Industry Leaders Forum: Tony Antonious, Managing Director Owner, Polivac International

The economic climate in Australia is becoming increasingly difficult. Rising interest rates have made the task of reducing costs and managing cash flow much harder for manufacturers and their customers alike.

How was 2023 Polivac?

2023 was a steady year for Polivac, where we consolidated and built upon planned initiatives, which we fine-tuned throughout the year. We had the first full year with our upgraded manufacturing software system, which gave us a vastly improved understanding of our inventory, as well as superior sales and cost information.

With the development of new products to meet the evolving demands of our customers, we aim to continually improve and expand our range to remain strong and competitive in the future.

What are the company’s main priorities for 2024?

We are committed to looking at ways to improve our offerings to our customers, and to this end, we plan to invest in extensive research and development of new products and remain at the forefront of innovation in the industry. For example, Polivac has recently entered into the expanding stick vac market, and we are seeing some promising results there. Another of our significant developments last year was the invention of the Mini Terminator, which has been designed to deliver a similar performance to a standard carpet extractor. The compact design of this machine is really quite innovative, and we have high hopes for it.

What are currently the most significant opportunities and challenges in the industry? How can the industry leverage or address these?

There certainly are challenges. The economic climate in Australia is becoming increasingly difficult. Rising interest rates have made the task of reducing costs and managing cash flow much harder for manufacturers and their customers alike.

Another challenge that Polivac faces, as an established Australian manufacturing organisation, is the advent of low-cost imports from overseas into the Australian market.

However, both these conditions can also present opportunities for the astute organisation. With the increasing costs of both money and materials, it can motivate businesses to adopt nimble, or “just in time” manufacturing processes, to reduce inventory levels, and free up capital for more productive applications. At the same time, as we constantly do at Polivac, businesses should examine their supply chain structures and seek to streamline them as much as possible to minimise ordering times.

What do you expect to be the big trends of 2024?

As I mentioned earlier, cash flow constraints are going to be a significant factor in all areas of the economy in 2024, and no less so in our industry, for suppliers, producers and customers, and each of these groups need to devise strategies to deal with this.

For manufacturers in the commercial cleaning industry, I expect to see in 2024 a growing demand for the refurbishment and trade of used machines. In the current economic climate, businesses may well consider the expense of investing in new equipment prohibitive, and instead seek to extend the working life of their existing equipment, or perhaps purchase refurbished equipment. Polivac machines are renowned for their long working life, and so buyers are assured of great service from them.  

What do you expect to be the big floorcare trends of 2024?

New styles of floors, made from new materials and utilising new coating chemicals are constantly being developed and introduced into the market, and makers of cleaning equipment must adapt to ensure that their products are suitable for these new surfaces.

It’s likely that users of commercial cleaning equipment will want more value from their machines, demanding more efficient equipment which reduces the time and cost of cleaning, either through more efficient machines, which gets the job done faster, or by reducing how many times a surface needs to be cleaned, in a given period of time, such as a week or month.

These commercial trends provide great incentive for makers of cleaning equipment to be innovative, and to seek to continually improve their products, to adapt to changing demands.  

What is your leadership philosophy?

In almost every organisation, its number one asset is its staff. As such, leaders of organisations must ensure that their staff receive the absolute best training and support possible, to allow them to operate at their full potential. A well-trained workforce will inevitably promote high-quality output, whether the business is involved in manufacturing, or the service industry. In the case of Polivac, our workforce utilises its learned expertise to ensure that a constantly high-quality product is produced, and that we supply exactly what a customer has ordered, in the fastest possible time.

As the leader of my business, I try to instil this philosophy into all my employees, so that they can develop, and in turn, either at Polivac or in a future position elsewhere, pass these principles on to people they may lead or manage

Do you have a message for the industry?

My message is “Keep it clean”. Be open to clean, friendly competition. That should motivate businesses to continually improve, to innovate. At the same time, it’s so important to continue to build and nurture your relationships with your suppliers and customers, as your key stakeholders, to understand their requirements. And perhaps most of all, be open and supportive of your workforce, your primary asset.

I’ve been involved in the cleaning industry for a long time now, and it still inspires and excites me. There is so much potential for innovation and progress to occur in the coming years.

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