For over four decades, Canberra-based CE Construction Solutions has been an institution in the ACT and regional NSW construction sector. And while product knowledge and supplier know-how count for plenty in this industry, it’s the people behind the brand who have taken CE (formerly known as CE Industries) from a small business to an award-winning company. The reason? They are problem-solvers.
From humble beginnings
Damian Ross and Michael Dixon are more than just CE’s co-managing directors – the company runs through their veins.
For Damian, school holidays were a time when he would clean under shelves, unpack and load up trucks, and later on make company deliveries. His youth spent running around concrete plants was the perfect grounding for a career in construction.
Plying his trade as a diesel mechanic, Damian worked in aviation before studying mechanical engineering at age 28. But in 2003, he returned home. Given his history with CE and mechanical expertise, Damian approached the founders – his father, Bob Ross, and Peter Fairburn – about joining the business.
Michael’s journey to co-managing director, on the other hand, wasn’t so straightforward. As a fresh-faced 18-year-old in 1989, he packed up his life in Darwin and moved to Canberra. Spending the early 1990s working as a storeman and driver for CE, Michael admits he never really had much of an interest in the business side of things.
“There was no real interest in the industry,” he says. “Back then, a job was a job.”
It wasn’t long before Michael drifted away from the company, but hunger for a new challenge and a different outlook saw him return to CE in June 1999. Today, he absolutely loves the business.
“I had gained sales experience in the residential building industry,” Michael says. “I really enjoyed what I was doing and knew the construction industry was where I wanted to be. The transition was huge, but very rewarding. To be working for this well-known company was what I wanted.”
Having also worked for former owners Bob Ross and Peter Fairburn, Michael immediately struck up a good working relationship with Damian. And that ease at building rapport is what he enjoys most about the customer side of the business – creating connections that lead to trusted, long-term relationships all across NSW and the ACT.
“Michael and I regularly travel to west NSW, the South Coast, Snowy Mountains and other places within NSW,” Damian says.
Over the past five years, these connections have seen CE Construction Solutions work on large-scale projects such as the Enlarged Cotter Dam project, Canberra Metro project, Gundagai Street upgrade and Goulburn Sewage upgrade.
Damian and Michael’s expertise has seen CE Construction Solutions recognised as trusted distributors of market-leading construction products, with the Master Builders Association (MBA) twice awarding them ‘Supplier of the Year’.
“To know a little company like ours can be as highly respected as multinationals like Boral and Harvey Norman is great,” Damian says. “It is the one time CE can stand alone in competition, while nearly every other winner of the most recent MBA awards has an account with us and we know them well.”
Their recognition stretches beyond these awards. When Complex Civil and Cord Civil won national and local awards, they each delivered appreciation certificates to CE for its contributions to their projects – such is the influence and support CE Construction Solutions provides.
This determination to solve problems is down to the CE team seeking out the best possible products and methods to help their clients.
“We are in a position to offer products from over 200 suppliers,” Damian says. “In those companies, we can pick the best-of-the-best products and systems for each application and have years of successful outcomes to fall back on.”
Damian says every job is also an opportunity to learn. When CE staff are fixing problems, they are also learning how to avoid them. This involves teaching customers about systems, options and products for their specific build.
“We pride ourselves on having options for our customers,” he says. “We either have what they need, or we have a lead on options we can discuss from various suppliers who can take on the project. We will be the first to tell customers if someone else can better help them.”
Embracing new methods for a better future
When civil engineering firm Dale & Hitchcock (D&H) approached CE Construction Solutions with a design for a Canberra waterways upgrade, Damian and Michael realised the proposed design would create extra work by using steel placement on a concrete batter.
CE proposed using fibres in the concrete instead, which would reduce set-up times for the walls and flooring, and accelerate construction time over the entire project. The plan was accepted, and the 100% Australian-made recycled fibres delivered huge savings in time and carbon emissions. The innovation, which saved more than 94% in carbon emissions, was applauded by the ACT Government.
CE prides itself on being at the cutting-edge of modern developments in construction, with concrete-maturity testing particularly innovative at the moment.
A wireless Bluetooth sensor known as SmartRock2, for example, can be buried into concrete during placement to measure the concrete’s strength via a smartphone.
The device then reads the temperature and time characteristics of the concrete mix (the maturity method) to calculate its real-time strength. Such a product reduces lost time on-site by providing accurate, real-time data. That means decisions about stressing concrete or removing formwork can be made faster.
CE is already introducing this technology across Australia, for projects as varied as tunnels, precast and railway lines.
A smooth transition
Much has happened since Damian and Michael returned to their roots at CE. So when the pair decided to purchase the company, they needed a solid transition team to ensure minimal disruption for their ongoing clients and industry partners. Bringing RSM, a Canberra-based professional services firm, on board was the ideal solution for the handover.
“When Michael and I bought CE, Andrew Sykes (partner at RSM) was instrumental in allowing a smooth transition from one owner to the next, to the extent that few people in the industry noticed the handover,” Damian says.
While CE Industries is now known as CE Construction Solutions, Damian and Michael are quick to clarify that it’s still the same people and the same company – just with a new logo. From its establishment in 1973 right through to today, CE continues to provide the construction industry with specialised services and high-quality support.
Find out more about CE Construction Solutions by visiting their website.
Andrew Sykes is a partner at RSM in Canberra. He is passionate about using his knowledge and expertise to help small businesses in Canberra prosper.