Australian-Made Innovation

Lanark

Lanark Australia supplies the market with a wide range of quality spa baths, spa pools, and shower screens. The company’s head office is located in Hallam, Victoria, but the business also boasts state of the art manufacturing facilities in Sydney.

Lanark’s spas are built in the biggest spa factory in the southern hemisphere with a whopping 10,000 square metres of manufacturing space and the brand name, which was originally founded overseas in 1931, has over eight decades of experience in bathroom ware merchandising and manufacturing.

Lanark is one of the few businesses to manufacture spas and baths in Australia. “There are companies that make spas locally here in Australia, but they only assemble them – the product is coming from China. The pump, the jets, the bath itself, is coming from China,” General Manager Jack Krispin explains. “But we start from the raw material and we do the thermal forming ourselves. Everything is built here.” It is Lanark’s ability to successfully manufacture Down Under that sets the company apart and provides crucial – and competitively advantageous – capabilities.

It hasn’t always been easy, of course; we all know the pressures threatening domestic manufacturing. In fact, just last year, the company faced a serious struggle. “One year ago the Lanark brand was taken over by Spa Industries and enabled to continue manufacturing here and still be profitable,” Mr Krispin recalls. The processes used to manufacture an outdoor spa pool are very similar to the processes involved in the manufacture of an indoor spa, Mr Krispin points out. “It’s the same acrylic thermal forming. It is the same drilling. The same laminating. A very similar kind of plumbing.”

Spa Industries manufactures both outdoor and indoor spas in the same facility under the Lanark brand name. “We use the synergy between the Lanark brand name and Spa industries to be able to manufacture the indoor spas here in Australia,” Mr Krispin explains. The result has been a far more efficient and streamlined operation with much lower overhead costs. “It has enabled us to keep manufacturing in Australia.”

One of the greatest advantages of manufacturing onsite is the ability to control all aspects of the operation. “We have very good control over the quality of the raw materials that we are using,” Mr Krispin points out. This is not always the case when buying parts from overseas (typically China) and assembling them domestically. “The problem is that when you are importing from China, you can have one container that is inspected and is reasonable quality, but then the second container – from the same factory and with the same specifications – might be completely junk,” Mr Krispin reports. “It is very, very difficult importing from China and making sure that you constantly have good quality.”

Inside the Lanark manufacturing facilities, on the other hand, every aspect of production is carefully monitored. “We have quality checks and everything is tested,” Mr Krispin says. Of course mishaps can and do still occur, but maintaining a careful watch over the operations allows the team to catch any glitches before they become a problem. “That is what local manufacturing enables you to do – to find the problem and go and fix it,” he explains.

“We manufacture the largest range of baths and spa baths in Australia at competitive prices; we did that even when the exchange rate for the Australian dollar was at around $1.05. Recently, with a decrease of around 22 per cent of the exchange rate against the Chinese RMB we are in an even better position compared to companies who are importing.”

Another key advantage of manufacturing in Australia is that it gives Lanark the flexibility to innovate. And innovation is absolutely essential for continued success, Mr Krispin says. “If we continue doing the same thing without innovating we can’t stay ahead of the game.” And it isn’t enough to just come out with one or two landmark products. In the competitive world of bathroom wares, the competition moves in on new ideas almost immediately, spurring Lanark to constantly reinvent its product line. “Over the years we have come up with innovative ideas which have been copied very fast,” Mr Krispin explains. “Then we need to go to the next innovation. So we always have to be one step ahead of the competition.”

Only by manufacturing the products themselves can the team maintain the control needed to follow through with these new ideas. Take Lanark’s line of coloured free standing baths, for example. Adding colour to a traditionally white product allows consumers the chance to colour co-ordinate their bathroom wares and helps the company to stand out. “This was something that was very popular in the 70s, to have different colours in the bathroom,” Mr Krispin points out. “But the fashion changed and went to white. For many, many years it was only white. But there is a trend now for the market to look to different colours again.”

Lanark will be one of the few companies positioned to take advantage of the new trend. “The market hasn’t caught up with it yet. We are ahead of the game.” The free standing baths are being offered in a variety of vibrant colours, including red, blue, green, and black. “This is something we can do because we are manufacturing in Australia,” Mr Krispin adds. “And, we are the only manufacturer of a free standing bath in Australia. Everything else in the market comes from China. So we can come up with this innovation and offer this coloured, free standing bath where others cannot do it.”

Lanark is also combining the free standing bath with a spa – another innovation only made possible by the company’s onsite manufacturing capabilities. “We offer a spa inside the freestanding bath so you can have both things,” Mr Krispin explains. “We are the only ones doing it in the market.” However, he is quick to point out that some overseas manufactures are already attempting to copy the free standing spa idea. And when these knock-offs roll out, it will be time for yet another innovation from the forward thinking minds at Lanark.

For now, the team is focusing on launching their most exciting new product, the Microsilk (please see sidebar for further details). They are also working on a bath that includes a built-in acrylic chair and has a door cut into the side of the tub, making it easily accessible for the disabled and elderly. “You can walk in and close the door,” Mr Krispin says of the special design, “and it’s all water sealed.” Lanark is currently working through the new idea with an American company and may begin manufacturing the product in Australia soon. “It’s the next thing in the pipeline.”

Beyond those specific plans, Mr Krispin adds, the team just wants to keep doing what they do best. “In the future, we want to continue to bring in new innovative products and always be ahead of the game.”

Home Automation

Call it ‘domotics,’ and you are likely to receive a blank stare, but refer to it as ‘smart home’ or ‘home automation,’ and you will get a nod of acknowledgement. For the past few years, consumers have heard the word ‘smart’ attached to countless products and services, from food and drink to snacks like popcorn and mobile phones, which no one seems to refer to as a ‘cellphone’ anymore. Yet what, exactly, constitutes ‘smart’?

July 16, 2020, 10:06 AM AEST