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We chat to new General Manager Hamish McBeath about his plans for the business and what’s on the horizon for the steel industry as a whole.

Just three months into the job and General Manager Hamish McBeath is very enthusiastic about what lies ahead for Fletcher’s steel distribution business.

Having been with Fletcher Building for 13 years, he’s got a strong resume when it comes to knowing the business, our products, our customers and the domestic and offshore markets.  

Starting out with Pacific Steel as a Shift Manager gave Hamish a strong grounding in Operations and saw him promoted to Galvanising Operations Manager, before moving to a Sales Manager position. Here he could offer a lot of value from a product perspective and he made a number of structural changes to the Wire Mill section of Pacific Steel over a four-month period, returning it to profitability within a year.

Next stop was Sales & Marketing for the entire Pacific Steel business; reinforcing and wire, domestic and export. After three busy years in that role, he was appointed General Manager for Pacific Coil Coaters, Fletcher’s steel paint line manufacturing business – distributors of the ColorCote brand.

Hamish’s most recent assignment before joining us was heading the Fletcher Building Unite transformation programme; an incredibly valuable role that saw him get to grips with all aspects of the business and develop relationships across the entire portfolio of companies.  

With an in-depth understanding of the wire and reinforcing markets, both domestic and international, Hamish is well up on supply partners, currency hedging (a key element of buying steel), quality and pricing issues.

He sees his main responsibility as “ensuring the business achieves value for our customers and our shareholders.” He points out that in order to do this, the company must have capable, engaged staff in a safe workplace, who understand how their job delivers value to our customers.

Through his Unite experience, Hamish is able to leverage his relationships throughout the Fletcher group and facilitate opportunities for customers where alignment exists.

Three challenges spring to mind when asked about issues facing the industry today.

Firstly, the sector is facing ongoing pressure from offshore, in terms of both imports and manufactured product made to sell offshore. Hamish says those customers that move to niche or high-end products are establishing a point of difference and maintaining or increasing sales. “A simple example was trailers started coming in from offshore as a standard commodity, our customers are now making them differently – bigger, stronger and with other points of difference – they have adapted and it’s working for a number of them.”

Secondly, Hamish says the potential influx of prefabricated structural steel from offshore is of varying quality. “Our customers fully understand the opportunities as well as the threats,” he says. “The supply chain needs to adapt and customers need to find and recognise quality product offshore.” He says Fletcher’s must support the industry and adapt to the determined direction: “It’s not just a blanket ‘No’ to imports – it’s about finding the best solution.”

Finally, with the start of the current infrastructure boom comes a new set of challenges from a reinforcing industry perspective, which is to solve a skilled labour shortage. “We’re working closely with our partners to fill the skills gap,” Hamish says, “but it’s a very real issue.”

Changes on the horizon
The company has recently completed both internal and external engagement surveys and these have highlighted a number of areas for improvement.

“We’re looking at internal resourcing and lifting our capability to ultimately improve our service to customers,” says Hamish.

“At the same time, we’re engaging with our customers to determine how to work with them to grow their business.”

There will also be some internal rebranding within the Fletcher steel distribution business, which will see more seamless interactions between customers and the Easysteel, Fletcher Reinforcing and Cyclone brands.

Less serious stuff
Originally from the Hawkes Bay, Hamish is now living on a couple of acres in Karaka, where he and his wife Kate are kept on their toes by four-year-old Hugh. Hamish enjoys golf and recreational diving, and says one of his favourite dive sites is the wreck of the Mikhail Lermontov at the top of the South Island.

And yes, we had to ask – is he a Blues supporter?
While he’d like to support them and generally does at the start of each season, that support tends to change to Canterbury as the season progresses, and in terms of the NPC, he backs the Hawkes Bay contingent all the way.