WHO: DC Equipment
Founders: Dale Ewers & Christine Ewers
What products, services, solutions or technology have you developed?
We started developing a Grapple Carriage that removed people off the forestry hill in the “breaking-out” phase of logging, which is hooking strops onto trees for extraction, and where there is very high risk of injury to loggers.
The Carriage is operated from inside a protective cab and has a camera system in the carriage with real time video being sent to the operator so the operator can see where the trees are to be able to extract. The camera system is infrared allowing us to operate in the dark which allows us to harvest at night if required, allowing efficiency gains.
Before we introduced the Grapple Carriage, we were unable to harvest outside daylight hours. We then used the camera system to be developed for a Swing Yarder operation removing all people off the hill in this type of operation also. We then developed our “Winch Assist” which is a winch system fitted to an excavator that is operated remotely. This system is to assist a mechanical harvester to fall trees while the operator is stationed inside a structural cab out of harm’s way. This operation has changed the forest industry from manually falling 80% of trees to now approximately just 10% of trees. With these three products alone, we have decreased our near-hits and injuries by 90%.
WHAT KEY CUSTOMER PROBLEMS OR CUSTOMER “WANTS” DOES YOUR SOLUTION SOLVE?
Our product removes people from harm’s way and eliminates high risk logging jobs being carried out by people. The people that have been removed from the high risk tasks are retrained into operators which allows for far more productive time for the equipment. With this technology, we can now harvest day or night. With these products it also allows us to operate a logging crew with fewer staff if required, if staff are away sick or if we are unable to find staff to employ.
Who and where are your target customers?
We started developing these products for ourselves and our own operations to reduce the exposure of our staff to high risk tasks within the harvesting operation. We were then soon after approached by other contractors wanting our products. This soon spread throughout New Zealand and then into Chile. From there we started selling into Canada and then the USA. We have also sold some equipment into Australia. We mainly sell our products into the forest industry, however our products are now being used in the construction and farming sectors.
How and when did you first come up with the idea for your business?
I came up with the idea while working in these highrisk jobs myself and thought there must be a better way. We had some injuries with our own staff, and the whole industry was having lots of injuries along with an increasing fatality rate.
Our thought was if we can remove people from the highrisk tasks, out of harm’s way by mechanisation, then logic would stop people from being hurt. This has proven to be correct with a reduction of near-hits and injuries by 90% within our business alone. And the other big gain is the increase in production.
What are three things about your business that you are proud of?
- The great people that we have working in the business developing the products further to allow us to help more people to protect their staff.
- I am also proud of how we are able to develop our staff through training and allowing these staff to become the best they can be while helping others.
- While I am very proud of our people, I am also proud that I could change in some part the forest industry for the better. The thing is when it comes to safety, we are measured on the people we hurt, not on the people we save.
How do you market your business and what advice do you have for others around marketing?
I have spoken at a lot of conferences about our products and the massive gains we have had in Health and Safety. We also have a Sales and Marketing team that are using different social media and marketing platforms.
What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in building your business so far?
Having the right people in the right jobs. As we have been growing so fast, it has been a real challenge keeping up with growing our staff. This then creates problems with evolving our current products along with new products that can have far greater benefits not only in safety, but in productivity and the environmental footprint we create.
What is the biggest entrepreneur lesson you would like to share with other Kiwis thinking of starting their own business?
Believe in yourself. If you have a dream, write it down, it forms your plan. A plan executed becomes reality. If we go more into this, it is about believing that anything is possible and believing in yourself. It is about execution; you can achieve anything you put your mind to. Determination. This is the best advice I can give. You have to plan, and you have to execute. Get other people to believe in what you believe. You must have a “why”. Our dream was to save people’s lives – I was over losing people in our industry so I came up with a plan and some ideas so we could remove people from harm’s way and now we sell these products worldwide.
Story created in partnership with Nelson Regional Development Agency (NRDA).