A company director that has seen the ebbs and flows of markets and business over more than 35 years sees great potential for the low voltage switchboard market in Australia.
David Webb, Managing Director of DRC Switchboards in Mordialloc, Victoria, says that his focus has always been on creating quality, compliant switchboards that have been designed and tested for the Australian market.
The company he started in 1987, which has now become DRC Switchboards, built and verified one of Australia’s first compliant designs, leading to the Vector modular switchboard.
“We don’t want to be the biggest, we want to be the best, and I think we’ve achieved that over more than 35 years. Every switchboard we build has a focus on quality and safety compliance,” says David, who adds that DRC Switchboards has now evolved to be a broader electrical engineering company that value engineers solutions to client problems.
“Modular switchboards were a game-changer for the industry because you don’t have to build from scratch each time. Nowadays most switchboards are modular, but at the time, this was a big step forward for the industry in Australia,” he said.
DRC Switchboards completes high quality and custom-tailored projects for major Australian industry applications, including hospitals and healthcare, data centres, and generators and solar farms for the mining industry.
“We’ve been through a lot of challenging times over the years – from the stock market crash in 1988 to the ‘recession we had to have’, to the Global Financial Crisis, amongst others. But, through a sensible, conservative approach to business, we didn’t just survive, we thrived,” David says proudly.
“To add to this – any company out there is only as good as its people. We have a wonderful team at DRC Switchboards, and that’s been the cornerstone of our success since day one.”
“We’re not interested in a race to the bottom on price. We want to deliver the best long-term value for our clients. We are proud of every switchboard we’ve ever built, knowing we’ve made it to top standards of quality and safety, and we’ve looked after our clients’ specific needs every time.”
“We’ve seen what happens when companies just put forward the lowest price to outbid competitors – and lots of these have gone out of business because it’s not a sustainable operating model.”
Expanding the industry through NESMA
David was a foundation member of NESMA Victoria (which was originally called IESMA, the Independent Electrical Switchboard Manufacturers Association), where he served as president 20 years ago.
David has recently been elected as the president of NESMA Victoria, where he aims to further reinforce NESMA’s strength, reach, and role in promoting quality and safety compliance nationwide.
“We want to raise the quality, compliance, and standards of the industry as a whole, and make sure everyone who works on a switchboard does so in a safe environment. NESMA advocates for this across the industry through education and resources,” he said.
David knew that to really instil the safety message, NESMA needed to show the risks of non-compliant switchboards, so he suggested taking the annual NESMA seminars out to the test station.
“I was essentially asking people to come and watch things get blown up. Some people may have been worried at first, but showcasing this in a controlled environment is so much more powerful than hearing or reading about it,” he said.
David is still advocating for a fair and safe industry, and says the introduction of AS/NZS 61439 removes the potential for people to “fudge” it when it comes to compliance.
“The biggest difference compared with the old standard is in the wording. They have removed the line that required switchboards to be ‘partially type-tested’ and replaced it with a line that switchboards require a verification test. People were taking a very liberal view of the term partially, and this was creating problems for the industry,” explains David.
“Another issue NESMA is addressing is people saying that it will cost more to build a AS/NZS 61439 compliant switchboard, compared with one that complies to the old standard, AS/NZS 3439. This is simply untrue.”
“This is why it’s so important to have a national body like NESMA that is working to improve standards, fairness, transparency, and quality throughout the industry.”