Striker cuts into new niche market

By Graham Skellern - Business Editor

Tauranga designer and manufacturer Trimax Mowing Systems - always quick to meet changing customer demands during 30 years of exporting - has unleashed a new mower onto the market.

Striker is a lightweight rotary tractor-mounted mower that will compete with ride-ons used on school grounds, lifestyle blocks, estates and some council parks and reserves.

"A lot of schools and other organisations are buying smaller tractors and we didn't want to miss out on that market," said Trimax general manager, Michael Sievwright.

"We investigated and had a clear picture of what the customers were asking for. We have built a smaller quality machine for lighter duty tractors," he said.

The Striker, fitted with three cutting decks, was designed and built within a year, and is now being released in Britain and Europe after being launched in New Zealand last November.

Hitched up to tractors in the 20-60hp range, the new mower is proving popular. The Trimax team has already made 60 and a third have been sold in New Zealand.

More than 20 have been sent to Britain and half of those are sold.

"The sales have been twice as much as expected, and it's keeping the procurement guys busy," said Mr Sievwright, son of Trimax founder Bob Sievwright. "There are 26,000 schools in Britain and 2000 in New Zealand, so it's a big market."

The Striker maybe smaller but it has all the sturdy, low maintenance characteristics of other Trimax mowers.

Fitted with Trimax's own trademarked Lazerbladez, made of high grade, razor sharp alloy steel, the Striker has front and rear rollers to minimise scalping and a floating top link that allows the mower to follow ground contours.

There are two models - one having a cutting width of 1.46m and the other with a cutting width of 1.94m. They sell for $7590 and $8390 respectively.

The new product follows the launch of two mowers in 2010. The X-WAM has five mowing decks and cuts the grass to a width of 10.4m. The extra wide area mower is ideal for turf farms in North America, Britain and Europe that are more than 1000ha.

The Merlin, cutting to a width of 2.25m, is designed for golf courses - the three mowing decks float separately when they are following the contours of the fairways to avoid scalping the grass.

Trimax's other machines are Pegasus, Stealth, ProCut, FlailDek, and Ezeemow.

Over the years Trimax - one of the region's most established and successful exporters - has stuck to fine turf mowing rather than stretching out to farming products, and it targets mainly councils, contractors and schools including tertiary institutions.

It has got through the recession with only a slight drop in sales - no more than 10 per cent annually - and is looking to make that up this year with the launch of the Striker.

"We were fortunate to have multiple export markets and when one was down another was up. It has been tough but we have weathered the storm and developed new product through the recession. This has given us a good platform to grow," said Mr Sievwright.

Trimax manages sales of about 600 a year, and it is continually looking to make its production more efficient and save costs.

It has introduced lean manufacturing and theory of constraints which reduces bottlenecks and creates better processes. It looked at inventory levels and decided to reduce production costs by not holding as much stock.

In a further efficiency move, Trimax has organised a contract manufacturer in the West Midlands, England, to build the FlailDek mower.

"The majority of machines are sold in that country and it made sense to be closer to the market - cutting out shipping time of 12-15 weeks," said Mr Sievwright.

"Flail mowing is a cost effective solution to the cylinder mowers which are mainly used in Britain but are expensive to maintain."

Trimax sells in New Zealand, Australia, United States, Britain, Scandinavia and the west European countries of France, Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Spain and Portugal. It has become a leading player in the rotary roller mowing sector.

Trimax has a sales and distribution centre, employing five people, in Northamptonshire, England, and a warehousing facility near Atlanta in United States.

After graduating with a Bachelor of Commerce in management and accounting, Mr Sievwright joined the family business, first in procurement and then sales and marketing.

He spent a year overseas as the UK and European market manager before moving into the general manager's role. His father remains the managing director and focuses on market development.

Mr Sievwright has picked up the same exporting passion as his father. "There's not too many New Zealand manufacturers which have the opportunities of selling in so many different countries.

"A lot of the market in Denmark - councils and contractors - is using our product. You might be sitting somewhere in the UK and one of your machines drives past. It's a nice feeling," he said.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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