What do brands like Dodge, Maserati and Speedos have in common with Sutton Tools? Simple, they’ve all been around for 100 years. 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the Sutton Tools Group and to top it off, at this year’s AMTIL Expo they were inducted into the Victorian Manufacturing Hall of Fame. So we thought we’d take a look at how Sutton have grown to become Australia’s top tooling manufacturers.
The Sutton brand was initially launched in 1917 in Melbourne’s Westgarth, by William Henry Sutton. William Sutton was a leading tool engineer in Great Britain before he migrated to Australia and started the business. The company has now seen four generations of the Sutton family grow and run the business, with Peter and Robert Sutton now Directors of the company. In an interview with Chris Sheedy for CSS FATMAG, Robert discussed his view on the company and its history.
“I think our company’s longevity has something to do with genetics. We have always thought long-term. We are risk averse. We focus on the product and are obsessive about finding the very best equipment, which has meant each generation has done a great deal of overseas travel to procure that equipment. Being a private, family business has helped us in that way as our competitors, typically large corporates, have focussed on the bottom line rather than quality.”
Sutton’s ongoing focus on quality over bottom-line is an ideal that resonates deeply with their customers and employees. It’s a focus that has helped them transform the industry and maintain their place at the forefront of the industry as tooling manufacturers. As Robert went on to tell CSS FATMAG:
“We don’t play games. We don’t drive flashy cars. Everything we make goes back into the business. I think it’s; those conservative, old-school types of approaches that have helped us stay In business and retain key staff. It’s a simple, family approach, and it’s one that people respond to.”
One of the brands greatest challenges came in 2012, with the wave of competing manufacturers and producers moving operations to Asia for cheaper manufacturing costs. Sutton saw this shift in the industry as an opportunity, building strength and growing their brand, through that focus on product quality.
“We’re not cutting jobs, we’re actually still trying to grow our business, mainly through our export activities in Europe. Comparing yourself and your products and cost against leading manufacturers, involves a lot of industry research, a lot of travel and a lot of investment as well in maintaining the most efficient plant possible.” Peter Sutton – Sutton Tools Chief Manufacturing Officer, 2012.
Maintaining that family based company culture, constant innovation and adaptation to a developing industry is also a major factor in Sutton’s success over the century. This has played a role throughout Sutton’s history as, In 1960, Sutton adopted the best method of producing the finest drill in the world and in 2012 they went on to integrate robotics and automation to improve safety and productivity. A move that helped win them the Victorian WorkSafe award.
“Our aim was to do three things: 1. to eliminate repetitive manual loading 2. to have a common process which makes the components transportable from one machine to the other and 3. a process which is quick setting and easy to use integrated with the machine so that it becomes operator friendly.” Phillip Xuereb, Chief Engineering Executive at Sutton.
Now, as part of their centenary celebration, Sutton would seem to have gone back to their roots, recently releasing their “Silver Bullet” drills. The line has been marketed as the new generation of drill and has been tested to outperform any of its counterparts.
It’s truly a marvel whenever a brand hits that 100-year mark and based off their track record the team at Sutton tools look to be around for another 100. Through their family values and loyalty to its customers and workforce, Sutton is and will always be one of Australia’s favourite tooling brands.