Gearing up for race challenge
Wellington racing car seat maker Racetech is looking to accelerate away from a "hellishly tough" 10 months as it opens a new factory it says will shift production up at least four gears.
The company recently moved to a new Seaview premises after its Petone factory was destroyed by fire in August last year.
But despite a year's worth of plans being put "onto the backburner", a new distribution facility in the United Kingdom has the company strapped in for plenty of growth.
Managing director David Black, a former rally champion who purchased Racetech in 1998, said production was back to full capacity after its new factory opened in June.
It had dropped as low as 30 or 40 per cent of normal volumes while at a temporary premises in Petone, but new machinery and a robot had Black excited about getting back into business.
About 18 months ago Racetech established its own distribution subsidiary in North Carolina in the United States, after concluding the third-party distributor model it had used was not working.
And Black has since mirrored the move in the United Kingdom, to tap into the European market which he believes will become the company's biggest.
"At the moment the US has been our biggest single market, but we really see Europe and the UK becoming bigger.
"Just because our existing product suits the top motorsport that happens in Europe more so than what happens in the States."
Black recently visited the UK, where he talked to one race organisation which had about 100 cars with seats that needed replacing, as motorsport had taken a positive swing towards improved safety levels in its cars.
Each would be worth about $7700 to replace, he said.
"So jobs like that are obviously going to have quite a significant effect on what we do here.
"There's a lot of business going on over there, a lot of opportunities."
As part of the new factory, Racetech had purchased new machinery, and had a new robot arriving by the end of the month, which would significantly reduce production times.
This would help quadruple production, he said, in time for increased distribution.
A new cutting machine would reduce waste by about 30 per cent on raw materials such as fabric and fibre class.
The robot, which trimmed the seats, had taken a job which was "nasty for a human being to do", and took about two hours, and reduced it to an eight-minute process.
"It should be so fast almost that the boys will be able to push the go button and go have smoko and a couple of seats will be trimmed."
The company's seats retail from about $500 to one which sells for $11,000.
Racetech was looking to have an official opening in August, a year after the fire which destroyed the old factory.
Fireman Troy Mahupuku was badly burned on the day, when more than 45 firefighters battled the blaze.
Black said it had been a "hellishly tough time" for the staff, who had done remarkably well in the circumstances.
The "tough one to swallow" from the fire had been having to put a year's worth of development onto the backburner while getting the business up and running again.
"The fact that it's taken 12 months of our growth . . . it actually stopped a lot of our development, we had plans to develop seats a year ago, new products and things like that.
"It's kind of been a flat line and will start climbing again."
The Dominion Post