The Reinforcing Steel Bending Machine

Innovative designs I’ve produced have all been founded by the saying:

“Just because we’ve always done it this way doesn’t mean we have to keep doing it the same way.”

A holiday job during University studies was bending re-inforcing steel for the foundations of houses and other small buildings turned into a full-time job when I left University. It was manual, hard physical work, and repetitive. I said to my boss “Why don’t we build a machine to do this automatically?” – his response “There’s not the market.” So after a lot more thought I left the job, rented a factory down the road, worked night shift at a plastic factory to pay the rent, and spend a few hours every day building the machine from a design that evolved through experimentation. I also did various steel fabrication and metal polishing jobs to help fund the project and survive. Friday afternoons were a bit laid back, relaxing at the end of a hard week, and the rep from Northern Steel supplies (Dave Lomax) used to drop by for afternoon coffee on his rounds (I regularly purchased small amounts of steel for the various fabrication jobs). One such Friday, Dave finally noticed the machine taking shape in the corner of the factory in SunnyBrae Rd. and asked “What’s that?”. It turned out Northern Steel Supplies where Dave worked were considering suppliers for re-inforcing steel bent to the shape known as “stirrups”. I gave him a hastily scribbled note in pencil on the back of a used envelope not thinking anything would happen. Unusually, Dave called in at lunch time on Monday “Do you want the good news or the bad?” he asked in a sombre tone. Well the good news (which I asked for first) was that I had the contract (subject to various meetings and contracts). The bad news (according to Dave) was they needed 3,000 by the end of the month – in two weeks time… this was more good news for me because just that morning the machine had turned out a run of stirrups without a hitch and the production rate could easily handle that quantity with time to spare.

On the basis of continued supply at really good prices (for me and them) to Northern Steel, I approached other steel merchants and got contracts from Stevensons, John Burns, and others.

So the take-aways I got were – a great sense of accomplishment, in that I actually built the machine, that there was a market, and that I was able to tap into that market – and I got lots of profit over the next few years.

“Success is when preparation meets opportunity”