After 54 years of pumping septic tanks, jetting pipes and building pump sets, you’d think octogenarian Ralph Wiggins might have had enough. But with a growing family, thriving business and new products launching, he’s got plenty more to get done before hanging up his boots.
The SEWERQUIP story starts back in 1965. Having learnt the ropes from his plumber father, Ralph started a business cleaning pipes and septic tanks around greater Sydney.
As the business (and his family) grew, it wasn’t long before he had four trucks on the road and two sons helping out during the school holidays. As their mates took off on BMX bikes in the 80s, teenagers James and Mark Wiggins were helping in the business pumping out grease traps of Chinese restaurants in Haymarket.
Then there were three
Having grown through excellent services and word-of-mouth, Ralph sold his business in 1987. Soon after,, spotting a gap in the market for power equipment, Ralph set up AIM Equipment, selling a range of engines, generators and pumps, joined in the business by sons James and Mark.
Initially from a small shed in Blacktown, their expertise in plumbing and pumps led to a growing demand for specialist pipe maintenance equipment. In 2003, the team shifted focus to jetters and accessories for plumbers before an official name change to SEWERQUIP.
The new kids on the block
Having spent their 90s school holidays helping in the warehouse and doing stocktakes, it seemed inevitable that James’ sons, Brent and Troy Wiggins, would join the team, coming on board in 2004/5.
With their passion for design, innovation and technology, the boys helped kick off an exciting growth phase for SEWERQUIP as it continued to grow steadily across Australia.
A tipping point in the business came with the launch of the Ranger series of truck and trailer jetters, which reached a whole new market. On top of that, an expansion into supplying heavy-duty custom equipment for Municipal Councils and Water Authorities in 2014 took things to a new level.
“The game changed when we landed a huge contract for a major State Water Authority to supply a fleet of 30 customised trucks. That stretched the team and was the challenge we needed to step up,” says Troy Wiggins, Sales & Marketing Manager.
So, fist fights?
With five strong-willed family members running the show, you’d have to wonder if things get ‘interesting’ in the boardroom.
“Like any family, we have our moments. But there’s always been a great mutual respect between the generations, and we don’t hold grudges. Often it’s the frank discussions that lead to the best decisions,” explains Brent Wiggins, who looks after Operations and R&D.
While Mark, General Manager, and James, Co-Founder and CEO, each bring 30 years of industry experience across strategy and operations, they encourage Brent and Troy to continue leading the charge. Mark explains:
“Brent’s always had a passion for product design, tech and innovation. He’s the brainchild behind our industry-leading jetter designs and super efficient nozzles. He is constantly scouring the world for innovative new equipment we import from North America and Europe. He’s also working on a new range of products in the vacuum space which the team’s really excited about.”
“As for Troy, he’s one of the most knowledgeable guys in the industry. There’s no problem he can’t help with, and no question he can’t answer about pipe maintenance or our products. Plumbers all over Australia seem to call him for advice.”
Ralph, now in his 80s, is still actively involved in the business, in the office a few days a week overseeing things and passing on knowledge to the team.
The family team is just getting started
With loyal plumbing customers, a growing municipal division and a host of new products in the pipeline, SEWERQUIP has big plans for the future.
“In 2020 we open our brand new purpose-built manufacturing facility across the road. It will allow us to increase production, grow our range, stock more products and deliver better, faster customer service,” says CEO James Wiggins.
“We’re ahead of the game in terms of technology and innovation, but our 50-year legacy also gives us an edge. Having been through the dirty work ourselves, we understand what it’s like for our customers who roll up their sleeves every day. All the experience and war stories shared down the generations get fed into the design of our products.
“In the end it’s all about more compact, powerful and durable gear that can get the job done faster and at a lower cost. Our goal is to help our customers run better, more profitable businesses.“
While they are still too young to let loose in the office, Brent and Troy both have little lads running around. So with family roots already extending back over five decades, there might just be a few more branches growing on the SEWERQUIP family tree.