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FT AUG 16 43 In today’s technologically interconnected world, the old ‘tyranny of distance’ is no longer an obstacle for many New Zealand exporters who can communicate with their clients on a variety of platforms. However, there’s no real substitute for letting your customers see, touch and experience your product in action. And that’s exactly what high-tech engineering firm Haden & Custance has begun doing, showcasing and demonstrating its unique technology to potential clients at industry events around the world. Based in the Hawke’s Bay since it started in 1965, Haden & Custance is a small, cutting-edge firm that’s carved out an impressive niche for itself in the area of materials handling. The company custom-designs and manufactures systems that provide part of the process to transform bulk products – predominantly cheese and butter – into retail and food service packs. And it’s rapidly becoming recognised as a global leader in producing automated technology-based solutions, primarily for the dairy industry, says CEO Stuart Dykes. “We provide one-stop turnkey solutions that meet each client’s specific needs,” he says. “Everything is completely automated so the entire process happens without any human intervention. We’ve developed an expertise that allows us to remove the packaging efficiently. No one else has done that yet. “Over the past few years we’ve introduced new technology including industrial robots and vision systems to enable us to un-package cheese and butter in a variety of bulk formats. We can now install our equipment into a much wider range of plants.” Around two decades ago, the company expanded its client base across the Tasman, and this led to interest from further offshore, including the United Kingdom. While Haden & Custance still creates solutions for New Zealand companies such as Fonterra and New Zealand Breweries, 90 per cent of its customers are now international companies, with the United States its main market. All but two of the approximately 60-strong Haden & Custance team members are based in Hastings. Eighteen months ago, the company set up a sales office in Green Bay, Wisconsin (‘cheese central’ in the US). Haden & Custance also has a Melbourne-based sales manager. Dykes believes the company’s technology has been successful in North America because companies there really look at Haden & Custance’s solutions as an investment. Some of its large US dairy clients are seeing returns on their outlay within as little as 12 months. “Increasingly, customers are telling us they can’t find the people to physically do this work, which can be mundane and dangerous,” Dykes says. “Consequently, they’re looking to automate the front end of the process to feed their high-speed production lines.” However, one of Haden & Custance’s biggest challenges is overcoming the reluctance some companies have to shift from their existing manual processing to a fully automated system. This is where IT PAYS TO BE A SHOW-OFF Why and how to make trade shows work for you Your presence at an international trade show provides a powerful platform to connect with potential clients, get time with busy customers, boost your visibility, and build brand awareness. • Attending the right show can help you significantly expand your customer base and generate highly targeted leads. You’ll reach motivated people who are interested in your products and services, and who may even be ready to do a deal on the spot. • This is the ideal opportunity to gauge customer interest in your offering, generate buzz for your new products, and get real feedback. • Check out other stands to see what does and doesn’t work; and get ideas for your strategy at future trade shows. • By posing as a customer, you can gather valuable intelligence on your competitors – learn about their marketing tactics and sales strategies; collect price lists and technical information; and see what special deals and giveaways they’re offering. • Make sure your sales team is experienced and confident, and ready to take a direct approach to potential sales. • Research the best trade show for your company. The wrong choice could cost far more than you make in potential sales. Ask those in your business sector, your competitors and organisations like NZTE for recommendations. Stuart Dykes For Kiwi companies, exhibiting at international trade shows is often seen as an expensive logistical exercise. But there are many great reasons to showcase your offering to the world, as Hastings firm Haden & Custance discovered.

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