Innovation by it’s nature doesn’t simply involve making a product.
It applies to how a need is identified, and once developed to product stage, how it is marketed to a broader audience to build a business.
Critical to innovation success is the ability to be agile, proactive and responsive, not just in design and production, but marketing and distribution.
Hummingbird Electronics, (a division of REDARC Electronics), based at Williamtown, is a great example of Hunter innovation in play.
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Founded in the garage of a house in Singleton in 2010 by Norman Ballard, Hummingbird Electronics designs and manufactures electronics for the transport industry
“We design electronics for mines, councils, fleets, tracking companies, vehicle manufacturers and consumers,” Norman said.
“We produce standard products that are available through leading retailers and bespoke designs for OEM customers.
“Ultimately, our products make vehicles more efficient to operate and safer to use.”
Back in 2010, Norman realised there was a need for electronics to suit the Australian regulatory environment and environmental conditions.
“The market for niche products in Australian is too small to be of interest to large multinational suppliers but is perfect for small to medium-sized Australian manufacturers,” Norman said.
Since inception, key customers have brought great ideas that force Hummingbird to investigate new exciting technologies and innovate.
Understanding customer requirements is the first step and consultation is crucial.
“Rather than the customer dictating a solution, we would prefer to understand the problem,” Norman said.
“Through a thorough understanding of the problem, we are able to provide a comprehensive solution that delivers the desired outcome at a cost that matches the customer expectation.”
An example of consultation that Hummingbird Electronics are working on now involves seatbelt monitors in the mining industry.
“There have been injuries because seat-belts are not always worn,” Norman said.
“The mining industry would like to fit seat-belt monitors to all their vehicles but this is difficult as access to allow wiring is limited.
“We are working with a large Australian mining company to develop a seat-belt monitor that is battery operated and simply sticks onto the seatbelt assembly.
“This new solution will allow for quick install, making it viable to fit the entire fleet, resulting in a safer environment for operators.”
Once the scope of the project is understood, Hummingbird provide development and end-product costings and if approved proceed to design.
“Finishing the design does not mean that the project is over,” Norman said.
“Rigorous testing in conjunction with the customer ensures that the product works as required in-field for years to come.
“Manufacturing documentation is essential to ensure quality products are made in the same way every time an order is placed.”
Once understood, new technologies have application in other products that may have mass market appeal.
In this way, Hummingbird Electronics has grown.
“If we believe that the product will have wide appeal, we will commercialise the product to a point where it is suitable for general use and will make it available to the Australian market through our distribution network and via our website,” Norman said.
“A good example of that would be an inclinometer that was originally designed for BHP.
“That product went on to become a range of products that are widely used in Australia and across the world.”
All Hummingbird products are designed in Williamtown by Hummingbird’s team of electronics engineers.
“By having our engineering team local, we are able to respond quickly to customer demand,” Norman said.
A recent example of that design agility involved a change in legislation requiriing additional monitoring of doors in buses.
“Because we are local, we were able to respond with a solution quickly, allowing our client to comply with legislation, thereby keeping passengers safer,” Norman said.
All Hummingbird products are manufactured in Adelaide and then installed by a network of auto-electricians around the country.
“By keeping our manufacturing in Australia, we are able to ensure consistent quality and availability of product,” Norman said.
Hummingbird Electronics is located at Unit 1.03, Building E, 1 Technology Place, Williamtown.
For more information, ring 1300 155 541 (within Australia), email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.hmbe.com.au.