ABHR sits down with Neil and Christine Kinder to learn how they turned their family business from a small operation to a global supplier. The Lego brick, first released in 1958, has been named Toy of the Century twice, inspired five movies and continues to be loved by children around the world.
In 1960, Godtfred Kirk Christiansen, Managing Director of the Lego group said: “We know our idea is a good one. We want only the best … we must make better bricks from even better material on even better machinery.”
This mindset for quality is one that Christine Kinder, Marketing Manager at Kinder Australia, seeks to emulate.
“When you look at [Lego] bricks, it’s hard not to imagine them lasting for hundreds of years, still with their bright primary colours and just as desirable as they are today to the children of the future,” she says.
“In the bulk handling industry, we want to be the Lego, not the two-dollar shop toys that don’t last.”
Neil Kinder, Managing Director of Kinder Australia, agrees.
“You’re better off investing your money into something that lasts and will provide productivity and value. People have started to realise that if they buy something cheap, but it doesn’t stack up, it’ll hurt them in the long term,” he adds.
The family engineering business started with just Christine and Neil operating out of their Melbourne home. As the mobile phone network expanded, so too did the business, branching out to the rest of Victoria and eventually to cover all of Australia.
Now, in the age of the internet, the business has gone global. Kinder Australia now services the South-East Asian market with a new, multi-language website.
Neil says the global trade environment has changed rapidly since the internet was introduced, bringing markets closer together.
“You can buy something today from the other side of the world and have it arrive in the next week,” he says.
“People aren’t too concerned about where something comes from now. Instead, they’re more interested in who they’re buying from.
“Are they a trustworthy organisation? Will their products be reliable? What sort of global name have they got? These are the important questions.”
Kinder has spent the past 30 years developing its reputation, aiming to provide a comprehensive range of high-performing, long-lasting, reliable equipment. Christine and Neil have made it their mission to surround themselves with the right engineers that have the ability to provide the expertise the company’s customers desire.
Reinvesting into the business is a core part of Kinder’s strategy. When the company wins a big contract, it spends that money on improving itself for stable growth.
Neil says it’s important to be conservative when it comes to taking risks in business.
“We’re conservative with the way we operate, and we don’t try to take on jobs that are bigger than we are capable of doing,” he says.
“We don’t want to operate a business where if we have one little problem, the whole thing implodes.
“If you haven’t got a vision to survive, and that’s got to be deep in your soul, then you can have all the plans in the world but it’s not going to work.”
Innovation and development are vital to this survival. Christine says if you don’t keep up with the current industry movements and don’t keep moving forward, businesses end up moving backwards.
The company’s goal is to find new ways of improving upon the technology that is already on the market. One example of this is the K-Dynamic Impact Idler.
A finalist for the Innovative Technology award at the 2019 Australian Bulk Handling Awards, the dynamic impact idler is suspended above anti-vibration spring element mounts to provide cushioning and absorb the impacts of conveyed materials.
This helps to reduce unplanned maintenance and extend the life of the belt, rollers and frames in heavy-duty applications such as the hard rock and iron ore industries.
When it comes to developing new products, Neil explains a number of drivers in the industry have helped focus their engineering.
At the moment, the big issue Kinder is working to help solve is dust. Silica dust is known to cause a range of potentially deadly lung diseases, such as silicosis, and presents a health hazard to those working nearby. It is also an environmental risk, especially in cities which have begun encroaching on industrial zones.
“Noise and dust can be a nuisance– nobody wants to live near that, and nobody really wants to work in those kinds of environments,” Neil says.
“That’s why we developed our conveyor covers. Covers aren’t a new thing, they’ve been around for a long time, but in Australia, no one that we know of can deliver a conveyor cover straight from stock like we can.”
Industry engagement helps Kinder develop an awareness of the challenges that its customers are facing. Alongside its staff in the field, the company also makes a point of listening to customers and providing training workshops at its Melbourne facility.
More than 45 people from around Australia have visited the workshops to learn how to get the most from Kinder’s products. The company wants to avoid “just another sales session” and instead makes them as educational as possible.
“We want our customers to walk away from the workshops knowing that if there’s a problem, all they need to do is reach out and contact us for help,” Christine says.
“We are the company with the knowledge. Whether or not we have the product, it’s the engineering we can provide.”
Kinder Australia has plans to continue this education in 2020 and will focus on reinforcing customer research over multiple platforms.
“Just because it’s red, doesn’t mean it’s the real thing,” Christine says. “We’re trying to educate that there are such enormous differences in products at the moment that customers need to do their research.”
This customer outreach is set to continue at the 2020 Australian Bulk Handling Expo, BULK2020, in April where Kinder will be exhibiting.
“The show is a fantastic opportunity for us, especially because it’s right on our doorstep,” Neil says.
“It will give us a huge advantage, because people will be able to come and see what’s on offer and put a face to a name. That relationship building is incredibly valuable – you can’t put a dollar value on it.”
Word of mouth has helped it grow, but Kinder’s future is on a digital horizon. Where mobile phones were what helped the company first grow, now it’s emails and websites.
“It’s a busy time, just when we get a handle on one thing, something new will pop up,” Christine says. “But it’s been good fun, and it’s great to see our staff enjoying what they do. They’re our energy in the house and it reflects in the way they operate.”
Photo and article courtesy Australian Bulk Handling Review, Editor William Arnott.