Eagle eye sees roof firm flying

By Michele McPherson

When I arrived at the International Roofing office, Lance Eagle was on Skype closing a deal with a Honduras businessman.
I didn't mind waiting as the fast-growing Katikati company chalked up another export order for its unique metal roofing tile production plant.
"Skype is wonderful," said Mr Eagle, the sales, marketing and business manager at International Roofing.
"I'm on it every week with a customer. The fast internet means you can put up a video or picture and talk the client through the product. In the old days you had to send a video cassette or CD to the client."
The latest deal involved sending a cheaper second hand production plant and tooling to the Honduran roofing company.
Mr Eagle agreed to sell the tile making plant already being used in the new Katikati Wedgewood St factory by sister company Apex Tile Manufacturing, which services the New Zealand market. A new plant would be built for Apex.
Mr Eagle said "we sell tiled roofing solutions and offer a suite of services to meet the customers' requirements - whether it's coloursteel or stone chip tiles.
"A client in Nigeria sent over a sample of river sand and we sized it up and applied it to the tile. That worked, and we designed and built a stone chip crushing plant for them.
"We went to Jamaica, looked at a customer's plant and advised them on improvements. We sold some machinery to add to their existing plant and then developed a capital expenditure strategy. Within the next years we will sell them more equipment," he said.
Since joining as a business consultant 18 months ago, Mr Eagle has helped transform International Roofing and the overall Pearce Group, founded by Larry Pearce, which also includes Apex and Pearce Tool & Manufacturing.


"It was a family-owned business and we've added some corporate disciplines to grow it. We've introduced lean manufacturing and production efficiencies, and backed this up with sales and marketing systems," said Mr Eagle.
"Kiwis are great innovators but they don't market themselves globally. The change in a business has to be managed from the board level down to the staff," he said.
Mr Eagle has provided a lot of energy. After three months consulting, he became chief executive and general manager of Pearce Group. Twelve months later he concentrated on sales and marketing for International Roofing and business development for the group.
Tony Rodger came in as general manager and Dave Roberts as production manager. Mr Rodger nominated Mr Eagle for the BNZ Partners Bay of Plenty Export Awards and won the Bay of Plenty Export Achiever category.
That was an irony since Mr Eagle was of the original students at the polytechnic studying for a certificate in New Zealand Horticulture and Horticultural Management. Afterwards, he spent 28 years in the fruit industry before switching to manufacturing.
Mr Eagle managed apple, kiwifruit, citrus and tamarillo orchards in the Western Bay for 12 years, and then ran the Katikist Co-operative which sold citrus fruit for 80 local growers.
In 1996 he founded Zeafruit which marketed citrus fruit and avocados for 500 growers - it supplies oranges to the Charlie's Group.
Mr Eagle left Zeafruit 2009 and started his own consulting firm, Phoenix Business Solutions, before arriving at International Roofing.
The company had sold eight plants to Bordeaux in France, Durban in South Africa, China, Vietnam, Vancouver, Los Angeles, Jamaica and Brisbane without strong marketing - it was through the website or word of mouth.
Orders dried during the recession, and in his first 12 months in his new job Mr Eagle sold four - ranging in price from $700,000 to $2 million, depending on the amount of machinery.
One plant went to Mexico last October, another to Jamaica in February and two more will be delivered to Nigeria and Jamaica at the end of August. A customer from Argentina will also be travelling to Katikati in August to sign a deal.
The order to Nigeria is a fully automatic plant capable of producing 350 modular tiles an hour - the tiles are 1.4 metres long and 450mm wide. The Nigerian roofing company is receiving the full works - metal tile and stone chip plants, an oven that cooks the chips onto the tile, and the stone chip crusher.
The metal tile plant comprises two pressers, a decoiler, levelling machine fitted with robotic arms to pick up the tiles and electronics to run the machinery.
All the equipment will be packed into three 20-foot containers and four 40-foot containers. It takes nine months to build a plant and the company is working on reducing that time by one to two months.
The Nigerian company will be the first in Africa to make its own roofing tiles - they are usually imported from United States, Korea, Europe and New Zealand.
International Roofing is targeting the lower economic countries.
"Their governments are supporting companies to become self sufficient. They will provide up to 50 per cent funding to help them do their own manufacturing," Mr Eagle said.
He said nearly half of the export inquiries were now coming out of Africa - from Zimbabwe, Botswana, Zambia, Kenya and two more from Nigeria.
Mr Eagle is meeting an Emirates investment group's broker this month and the group is looking at moving into property development and manufacturing roofing titles in Africa.
Other inquiries have come from Romania, Vietnam, Taiwan, Canada and the United States, and Mr Eagle is attending his first trade show in Atlanta this October.
He said the present inquiries, if they are all came to fruition, represented three years of production.
"I'd like to think we can build up to four plants a year and then six to eight. I call it stepping stones. We are now pushing ourselves out there and just scratching the surface," said Mr Eagle.
"The US dollar is having an impact, but we are selling a unique product and we have to offer more - finding solutions and providing service for customers - to get ahead," he said.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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