Ratcheting up overseas interest

Barry Armour with his side-loading ratchets. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Barry Armour with his side-loading ratchets. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
A Dunedin designed ratchet, aimed at solving a problem encountered daily by transport companies and tradesmen, is attracting global attention.

Barry Armour designed a side-loading ratchet which allowed the strap to be loaded into the side of the ratchet, rather than being threaded through.

That saved the familiar problem of the time taken to thread the strap when loading and unloading.

While it was still in the early stages, Mr Armour was heartened by the amount of interest in the product. The market for ratchets worldwide was ''huge'', he said.

Truck driver Doug Ironmonger described the ratchets as a ''a real game-changer'', saying he could save up to two hours a day in loading and unloading time, depending on his load.

An engineer with more than three decades of involvement in the transport industry, Mr Armour came up with the concept three and a-half years ago.

Each step of development took a long time, and the first production run was not made until this January. A 50mm ratchet was about to be launched in New Zealand and Australia.

Together with his business partner David McKewen, Mr Armour had negotiated a sales and marketing licence for the North American retail sector.

That had resulted in two big retail chains agreeing to stock the new ratchet in more than 350 stores, while other chains were also showing interest.

The upfront licence fee also provided valuable working capital to continue with the commercialisation plan, Mr McKewen said.

Discussions were under way with American companies interested in licensing or distribution rights, while a German partner had field trials under way in Europe.

Last month, national patent applications were filed in 17 countries, plus an additional 37 countries covered under the European Patent Office.

Such an extensive patenting programme for a small company was only possible due to the company discovering and using technology-based patent filing company Inovia, Mr McKewen said.

''By using Inovia's innovative software platform, backed up by a network of patent attorneys in market, we were able to cut our bill by under half of what it would have faced using the traditional patent firms,'' he said.

The reduction in patent filing costs meant the company was able to get protection in more countries than it had originally planned, while keeping some money aside for continuing market development, he said.

The early success also provided the company with confidence to invest in the tooling required for commercial production of a 32mm ratchet, designed to meet the needs of tradesmen and ''DIYers'', Mr Armour said.

The new product range would be marketed in conjunction with Mr Armour's technology export company Armour Transport Technologies, which already marketed load anchor and crouching truck technologies offshore.

He had another product in the offing, but could not yet reveal details about it, he said.


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