Best Bar was formed 21 years ago, by brothers Grant and Bradley Johnston and their father Steve, at a time when there were only two participants in the reinforcing steel industry: BHP and ARC Smorgon. Both these companies owned steel mills in Australia giving them something of an advantage when it came to supply chain logistics. However, Best Bar sourced their steel from overseas mills, which they cut and bent to order for their customers, enabling them to provide a competitive and highly flexible service.
Having started off with small residential properties and other diminutive structures, they were given the opportunity to move into civil engineering projects in 1997 when invited to tender for the Northbridge Tunnel. Winning the contract, which involved the supply of 26,000 tonnes of reinforcing steel, helped them to make a name for themselves and, under pressure from the duopoly against which they were competing, they subsequently expanded to become a national operation.
Realising the need for a strong partnership with a quality steel mill, Best Bar found NatSteel, in Singapore, who were looking to expand into the Australian market at the time. This partnership gave them a stable supply of raw materials at attractive prices, at the same time as helping them to refine their internal procedures and become more efficient by learning from their larger corporate partner. Following the acquisition of NatSteel by the Tata Group in 2005, they had the opportunity to incorporate even more of big industry’s efficiencies into their own working practices, making them stronger and more competitive than ever.
The global financial crisis in 2008 resulted in Tata Group liquidating their Australian holdings, giving the Johnston brothers the chance to regain complete ownership of the company. Since doing so, they have run Best Bar as a family business, but one that still enjoys the benefits of the efficient processes and procedures they learned from their larger corporate partners.
Overcoming the handicap of high, fixed labour costs by investing heavily in mechanisation, and reducing administrative costs by moving to a paperless system, they have managed to become even more competitive in recent years. This fact, along with the IT system they developed, which allows customers to log into the corporate ERP and control their orders from start to finish, has enabled Best Bar to establish itself as the 2nd largest company in the Australian steel reinforcing industry. The flexible, competitive service they offer to customers across the country is hard for their rivals to match.
Today, the brothers are focusing on developing new talent in their workforce: young employees, including their own children, are driving the company forward with innovative new ideas and raw enthusiasm. Despite ongoing issues with the protectionist regulations proposed by the federal government and backed by troubled Arrium Steel, the Australian steel mill monopoly which went into administration in April of this year, Best Bar believe that their focus on young talent will enable them to reinforce their current position in the market and go on to even greater things in the future.