Harnessing the power of the Internet has allowed Nautilus Braids to supply clients around New Zealand and the globe with tailor-made high-performance ropes.
Fourteen years ago, Ian McFarlane (pictured), a keen sailor, decided to jump ship from his 28-year career in textile and product development to set up Nautilus Braids in Springston, a rural town located 30 minutes south-west of Christchurch.
“I’ve sailed most of my life and have plenty of experience with textiles, so it made sense to set up a business to supply the marine industry with ropes made from high performance multi filament polyester and synthetic materials.”
The successful business now employs five staff and supplies ropes to the marine, equine, caving, dairy and civil construction sectors.
Ian says it’s impossible to compete with mass produced Chinese ropes, but he focuses on tailor-made ropes designed specifically to meet his clients’ specifications. He relies on good internet connectivity to send drawings to clients, along with emails discussing applications and requirements.
“For example, riggers setting up a new or second-hand boat will describe applications for the rope and send through plans. We interpret their needs, make a rope sample, send it to them and then continue the discussion by email.”
Being based in rural Canterbury, Ian and his team have created some valuable innovations for local farmers, which are now sold globally.
“My neighbour had a problem with a cord used during milking. When cows are milked on a rotary platform, there’s an ACR cord which pulls the milking cups off the udders. If the cord breaks, the cluster of cups falls into the effluent which is a real problem.
“We developed a hard, durable cord with an increased twist level. We manufacture 168,000 metres of it per year for the New Zealand market and now sell it into Australia, Ireland and the U.S.”
Along with discovering new markets online, Ian also uses the internet to research and source high-tech fibre and machinery.
“We’re always breaking into new areas, so sometimes we need to modify our machines. We’ve sourced new carriers for our braiding machines when we had requests to braid wire for safety harnesses and to make bungies for electric fences. I found the manufacturer online and we had ongoing communication to get the right product.”
Ian prefers a personal approach at the beginning of a new business relationship, backed up by ongoing online communication.
“I like to visit suppliers and clients in person initially and then we continue building our relationship via email and phone calls.
“We can do a quick turn around and produce excellent custom-made rope. We recently had an email from a guy in the U.S. who is testing our ropes for a dairying application. He said they are 2.6 times better than anything he’s had before, and he wants to start a business relationship.”
Nautilus Braids uses cloud-based MYOB for its accounting, business projections, turnover and project management. Ian says the accounting system improves efficiency, while providing clear record keeping and forecasting.
“It’s not just for me. Everything goes up on the wall so staff can see how we’re tracking. It’s a great tool for plotting our business growth too.”
The business is currently upgrading its website which also provides plenty of technical information for customers.
“We’re updating the website at the moment, but we’ll still have lots of information on topics such as how ropes stretch or the impact of knotting rather than splicing ropes.”
Ian says that his business wouldn’t be where it is today without digital connectivity to communicate with clients and suppliers through the country and the world.
“We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the Internet. It has opened up the world for us and enables us to be quick on our feet in response to the wide range of requests we get.”
A better connection would be helpful though, as the business is still using the copper network which is slow and can be affected by adverse weather conditions.
“A faster connection would help us a lot, especially when we’re collaborating with clients to develop new products.
“We’ve found that wet weather seems to slow the connection down, but we’re still persisting and hopefully we’ll get upgraded to a new network soon.”