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BFM Global’s founder Blair McPheat recounts the journey to get his innovative flexible pipe fitting product from concept to international market leader.

The BFM® fitting flexible connector system was born out of a 2am brainwave as a solution for problems commonly experienced with traditional, clamped-style industrial connectors.

Blair McPheat, the founder of BFM® Global, the manufacturer of the patented BFM® fitting product, says it was a simple case of ‘see a need, fill a need’.  

“I was visiting plants selling filtration products and was constantly seeing the issues manufacturers were having with dust leakage around their flexible connections.”

Traditionally, when connecting two pieces of machinery where one has movement and the other is stationary, a flexible sleeve of some sort is fitted on the outside of the two feed pipes and screwed tight with hose clamps. However, powder regularly leaked throughout factories, and maintenance staff often complained that fitting clamped sleeves in the right position every time was difficult, particularly on equipment with lots of movement, like sifters. 

“The downtime involved for clean-ups and refits was costing a lot in lost production,” recalls McPheat. He knew there had to be a better way and it played on his mind constantly.

The middle-of-the-night inspiration was the start of the idea: a connector that sat inside the pipe somehow, removing the need for clamps and that actually sealed tighter with pressure.

“The idea was simple, but there was a lot of blood, sweat, and tears involved in the product development phase to get it right, to work how I had imagined it would every time, on a production type scale,” says McPheat. 

That idea became the BFM® fitting – a flexible snap-fit sleeve and spigot adaptor system that is welded to either end of the pipes on the equipment being connected together.  The resulting product provides a 100 percent sealed connection that is fast and easy to fit, long-lasting, and complies with the strictest international health and safety standards.

“It’s one of those products that once someone in a manufacturing plant sees a BFM® fitting in action, they’re always impressed,” says McPheat.


Protecting the idea to build brand integrity

When he realized he was on to a winner, McPheat knew that protecting his idea was an important element in building the business around the world. Patenting that IP and setting up trademarks globally has been an essential, albeit expensive, exercise to ensure that the brand’s quality was protected into the future.

“It’s been a huge undertaking to protect our product from copycats, but we know how hard it is to ensure the seal and fit of the product works the way it needs to, and that’s something a copied product is not going to do effectively. Our customers depend on the BFM® fitting to work the way it should every time because shutdowns to fix issues are expensive.”

The product is still unique in the marketplace, and customers can recognize it’s a genuine BFM® connector by looking for the distinctive blue bands and blue ‘BFM®’ brand stamp on the front, he says.


Growing a global brand

Being located at the ‘bottom of the world’ hasn’t been a hindrance to becoming a global player, although, in the early days, McPheat was a little wary of promoting the fact that all manufacturing took place in New Zealand. 

“We weren’t really known for many products other than sheep and dairy back then, so we thought it was important to establish ourselves as an ‘international’ brand from the outset.”

Now, the brand has matured and established its reputation within the global manufacturing world – with multinational customers like Nestle, Unilever, and Mondelez recommending the product throughout their plant networks. 

“BFM® stands on its own two feet as a brand today and now I think being New Zealand made is a positive selling point from a quality perception stand-point,” admits McPheat.


Distribution and investment key to growth

When the company started out, the Internet was still relatively new, and customers expected to be able to talk to someone to find out technical information. That desire to be a truly ‘international’ brand led the team to build an international network of distributors who could stock their products and provide local service and support. 

Today, BFM® has more than 50 Authorized Distributors around the world, who sell their products into more than 70 countries. The product is so well regarded, they are regularly approached by companies wanting to sell their products, but the company is very selective in terms of appointing its Distributors.

“It’s about finding the right fit,” says McPheat.  “They are representing us in their local market, so it’s always been important to us that they believe in our company as well as the product. Integrity and genuine care for their customers is a major factor in selecting them as an authorized BFM® distributor.”

And while the past two years have been challenging for everyone with the Covid pandemic, BFM® Global has continued to grow exponentially – despite lockdowns and Distributors often not being able to physically visit their customers. “We’ve been so impressed with the way our Distributors have adapted their approach to working with customers when they’ve been unable to do factory walk-rounds like they normally would,” said McPheat. 

Substantial investment in new equipment and staff training to improve production systems and processes has also played a big part in the company achieving one of the biggest growth years on record. 


Market opportunities still abound

In the 14 years since its inception, BFM® Global has grown from a subsidiary manufacturing operation to a thriving independent company with more than 8,500 customers worldwide.

And what are the plans for BFM® Global for the next 10 years?  McPheat is adamant that they’ve barely scratched the surface of the potential for their product and are confident they are on track to keep on the same kind of positive growth trajectory. “We’ve literally only just moved into our new premises, but there’s already plans being drawn up to expand the building!” laughs McPheat. 

Part of the growth strategy includes expanding their global sales team, with two additional new Business Development Managers recently employed in the European market.

“We understand the powder and bulk handling industry, and the importance of building relationships with OEMs and larger multi-national end-user customers. That’s why we are investing in more hands-on support for our Distributors in these areas.” 

He asserts that solutions-based innovation is the fundamental drive behind the business and will continue to be in the next decade and beyond. 

“Quality, performance and reliability are why our existing users love our products, but our dedication to solving customers’ problems is what started this business and we’ll continue to innovate and evolve new products as our customers and markets need us to,” said McPheat.

In other words, ‘See a need, fill a need’.

The BFM® fitting product range is available in over 70 countries through 50-plus Authorized Distributors.

Glenn Baker

Glenn is a professional writer/editor with 50-plus years’ experience across radio, television and magazine publishing.


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