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Executive Report : Intensive innovation
Armorgard is celebrating its 30th anniversary with a slew of new and updated solutions for the hire market. Dan Jenkins talks to its Head of Product Development about the design and development process.
Armorgard was founded in Hampshire in 1989 by Paul Mitchell and its first product was Strongbank, a secure site storage box. Today the range encompasses more than 130 products, from storage boxes to materials handling solutions. They are sold through a network of distributors, including tool and plant hire outlets and builders merchants.
The Fareham-based company takes a hands-on approach to market research, through its Armorgard Xtra initiative. This includes product trials, demonstrations, group training, and workshops, for both hirers and end users.
“We always do our best to listen to the trends and issues which occur on site,” said Matt Partridge, Head of Product Development. “In addition to designing and manufacturing products that make life easier, safer and more productive for end users, we have a strong focus on adding value for hirers, namely products that deliver exceptional ROI for distributors. We engage in ‘show and tell’ activities with product demonstrations on site. It is the best way to get feedback direct from the horse’s mouth. We listen to the problems of existing and potential customers on a daily basis.”
The TuffBank range of tool boxes and chests is one of the company’s consistent best-sellers. However, it has been given an overhaul, with anti-jemmy features and hardened steel plates to make locks almost impenetrable, and a cable passing point to enable charging without compromising security. It carries ‘Secured by Design’ certification, which is endorsed by the police. New safety features on the second-generation TuffBank include a lid designed to prevent it slamming shut on workers.
An optional extra is the PowerShelf, which transforms TuffBank into a secure power source with four 110v sockets and four USB ports. Also available are crane lifting eyes and robust castors to facilitate safe and efficient positioning on site.
“It’s not only about bringing new products to market, buts it’s also about how we can improve existing ones, finding different and better ways to solve customer problems,” said Matt Partridge. “It can be about simple changes - incremental decisions and refinements that give big results.”
TuffBank is one of no fewer than 20 new and improved products launching in 2019. Armorgard is promising enhanced safety and improved designs for manual handling solutions such as telescopic handlers and turntable trucks.
Vive la différence!
The company recently expanded into mainland Europe, with the establishment of Armorgard France, which has its own premises and a warehouse for fulfilment. While there are differences in working methods, the prime drivers on construction sites remain the same in Paris as they are in Peckham or Pontefract.
“The drivers from our customers are always a mixture of site safety and productivity,” said Matt Partridge. “The end goal is the same, but cultural differences mean that the path to get there might be slightly different.”
Armorgard sees continued product development as a way of staying ahead of the curve and maintaining its competitive edge. “Over the last three years we have delivered an ever-increasing number of product launches. As a brand, Armorgard has come a long way. It is no longer known as just a storage box company. It is now the on-site construction equipment company,” he contends.
“You can only achieve that by listening to your customers. For example we know dust is a hot topic for contractors, so last year we added extraction capabilities to our CuttingStation. This year we have launched the FlexiKart for manual handling, to help prevent musculoskeletal issues. A core strategy for us is to develop patentable products like last year’s CuttingStation, so we can
really push the boundaries of innovation.” •