Lamma 2012 preview
Lamma 2012: Changing the face of fencing
In the run-up to the UK’s largest machinery show, James Rickard takes a look at three British machinery manufacturers’ success stories and how shows like Lamma have benefited them.
Fencing used to be laborious and time consuming. That was until a Lancashire contractor and his mechanic decided to mechanise it.
Since that initial idea, their company, Quickfencer has sold more than 900 machines in the UK to farmers and contractors and has recently signed a deal with an Australian company to build its products under licence Down-Under.
It all started in October 2003 when agricultural contractor John Brewer had had enough of man-handling fencing wire so he turned to his mechanic and engineer, Steven Rawcliff, to come up with something to make life easier.
Mr Rawcliff was already making various pieces of machinery and trailers for Mr Brewer, and together the two produced a machine for their own use.
At this point, neither Mr Brewer nor Mr Rawcliff had any intention of selling it, let alone any idea of how popular it would become.
The prototype used hydraulic rams to tension wire instead of the leverage system, which was eventually decided upon after building two machines and testing them side-by-side.
The leverage system won because of its simplicity and reliability, and the fact it had not been built by anyone else, unlike the already patented hydraulic version.
Three prototypes and much trial and error later, the duo had developed a machine they were happy with. They were so impressed with its performance they realised it had commercial potential so decided to patent it.
In all, they have spent £70,000 on patents, which Mr Brewer says are very difficult to obtain, taking about six years to come through. He believes the system should be made easier for small start-up businesses.
Farmers want simplicity, longevity, reliability good residual value and, above all, it has to be affordable
Patents, however, did not deter a couple of large manufacturers who tried making a similar product. The only thing which stopped them was they could not produce the machines as cheaply as Quickfencer, says Mr Brewer. He has, he says, had to stop other smaller companies from using their idea and producing the product, however.
The first public showing of the Quickfencer was at Lamma in 2004 when Mr Brewer and Mr Rawcliff entered it into the innovation competition.
“It was touch and go at the time whether we would get a patent pending in-time for the show. Luckily it came through with only a couple of days to spare,” says Mr Brewer.
It generated plenty of interest on the stand, says Mr Brewer, subsequently going on to win the competition. In the following 12 months, they managed to sell more than 100 machines around the country.
The entrepreneurial pair estimated they would be able to sell 1,500 before market saturation. This meant they decided to constantly develop the product, which now comprises eight models catering for all types of fencing, from a simple plain wire fence to a deer fence.
A post driver can also be mounted on the machine, and they have a range of accessories to complement the Quickfencer, including a staple applicator and remover. The firm’s next aim is to push the product into North America and Europe via shows.
The key to the Quickfencer is its ability to handle large rolls of wire, which can last all day for limited down-time and speedy fencing, says Mr Brewer, but his the idea was hampered in the early days because fencing wire manufacturers did not produce large enough rolls of wire, saying there was no demand in the UK.
This led to the pair importing 300m rolls of barbed wire from Portugal which helped the Quickfencer’s efficiency.
Soon after, says Mr Brewer, UK wire manufacturers started to take notice and approached them asking what length of rolls they really wanted. Their reply at the time was 500 metres, now superseded by the 3,000m rolls they use today.
Mr Brewer says, “If it wasn’t for us driving the industry, 3,000m rolls would never have been heard of in the UK.”
The Quickfencer’s success has come from their passion for innovation, and what started as a hobby is now a well-known name throughout the UK.
The pair are not resting on their laurels either. They say they still have plenty to come, adding, “Farmers want simplicity, longevity, reliability, good residual value and, above all, it has to be affordable.”