There’s something about a beautiful wooden interior that makes a building particularly striking, and just feels good. We can’t quite put our finger on why, but it’s common knowledge, of course, to the people at XLam. They’re clued in about how timeless timber can be, while improving air circulation, and contributing to an improved emotional state and sense of self-expression.
It makes sense, of course, that Australasia’s leading innovator and supplier of cross-laminated timber (CLT) would know a thing or two about sustainable wood and the incredible impact it can have in any space.
XLam’s humble roots stem from Nelson, where brothers Robin and Ian Jack founded the company in 2010. Immense growth followed, and in 2016, Mayflower acquired XLam. These days, they’re a booming industry leader operating in both New Zealand and Australian markets, the proud well-known frontrunners at the helm of sustainable building solutions.
From day one, XLam’s always held a strong, central mentality that health comes first, which is nothing less than what you’d expect from a business with such an emphasis on collective wellbeing through sustainable products. It’s a stance that has held them in good stead, but proved difficult to maintain
However, as with any business success story, XLam’s road to industry success wasn’t always smooth sailing. When it came to the basics - that is, health and safety - they realised that while their previous system had worked for the founding years of the business, it was unsuitable as they experienced rapid growth, expanding to an Australian market.
“The system at the time simply wasn’t ever going to cope with that rate of growth,” said Gary McShane, Business Operations Manager at XLam. It rings true for XLam and is a common theme seen in many businesses across multiple industries. As businesses succeed, and scale-up, safety inevitably has to grow with it.
Unfortunately, traditional health and safety methods tend to crumble in this kind of pressure that growth brings. Paper-based systems are usually as effective as a band-aid on a broken leg, and XLam found they were no exception.
“It was a bit fragmented,” recalled Patrick Cotter, Offsite Solutions Manager, “Nothing in place to say ‘This is how we do everything here.’” Paper-based systems tend to be chaotic, with a lack of clear understanding from all staff about the chain of communication and degree of responsibility from different people.
The reality was clear: XLam, with their vision to be the leading supplier of sustainable building materials, was falling short from the inside-out, struggling to practically organise their health and safety as they grew so quickly - and finding it increasingly more difficult to continue providing adequate care for their staff as a result.
“We saw a clear need for a web-based portal-like health and safety system,” said Gary. That’s when ecoPortal entered the picture. The resounding response? Instant relief from the XLam team. Health and safety could scale at the same pace as the rest of the business and transferring to a web-based software meant everyone could spend a little less time on scanning copies of files and putting them in folders (as Gary recalled), and a little more time on the fun stuff.
A few initiatives leapt up, as a result of integrated incident data. “We’ll see some near-misses with forklifts,” Gary remembered. “And it wasn’t just one near-miss, we saw the trend.” Using their data from ecoPortal, XLam decided to put blue lights on all their forklifts that were set to shine when the forklift was five meters away from any machine. It was no surprise that their near-miss rate dropped soon after.
The best way to create an organic, yet effective safety culture is to make health and safety reporting a seamless, integrated process. Easy systems create strong engagement, something that XLam Business Excellence Advisor, Craig Christie noticed. “What we have achieved is really good engagement from all levels of staff.”
An innovative company like XLam needs adaptive and quick-thinking systems in all processes, and health and safety was not excluded. “ecoPortal was very good at never saying no.” said Gary, “Just - we’ve not done this before, let’s look at it and create a solution.” A health and safety system that just makes sense - organised, coherent and cohesive - is really a non-negotiable for any successful business growing and expanding, like XLam. It should, ideally, be something you’re proud of and enjoy working with.
At the end of the day, Craig put it best: “It’s us, working together, to get safer.”