Third-gen family business bolsters its legacy

Vega Australia managing director John Leadbetter has watched the process instrumentation company grow since 23 years ago.

The Vega family keeps its eyes on innovation in over 80 countries around the world. Vega Australia managing director John Leadbetter tells Vanessa Zhou about the success story.

The longest standing member of Vega Australia is none other than its managing director John Leadbetter.

A large part of his career is built on the instrumentation business, whether in entrepreneurship or the mining sector. Australian Mining speaks with Leadbetter about staying relevant in today’s age and trends.

What innovation is Vega currently setting its sights on?

Everything’s heading towards Industry Internet of Things (IIoT) 4.0. So our software development, our added features and our communication parts are gearing us toward a future with the IIoT. We continue to look at our equipment’s performance in the field and add adjustments or modifications to beat the current or future application areas.

How do you make sure Vega develops products to meet market needs?

A lot of what we develop is based on market research and customer feedback. One of the things that we look at is the actual setting up of the instruments. Four years ago, we started the development of Bluetooth communication through a platform or tablet. If you can give the technicians or operators the ability to communicate with the instrument without involving any specialised equipment, you’re making it easier for them to do their job. Our ultimate goal is to make people feel easy when dealing with the instruments. The easier you can make it, the more familiar they become and the happier they will be with the instruments.

How does Vega continue to innovate over time?

Vega’s research and development (R&D) team in Germany is always watching what the next generation is looking out for. What will be the next technology? For example, in the Australian mining industry, companies are shifting to autonomous mining. We then ask ourselves what we can do to our instruments so that they’re compatible to those trends. We’re also collaborating with our customers to make sure we’re developing the product that meets their specifications.

Is Vega’s core offering consistent with that of its Germany headquarters?

We are the sales and service arm of the factory in Germany, so we operate on teamwork. What they develop in Germany is the same thing you’ll find in our 22 daughter companies around the world. The only thing you change may be certain features or applications to fit the specific needs of customers. I invite various product specialists to come over from the HQ and meet their Australian customers, look at Australian manufacturing and see its production at different times during the year. So you’re really attuning them to Australian conditions. If you want to be a worldwide entity, you have to understand your market.

What is that working relationship like?

The word that we use at Vega is “we”, not “I”. So we’re a team of people. We’re owned by a family. The owner of the Vega Corporation worldwide is very interested in what you’ve got to say and in what’s going on. They’re very interested in the day-to-day operation but also how you’re faring in the marketplace. They’re one of the things that our owner says – without communication, we don’t have information. They call us the Vega family, and in a family situation, everybody communicates. So we don’t all just communicate with Germany. I might talk to my colleague in the UK or the US to understand how they handle particular challenges or to refer them to a successful company that we’re dealing with here that has an office over there. More interaction and sharing of information means better collaboration and better teamwork.

How did Vega’s predecessors pass this culture of communication down?

They want to know more about you. You’re not just an employee. You’re a family member. They’re not only always asking how you are but how your family and life is too. During lunch, they’ll come over and sit with you. When you’re having your meeting in Germany, the owner will come in, excuse themselves for the interruption and sit down to join the meeting – they want to hear what you’ve got to say, your ideas, your feedback. They’ve never made you feel as if you’re less than them. Everybody is on an equal level.

What’s your personal career journey like in Vega?

It’s been a good, long journey – 23 years. I’m now the longest serving person in Australia. My ultimate goal is to build long-term employees. I want people to look at this as a career, not a job. In my current staff of 26 now, nine people have been with the company for longer than 10 years. You’re also trying to make the work environment as compatible as possible for people – you reward people to build a strong company, a positive company and a company that’s everchanging and developing for the better.

This article also appears in the May edition of Australian Mining.

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