
More information about Scrap AssistTM software can be found at www.sellparker.com.au.
The company’s commitment to people clearly starts with its own associates. “At Sell & Parker we have a very strong team with some great managers who are very good at their jobs,” says Morgan. “My brother and I share an office and find a good joke never goes astray,” he adds.
The personal touch also extends to customers. “Personally, I believe repeat business is the best indication you are doing a good job,” says Morgan. “To get repeat business you need to cover everything from good prices and timely service on the buy side and consistent quality on the sale side. I would like to think our service and the owners’ ability and willingness to talk directly to customers sets us apart,” he adds.
Sell & Parker’s location near the port of Sydney means it exports considerable volumes on the sell side. Thus, interpersonal relationships must be maintained long distance, but Morgan says that has not proven to be difficult for the company and its managers.
“On the export side our customers today are the same customers we started business with in 2002,” says Morgan of the company’s nonferrous and mixed metals recycling efforts. “From conversations with our customers, that is a rare thing, and I would like to think it is a good reflection on our quality and ability to settle claims that inevitably arise.”
Local and Global
Operating from in and around Sydney causes Sell & Parker to stay in touch with Australia-specific national economic issues and global ones as well.
In Australia, the iron ore export boom has resulted in strong national ties with China’s metals industry as well as a strong Australian dollar, which can hurt exports. Morgan says it is a mixed blessing at best. “The mining boom has resulted in a high exchange rate, which has hurt our manufacturing and export industries. A number of high-profile manufacturers have closed down, with some moving their operations offshore. Personally, I don’t think the offshore manufacturing will turn out to be anywhere as profitable as these companies hope, but with every large manufacturing shutdown there is an effect on scrap generation.”
On the plus side, says Morgan, “Our export markets are quite strong and we do enjoy favourable container rates into our target markets.”
Adhering to regulations within Australia entails a certain amount of effort, says Morgan, who also has concerns about where regulators are putting their focus. “It’s frustrating the amount of regulatory hurdles required to shred a car when at the same time no one cares if you put car bales dripping with oil into a container and export it,” he comments.
“In New South Wales we now have a government tax on waste sent to landfill, which is legislated to continue to rise in the future,” says Morgan. “We also have a carbon tax that increases the cost of electricity. We want to invest in our shredder and employ people, but the government is setting policy to encourage us to bale and export to the shredders in Asia,” he laments.
Coping with regulations and permits is part of the picture when it comes to Sell & Parker expanding beyond the Sydney region, according to Morgan.
“We have land set aside for expansion into Brisbane (about 925 kilometres, or 575 miles, north of Sydney), which we continue to work through the regulatory hurdles. Planning approval in Australia is extraordinary slow and a frustrating process.”
Although challenges will always be part of the picture, the managers of Sell & Parker have proven over the course of nearly 50 years that they are likely to find ways to expand and find new opportunities within Australia’s recycling industry.
The author is editor of Recycling Today Media Group and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.