Your Business: Company cashes in on hot desk trend

By Gill South

The world financial crisis has affected workspace tool manufacturer Modtec in a positive way, says sales and marketing head Ian Cooper.  Photo / Sarah Ivey
The world financial crisis has affected workspace tool manufacturer Modtec in a positive way, says sales and marketing head Ian Cooper. Photo / Sarah Ivey

A Silverdale engineering and manufacturing company is riding the wave of a worldwide trend for hot desking and the demise of the traditional desk-per-employee office.

The workspace productivity tools of Modtec Industries' international brand, Integ, include modular LCD monitor arms, CPU holders and accessories, designed for staff to rest their laptops or iPads on at eye level.

Companies are looking to improve productivity and Modtec works with companies' ergonomic experts about how they want staff to work.

"You want to look at the screen at eye level - it's about taking the computer off the desk," says Ian Cooper, Modtec's head of sales and marketing. "It's much more effective and more ergonomic."

Integ is designed to be modular and pull apart, Lego-style, so it can adapt to IT changes.

The range won Westpac's North Auckland Export Award last year, and a NZ Trade & Enterprise Best Use of Design Award and a Bronze in the Best Design Awards in 2009.

Former Bendon operations manager Bruce Davies took over Modtec in 1979, running it purely as a die-casting company. Working with zinc, he made cupboard handles and toy cap guns, then starting looking at developing solutions for office furniture.

One day a customer asked Modtec to design a monitor arm as LCD monitors were becoming more readily available.

"We started designing and developing our own product," says Cooper. "Bruce said we had to invest in our own intellectual property rather than [just] providing components."

Modtec generally partners with mid to high-end office furniture and work station manufacturers such as Herman Miller, Steelcase and Haworth, as well as New Zealand companies Zenith Interiors and Vidak.

"We work with all of them, we go in to clients together, they give us more penetration," says Cooper.

Modtec's customers range from financial institutions to hospitals and prisons, organisations which need computers up on stands.

Clients include ASB, CBA, Deutsche Bank and IAG. Modtec has also provided Integ equipment for Auckland, Wellington, and Waikato hospital operating theatres.

The company is now international with four staff in Australia, one in Shanghai and a small number in India. Modtec manufactures in New Zealand, at the head office in Silverdale, and in Bangalore, India. The staff in New Zealand numbers 40, most of them in manufacturing.

The world financial crisis has affected the company in a positive way, says Cooper.

"The focus goes back on to the cost of real estate. Banks are trying to put a lot more people into quite a lot less space."

Employers are asking: do you need a permanent desk all the time?

"That's to our advantage," says Cooper.

Demand is so good at the moment that Cooper predicts the company's turnover, currently at just over $10 million, will double in the next five years.

"This is through direct investment in people, direct investment in design and the investment we have made in lean manufacturing," he says.

The export market continues to be Asia and India, with more expansion in China planned, specifically Shanghai.

With the main shareholder, Bruce Davies, reaching 63, the financial controller with 10 per cent, the question of succession has been raised.

Davies has built a board of advisers including former Zespri director Brian Armstrong.

The senior management team is also working with chartered accountancy Hayes Knight to put more structure around strategy and to deal with these succession issues.

"When growing a business, and the growth is exciting, there's a bit more excitement in the organisation than there was," says Cooper.

"Everyone wants to be on board."

- NZ Herald

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