Ari Zaharopoulos is celebrating a significant milestone of 25 years working with Street Furniture Australia. During this time, he has processed an estimated 1.5 million battens for the company’s seats and benches.

“If you have sat on a Street Furniture Australia seat or bench – anywhere around the country and overseas – the battens were likely processed by Ari,” says head of operations Christopher Morgan.

Ari’s journey with Street Furniture Australia began in 1995 at a much smaller operation located in Bourke Street, Alexandria. The factory was later moved to Buckland Street, also in Alexandria, before the upgrade to the Regents Park premises in Western Sydney.

“There’s a lot more room to move now,” Ari says, “and the way we do things has become more and more efficient.”

Initially, batten drilling was a manual operation, with one hole made at a time. Today, Ari uses a jig that allows for multiple holes at a time, and can be programmed to different product requirements.

Innovations like these have helped the Street Furniture Australia factory go from producing around 15-20 seats a day in 1995 to a capacity of 70-100 seats in 2021 – though this would only occur for very large jobs, as each product is made-to-order just before dispatch.

Street Furniture Australia has also adopted the ‘just in time’ manufacturing concept – a component of the Toyota LEAN philosophy – to eliminate waste and maximise efficiency on the factory floor.

The factory is often used as an exemplar case study by Best Practice Network meetings for NSW and interstate manufacturers looking to improve their own production facilities and processes.

Since his entry into the company 25 years ago, Ari has worked in just about every area of production – starting in the welding area, moving to assembly and assisting in spray painting; however, batten processing has always been his favourite job.

“We have a really good team in the batten area and on the floor right now in general,” he says. “One of our newer employees, Dom, wants to try for 2 million battens and take my title. He’s got a long way to catch up, but I think that’s a really good sign for the future of the company.”