Christian Damstra’s father started Damstra Mining Services when he began doing contract work for mines, and eventually built up a labour hire business. But how did a labour hire business for the mining sector end up becoming a technology company? Well, it all started, logically, with a workforce management system.
Christian, who came on board as General Manager in 2003, explains, “We had a training division, a printing division, and we added in our technology division. It came around to better facilitate the management of skills, competencies and training data for our workforce,” says Christian. “Then Xstrata Coal very quickly snapped it up as a product for them to manage their external workforce.”
Focused on technology
When his father sold the company to Skilled Australia in 2006, Christian stayed on as the GM of the Damstra division. But it was on the proviso that it would be solely technology focused, removing the labour hire aspect of the business altogether. For the next ten years, Christian ran Damstra Mining Services as a technology company as part of the Skilled Group. Then, n 2016, Programmed Facilities Management decided to buy Skilled Australia. That's when Christian negotiated to buy back Damstra and renamed the business Damstra Technology.
“The reason we did that is because we have now been purely in technology for over 10 years. And we are servicing markets outside of mining – telecommunications, quarries, construction – all types of industries.”
Anyone who has got an employee has a need for our product. – Christian Damstra
Damstra Technology’s human capital management and workplace systems allow companies to ensure workplaces are safe and compliant, and to manage assets and resources. For example, Damstra has created a system that integrates with PPE vending machines to track and charge for the use of personal protective equipment.
Workforce management systems
While it may seem that the company chose to manage assets instead of people, Christian says at the end of the day it always comes back to the people. “The reason we went into assets and vehicles is that people operate those assets and those fleet vehicles. If a vehicle is not up the scratch, then we don’t want them driving it. If a person hasn’t got the right skills to operate equipment, we don't want them operating it. Simply because it affects that person.”
“Anyone who has got an employee has a need for our product,” says Christian. “Every employee has a requirement, whether they simply need rights to work in Australia, a copy of their driver’s licence or right through to high-risk work licences and medicals. Our systems make all of those types of things easy for companies to manage.”
We’re not selling a widget that they can walk away with and have on their shelves, we sell a relationship. – Christian Damstra
A collaborative approach
To ensure its systems do exactly what is needed, Damstra works in partnership with clients. “We’re not selling a widget that they can walk away with and have on their shelves, we sell a relationship. They are going to be working with us for many, many years to come. So, we talk with clients a lot and take their feedback and put that back into our product.”
Good communication with clients was especially important when Damstra branched out into providing solutions for industries outside mining. “It was a bit of a learning curve when we started to break out of being purely mining, because we knew mining. It was second nature to us, but then we started going into the quarries and construction and telecommunications,” says Christian. The company worked with the clients to understand what was different about their needs and incorporate those capabilities into its systems.
This collaborative approach is clearly the right one, as Damstra Technology was recently named one of Westpac’s Top 20 Businesses of Tomorrow 2017.
The business has grown steadily in Australia over the past 15 years, and is now working on overseas expansion. Damstra has built up a list of clients in New Zealand and is pursuing opportunities in the US and South America. “We are going continue to work on those international growth opportunities whilst still maintaining our position in the Australian marketplace,” says Christian.
But he won’t let the company’s growth affect its “culture of connectedness”.
“I’m proud that we’ve been able to grow to where we are, but maintain a sense of closeness in the organisation. It’s a good place to work and a fair place to work. We are a big organisation run out of a country town in the Hunter Valley.”