INNOVATION AND APPLICATION
Disc Brakes Australia has been driving innovation for more than 40 years
Proudly Australian, Disc Brakes Australia has a global reputation for designing and manufacturing quality braking components. From humble beginnings in Waterloo, New South Wales, today DBA is ready to write the next chapter in its already impressive story.
The seed was planted in the 1970s when Phillip Joseph Sr. joined his father, Oscar Joseph, at Sydney Clutch and Brake Exchange in Waterloo.
“Phillip was working alongside his father at Sydney Clutch and Brake when a customer came in, looking for a replacement brake rotor for his 1967 HR Holden,” Phil Joseph, General Manager, Operations, Disc Brakes Australia, says.
When the customer mentioned that he couldn’t buy a genuine or aftermarket rotor anywhere, the father and son quickly identified a significant gap in the market and promptly put the wheels in motion, developing a product to meet this newly discovered demand.
“My father Phillip went out, did some work at the foundry, and machined up 10 sets of replacement disc rotors with Oscar’s help,” Phil describes.
Until this point, as replacement parts weren’t readily available, everyone used to constantly machine rotors, so having discovered an untapped market, it wasn’t long before all the HR rotors from the first production run were sold.
“About six months after that initial production run, another customer enquired about replacement rotors for a 1968 XP Ford Falcon, and the same pattern followed. My father commissioned another production run at the foundry, the customer purchased a set, and the rest were put into stock,” Phil explains.
“The business just grew from there, and it wasn’t long before the range extended to include replacement rotors for a selection of the more popular vehicles.”
It is interesting to note that Oscar had actually identified the future demand for quality replacement brake rotors, having registered the name Disc Brakes Australia more than 10 years before commissioning that first run of HR disc brakes.
It wasn’t long before the father and son team outgrew the Waterloo shop, which just provided a brake and clutch exchange service. Taking a plunge, Phillip and Oscar moved into their own premises, allowing them the opportunity to build a dedicated manufacturing base and invest in research and development.
“My father was certainly an innovator,” Phil remarks.
“He understood the value of developing and where possible patenting new technology that would differentiate DBA’s product offering from our competitors, some of the best examples being the Kangaroo Paw ventilation technology, T2, T3 slots, and two-piece rotors.”
DBA’s professionalism and expertise eventually started to attract the attention of the local vehicle manufacturers, and from the 1990s the likes of Mazda, Mitsubishi, as well as Ford and Holden commissioned DBA to produce disc rotors for their Original Equipment Service (OES) – with the latter two arrangements continuing to this day. Impressed with DBA’s technical expertise, Ford took the partnership to the next level, relying on DBA as a development and prototyping resource for some of their Original Equipment brakes.
Over the years, DBA has supplied Original Equipment performance brake rotors to FPV and HSV, including variants of the Falcon AU, Commodore VE, and the last generation Falcon FG-X.
DBA currently employs more than 30 people working in production and related functions such as R&D, product design, procurement, and logistics, proving its commitment to product innovation and range expansion.
“Australia has one of the world’s most complex vehicle car parcs,” Phil says.
“Unlike many of our competitors who basically conform to the one-size-fits-all mantra, all of our replacement rotors are purpose-designed. As a result, we pride ourselves on covering everything from a straight OE replacement product for your everyday drive all the way up to performance applications, special applications, track day use, and even race applications.
“Of course, each of those segments requires a very specific product, specific price points, and unique marketing. And I think that’s what we’ve been doing very well to cater for these different segments and offer the right products for those applications,” he adds.
Unlike many of its competitors who basically source imported products and market under their own brand name, DBA is proud of its history of innovation, commitment to local manufacturing where feasible, and its success in unlocking new export opportunities.
“Approximately a quarter of the businesses is now export,” Phil says.
“We are currently selling in 40 markets across the globe, servicing the needs of people looking for performance upgrades or a higher quality product. But, again, it’s our local manufacturing capabilities, combined with our engineering muscle is the cornerstone of our success globally.”
While DBA has long been considered the brake rotor market leader, braking performance is ultimately affected by pad choice. As a result, DBA recently launched a range of brake pads specifically designed to ensure customers would get the best results from their braking package.
“For quite some time, everyone would buy their rotors from us and then look elsewhere for brake pads,” Phil says.
“There are thousands of options out there, and people were struggling to identify the pads that would deliver the best performance when matched with the DBA rotors, so we launched our own brake pad offering with an extensive range of applications that now extends to more than 700 SKUs,” he explains.
Of course, the success of this family business started to pique the interest of significant players in the automotive aftermarket, and in 2018 DBA was acquired by GUD Holdings.
“Being welcomed into the GUD group certainly provides many benefits, and it’s a testament to the blood, sweat, and tears the company founder and all our loyal employees have poured into the business over the years,” DBA Executive General Manager, Gideon Segal, explains.
“GUD supports DBA in increasing resources around the strategy and structure for the business, and in DBA having a solid growth platform with an increased and more strategic focus on export markets.”
GUD has long been recognised as nurturing a strong culture of innovation, and DBA plans to leverage this moving forward.
“We’ve got a full-time research, development, and innovation manager, partnerships with some of the country’s top universities, and we’ve received government grants towards our innovation function,” Gideon says.
“When combined with the support that GUD delivers to the business, we’re excited to take the company to the next level, and DBA already has a plan in development to further extend its already impressive range.”
“Our ultimate goal is to own the entire wheel end,” Gideon says.
There’s no greater test bed for automotive products than competitive motorsport, and DBA has joined forces with leading Supercar team, Tickford Racing as their exclusive brake partner.
“Our relationship with Tickford extends well past their efforts in the Supercars Championship,” Gideon says.
“We have worked closely with Tickford automotive and have a whole range of products ready for their applications, primarily for the Ranger and the Mustang.
“Tickford have now listed DBA as an upgrade option for their Australian vehicle configurations, which is a huge win for us. We’ve always had that technology and that application but for Tickford automotive to take that on board is fantastic,” he adds.
As one of the most respected and successful businesses in the Australian Automotive Aftermarket industry, DBA has been long-term supporters of the AAAA.
“The AAAA is the primary channel for the exchange of industry knowledge in the automotive aftermarket,” Phil says.
“I’m proud to say that my father, Phillip, was a very active member of the AAAA, and he was a driving force in training up the next generation of technicians and mechanics.
“I can also say with confidence that DBA is the AAAA’s most awarded automotive manufacturer. I believe we’ve been recognised with a Manufacturer of the Year Award on more than 15 occasions” he adds.
DBA and the AAAA have worked hand-in-hand, lobbying the government on braking and safety standards for car vehicles on many occasions.
“The AAAA provide amazing support to the industry, so we support them in all their efforts,” Phil explains.
“With the AAAA’s assistance, we pioneered several export markets, including the Middle East, China, and the USA. The association has provided invaluable assistance, helping Australian businesses get a foothold and grow penetration into these markets, and we couldn’t have done it without their assistance.
“We have also extensively used the services of the AAAA’s Auto Innovation Centre to help us develop product.”
To keep up with all the latest news from DBA as it starts writing history in this new chapter of its exciting and ever-expanding business, visit www.dba.com.au