Centenary Bulletin 16 – A W Chesterton International, USA

February 13, 2019

In 1993 to expand sales levels after a recession we entered into a distribution arrangement with A W Chesterton International, USA, to sell their composite protective coatings in southern Australia.

Chesterton was already known to us as a supplier of industrial mechanical seals, and there was a certain synergy with the successful Deublin rotary seals and their customer base.

Chesterton already had national distribution for their seals, so we took on the coatings, in the hope that we may ultimately gain future access to the seal product range.

Advanced Reinforced Composites was marketed as ARC, the trade name for the coating products. The ARC product was good – very good in fact, and when applied correctly, to either a metal or concrete surface, was in most cases better than the original material.

It was a two-part mix with a fast curing time, quite expensive, but it worked. Like all surface repair work good preparation and cleaning was essential.

A repair job on a concrete ramp at the Heidelberg building has lasted nearly 20 years in a high traffic load area with no signs of wear. ARC was good.

John Spicer from Chesterton convinced us to take on the ARC product. $250,000 of stock, three new salesmen with cars and we were in the protective coating business. We had some immediate limited success, but we always seemed to have the wrong stock on hand in what was an extensive range.

Finally, the big one came. General Motors needed to repair a roof top outdoor garage for their Holden Design Centre in Port Melbourne. They wanted a matt black finish and enough material to cover the area, which was used as photo-shoot area for their new car designs.

Of course, we did not have the material in stock, but after expensive airfreight we were able to supply on time to suit an urgent GM timeframe. GM wanted a ‘turn-key’ job, but we refused and sold them the material on the basis that a Chesterton employee would attend and oversee the application of the ARC, which would be laid by their contractor.

After the two-part material is mixed and applied, a lot of heat is generated during the curing process. If the concrete sub-floor contains any moisture, it turns to steam and bubbles out through the curing ARC composite.

In the GM case, poor preparation by their contractor and a wet under surface meant that the resulting finished surface was not flat but pock-marked with bubbles from the escaping steam, which gave very poor photo quality.

GM were not pleased and refused to pay until it was pointed out that their contractor had laid the material and we were just the supplier. Our local Chesterton contact should have taken some responsibility, but he somehow went missing during this negotiation. GM, to their credit, paid us immediately, but we were left with a very uncomfortable feeling about Chesterton and their customer support.

We decided to cut our losses, told Chesterton to take back their stock. They duly refused, so we sold the lot at a substantial loss to the Sydney distributor, and exited the coatings business for ever.

A lesson well learned. It is very hard to develop new business without competent support and correct stock holding from a supplier.