Focus on niche market boosts exports

Christchurch hi-tech manufacturer Fabrum Solutions has invested $3 million in new twice-as-large facilities in Hornby to match its growth in exports.

The company specialises in composite engineering and manufacturing, mainly for the superconductor industry. Superconductors conduct electricity efficiently without losing energy through heat or friction.

It also has a sophisticated waterjet profile cutting service - where a high-pressure stream of water is used for precision cutting of materials - as well as offering consulting engineering services.

In the past two years Fabrum's staff numbers have grown from six to 19.

Last year the company won an $800,000 contract with Vermeer, a United States- based manufacturer of agricultural and industrial equipment, to manufacture hammer drill components for a drill designed by Timaru company Flexidrill.

The company has also recently won two contracts in the superconductor industry in Europe and the United States and is negotiating a US$1.2 million (NZ$1.4m) contract for superconducter cryogenic (low temperature) applications equipment. The potential client is a supplier to the US equivalent of Transpower.

Fabrum is bucking the trend of a downbeat New Zealand manufacturing sector by providing a combination of manufacturing skills that few others could offer, and focusing on a niche market, Hugh Reynolds said.

Exports have gone from 5 per cent of total revenue to more than 50 per cent of sales, in less than two years.

Despite the exchange rate being "not good", it still paid to be in Christchurch as the city had a strong base of technical engineering companies and skills and received support from research by scientists at the Callaghan Innovation Institute.

Reynolds and Chris Boyle formed the Hornby-based company in 2004.

Fabrum Solutions' new facility on Waterloo Rd was officially opened by Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee yesterday.

The Christchurch manufacturer sometimes collaborates with other local research and design companies, which gives it more clout when pitching to overseas customers.

That helped to show customers that Christchurch had a wider hub of high-level technical skills, and in some instances helped it to secure major manufacturing and development contracts in the United States and Europe.

Fabrum's products are used in a variety of industries from paper manufacturing, to scientific equipment, to the automotive industry in Europe.

It supplies many Christchurch manufacturers, including wall-climbing robot company Invert Robotics.

The Press