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AMT April Issue / Black Lab Design: Growth through flexibility

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Black Lab Design is a fully integrated design and manufacturing facility with capabilities that encompass product design, engineering skills, advanced sheet metal fabrication and the latest multi-material printing processes.

Based in Frenchs Forest, NSW, Black Lab’s focus is on design, manufacturing diversity, flexibility and super-competitive delivery times. Having a skilled, capable team enables the operation to work closely with its customers from concept through development to manufacture and deliver within a critical lead time.

“We are continually trying to find ways to solve traditional problems and challenge the old ways of doing things,” explains Daen Simmat, CEO of Black Lab Design.

Simmat is a highly experienced industrial designer who is passionate about designing for manufacture and creating effective, fit-for-purpose solutions in a timely manner. He is driven and ambitious to showcase the capabilities of the Black Lab team and the manufacturing industry in Australia.

“When establishing the business, a key challenge was determining how to grow high-value sales of large volumes of diverse high-quality products in a short period, without incurring significant additional capital investment costs,” he explains. “Our strategy is to pursue high-value business across market segments that include major retailers, industrial applications and digital signage. We have been extremely proactive in seeking business with some of Australia’s largest corporations and had enjoyed success by delivering what we promise.”

Educating the market

“I have always believed in the need to build close customer relationships and have encouraged customers to visit our factory, says Simmat. “These events give customers an in-depth understanding of our capabilities, often resulting in constructive suggestions for solutions that add to our efficiency and a better product for the customer.”

Black Lab regularly encourages customers and suppliers to spend time in its factory to understand the way the company operates and how their input and suggestions can provide mutual benefit.

“Visitors walk away with an expanded awareness of what is possible by pushing the boundaries,” Simmat adds. “Customer education through hands-on factory experiences is important to us because we know these activities help to build trust and encourage a cooperative environment.

“Visits from our competitors are welcome because we are proud of what we have achieved and take pleasure in sharing information. More efficient manufacturers help make Australia a better place for successful manufacturing.“

Machinery sourcing

On-time delivery and quality products are the prime requirement of Black Lab’s major customers and the company has geared its business accordingly. This means it is highly reliant on having the most efficient machinery, together with the skills to extract maximum machine performance.

“Our customers demand very tight delivery schedules,” says Simmat. “We often need to install new machinery to meet our contractual obligations. Under these circumstances, we can’t afford to wait weeks and months for new production equipment.

The Amada ENSIS laser with automation at Black Lab Design.

“When we sign contracts to supply our goods, we have to be absolutely certain that promised delivery dates are realistic and achievable. Machinery suppliers like Amada Oceania who keep machines in stock locally are critical to our success. Amada Oceania also has support technicians and engineering expertise on hand to ensure fast setup, installation and deployment.

“Our business is growing rapidly because we are one of a few manufacturers who are able to produce and deliver in an environment where shorter time cycles are becoming normal. This is a critical element in our growth and is why Amada Oceania’s machines, service and availability of parts and tooling play such a key role in our business. At the end of the day machine reliability and productivity is all that matters.”

Growth through transition

Its business approach has accelerated Black Lab Design’s progress from being a sheet metal fabricator to a complete design and manufacturing facility. It has reached this point by being proactive in gaining business, and by having the machinery, skills and staff that have delivered it 120% growth in the last 12 months.

The business’ staffing levels have increased from 45 people 12 months ago to 100 today, largely due to the company’s ability to respond to market demands. This has been supported by development of its internal skills and resources, as well as cooperative and responsive suppliers of equipment, components and materials.

Commenting on where Black Lab Design goes from here, Simmat remarks: “Our next growth strategy is to increase our production volume by horizontally integrating into processes such as repetitive machining and plastic fabrication, to provide more services to our client base.”

This article was originally published in Australian Manufacturing Technology April/May 2021 Issue and written by Michael Parkinson.

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