Innovation in eliminating inefficiencies
Businesses are always looking for ways of making their bottom line healthier, which is a large part of the reason why construction products innovation company Makinex continues to go from strength to strength.
Makinex is an Australian design company that seeks to make a difference to the global construction industry through the provision of innovative and high-quality products that empower customers with new and efficient ways to get their job done.
CEO Rory Kennard said his drive had always come from dissatisfaction with inefficiencies he noticed in processes common to a range of industries.
“I always had a passion for designing and inventing, so I decided to apply that passion to the creation of products that would eliminate some of those inefficiencies,” he said.
“Making inefficiencies extinct is both the origin of the company name and our mission statement to find solutions that are innovative and practical, and that save time, effort and money.”
Makinex is the result of Rory spending a decade learning how to design and commercialise products.
“The past seven years have been spent growing the business internationally,” Rory said.
“The big adjustment that enabled that change of focus was employing experts in each field of the business, so I could free up my time to concentrate on design.”
As Makinex has grown more successful, staff has increased from three people in 2008 to having 20 on the payroll in 2017.
Rory said that something like 80 per cent of product ideas have come from outside the business, through talking to customers, participating in trade shows, or visiting worksites.”
“Once the idea takes hold, there’s anywhere between 10 and 500 hours of development to get to prototype stage, followed by a detailed design for market.”
“The best advice I can give is to come up with a bold vision to drive you.”
Big hairy audacious goal
Rory took his own advice to heart about five years ago, deciding the company needed a stronger vision to work towards.
This led to the creation of what he calls the ‘Big Hairy Audacious Goal’.
“We made a conscious decision to set a big goal to chase – to have 20 products in 20 countries within 10 years,” Rory said.
“That’s driven us hard for the past five years, and we’re getting close to achieving it.”
Makinex has its own company in the USA; agents in the UK, Europe and NZ; distributors in China and Japan; and is working on building a presence in the Middle East and South Africa.
A measure of success is the number of awards that Makinex products have won, particularly its PHT140 powered hand truck.
The PHT140 has won worldwide acclaim, taking home the Safe Work Australia Good Design Award 2016 (Australia); the Rental Equipment Register (RER) Innovative Product Award 2016 (USA); the Executive Hire Show Innovation Trail Award 2016 (UK) and the China Logistics Technology Award 2017 Innovation Award (China).
“Winning an award gives you a great feeling of satisfaction and a confidence boost that your work is recognised and valued,” Rory said.
“I love seeing the reaction on people’s faces when you’re demonstrating a product at a trade show and they suddenly ‘get it’ – it’s a real buzz to see them realise how it can help their business.”
Ultimately, Rory says, the best reward is the person who buys a product, uses it, and comes back for more.
“That kind of customer confidence and repeat business shows us we’re doing something right,” he said.
Reaching the market
Since 2010, Makinex has been taking advantage of EMDG to help fund promotion in international markets, and has received six grants from the scheme.
Rory said EMDG grants had made a huge difference in how aggressive the company was able to be in visiting target markets.
“You need to be there for two to three years, visiting the same tradeshows, being visible to the same people, to have any impact – it took five years for us to get decent sales in the US,” he said.
“The grant has allowed us to visit and be present in the market more than we would otherwise have been able to afford.”
Future plans involve more of what’s proven so successful to date – find an inefficiency, apply innovative thinking to come up with a solution, and take it to market.
“There’s opportunity for safety efficiency in the autonomous and robotics field, so we’ll be looking closely at that segment of the market during the next few years,” Rory said.
“It’s almost time to develop a new Big Hairy Audacious Goal, so maybe that will figure into it somewhere.”
Makinex CEO Rory Kennard and Managing Director Paul Weaver with some of their range of innovative products