A key factor in its success is an ability to identify and develop competitive, innovative products for an international market. But the export industry has faced significant challenges in recent months, according to Ronstan’s managing director, Alistair Murray. Despite the challenges, Murray remains optimistic and the company retains a positive attitude.
“I can’t hide from the fact that in the last twelve months our industry has been hit for six. Boats are big ticket, luxury items and when times get tough, investments shrink and jobs are lost – the first thing that goes is the boat,” says Murray.
“The boating industry is almost in shut-down mode at the moment and the boat builders of the world particularly in the northern hemisphere have gone quiet.”
Murray is proud of the award-winning Orbit range of ball bearing and ratchet blocks Ronstan has developed for small boats, but a diminishing market has led to disappointing sales.
“I still feel very positive about having developed them, because when the market comes back, which it will, we will be better prepared as we know we have the best product in the world, we’ve done our homework, and it will pay off.
“It is very frustrating to have released new products after such a significant amount of development only to be hit with the biggest downturn the industry has ever seen.
But I don’t regret the investment or the effort we put into it one bit.
“The small blocks that we originally sold were made of stainless steel and plastic. We set out to make the new Orbit range the lightest, strongest, most free running, efficient and most aesthetically pleasing on the world market – and we achieved this.
“The Orbit blocks are almost entirely made from plastic with two small internal stainless steel pins, and in the ratchet block, an aluminium sheath.”
Murray says that despite higher tooling costs, the end result was improved with a more a superior product that is much lighter, corrosion resistant and can be assembled for less.
“I have a passion for export and for developing business overseas and this is what has led to our need to be innovative and to invest in innovation in our manufacturing technology to make us competitive.
“I don’t do the design or the manufacturing; my passion is our relationships with customers and competitors throughout the world and the marketing and promotion of our brand internationally.
“If we had just relied on the local Australian market we would have gone out of business years ago, and we have been pushing and pushing to become less Australian focused. We currently export two thirds of our products, and I think that’s pathetic! It should be at ninety-five per cent, and I won’t rest until we get there.”
Murray says Ronstan will continue to set high targets aimed at increasing the products the company exports. “We have 2500 items in our range, we sell them all in Australia, but there are only about 500 or 1000 that are good enough to take to world markets. However, we are expecting ninety-five per cent of the Orbit block range to be exported.
“We have spent decades promoting our brand and I believe our biggest strengths are our brand and our distribution. The most effective way to get the Ronstan brand on the international scene is through meeting people face to face,” says Murray.
“It’s all about building relationships with customers. Our customers know we have the quality, the service, the back-up, the delivery and the brand and we have primed the market.
“Innovation is the most important thing now. The customers are there, we have the reputation – so our focus is now to continue to create world’s best products.”