It may not have the catchiest of names, but the F220 is transforming the business of Lower Hutt fire monitoring and evacuation systems manufacturer Pertronic Industries.
Thanks to the product it designed specifically for the Australian market, the 36-year-old company is on track to double its annual revenue.
Pertronic expanded into Australia in 2000, and last month for the first time its Australian monthly turnover surpassed that of its New Zealand business.
Its F220 intelligent fire alarm control panel is being used in major Australian developments such as Sydney’s 5.5km M4 East motorway tunnel currently under construction.
The tunnel will contain over 90 of the networked panels, a big installation by anyone’s standards, Pertronic’s Managing Director David Percy says.
“The F220 has been highly successful for us and created substantial increases in turnover in the Australian operation,” David says.
“It’s quite ironic – the next phase for us, believe it or not, is to adapt the F220 so we can launch it here at home in New Zealand.”
F220 fire alarm control panel built for Sydney's M4 East tunnel
Necessity is the driver of innovation
Pertronic Industries began life making equipment for the New Zealand Fire Service in 1982. It developed its first automatic fire panel in 1986, and today manufactures systems for a wide range of industrial, commercial, and high-rise residential buildings. Its projects across the Tasman include Brisbane’s tallest building, the 81-storey Infinity apartment tower, and Western Sydney University’s new downtown Parramatta building.
There had been a change in the Australian building standard, and Pertronic was presented with the challenge of either modifying its existing product or creating a new one, David says.
“The existing one was becoming a little bit dated, so this was a trigger to develop a completely new product,” he says.
“Governments, local bodies and developers are building taller skyscrapers, larger hospitals, and bigger shopping malls. These projects need powerful intelligent fire indicator panels monitoring thousands of sensors and control devices.”
Encouraged by the strong growth in the Australian construction sector, in 2012 Pertronic took the plunge and set up an R&D project to create the F220. Four years later the first panels were shipped to Australia from its Lower Hutt factory.
Now the company is adding enhancements to the panel and working on modifying it for New Zealand use. It also has a new product in the pipeline for Australia.
The success of the F220 was recognised in the 2017 Wellington Gold awards with Pertronic winning the Research and Development category.
Working faster and smarter
A co-funded Callaghan Innovation Growth Grant has been an important boost to the project, David says. The company would have invested in developing the F220 anyway, but the grant “enables us to get to market faster, or alternatively it enables you to make the product smarter because you can have more people on the project and put more features in”.
Pertronic sees a good market for the F220 going forward, particularly in Australia where the building boom continues.
“The market continually presents new technical challenges, driven by demand for new kinds of spaces for people to live, work and play,” David says. “It’s a market with unlimited potential for products that are individually tailored to specific project requirements. That’s exactly the kind of product Pertronic designs and manufactures.”
Callaghan Innovation customer manager Nick Sterling says Pertronic has a good track record of successfully leveraging co-funded grants to deliver R&D projects. These range from a Technology Development Grant provided by MBIE in 2012 through to the current Callaghan Innovation Growth Grant and have helped create new intellectual property for the business.
“Their revenue growth has been focused on smart, customer need-driven product development which they’ve delivered through disciplined R&D projects,” Nick says.