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Joining forces

As the ink was drying on the Acmeda RollEase merger agreement at the end of 2014, group CEO Derick Marsh commented that the new business would embody “an engineering and distribution platform second to none across multiple continents.”

Clearly he meant business. It is predicted that the combined group will serve several thousands of customers in over 40 countries around the world, offering a magnitude of products, with plans to deepen its emphasis on product development by leveraging both companies’ impressive engineering and R&D resources. These include two innovation centres known as AIC (Acmeda Innovation Centre) and RIC (RollEase Innovation Centre), each of which employs 10 engineers and state of the art technology to facilitate rapid 3D prototyping, QA testing facilities and injection moulding.

With the companies to be jointly owned by the former proprietors of Acmeda and RollEase, whose senior management teams will remain in place, the holding company will be known as RollEase Acmeda. The original companies will remain true to the geographical and local philosophies that each was built upon; with plans over time that both will merge under the global brand.

With the group now employing around 200 staff across the US, Australia and Europe, Acmeda general manager Adam Licciardi confirms that a long term plan will see the consolidation of the companies’ combined manufacturing clout into Acmeda’s China plant, which will provide a covetable boost in terms of distribution throughout the US, Australia, Europe and international markets such as Asia, the Middle East and South America, as well as an uplift in economies of scale. With both companies very strong in manufacturing hardware roller blind and chain cord mechanisms, Licciardi says the future for product output looks promising.

“Essentially we’re now able to double our existing capacity and output of innovative products through a much larger global footprint, this allows the group to continue to invest in its development programs; the product pipeline for the next five years is extremely exciting.”

Visitors to R+T Stuttgart in February gained a glimpse of things to come in the form of a raft of new products, some hailing from Acmeda and some from RollEase.

The One Touch suite took centre stage on the Acmeda exhibit; displaying a new range of roller blind technology that uses a one touch function to raise a blind, which is then lowered by either hand or chain control. Forming an impressive centre piece was the suite a unique dual blind cassette enclosed in a 100 mm aluminium profile, which operates both blinds with just one single chain. Licciardi says the One Touch system will create an eco-system of new generation roller blind systems, available in an array of single and double shades, and showcasing another revolutionary product, a limiter that sets both the top and bottom limits of a shade with a unique press button setting function.

“Also on display was Acmeda’s innovative new cassette and fascia range which not only maintains the aesthetic properties one comes to expect from an Acmeda product, but provides the fabricator with the flexibility to offer a round or square solution in either a fully enclosed cassette or front fascia option, all within the same hardware; creating a truly universal solution.”

“At the top of not only Acmeda’s but the industry’s mind is child safety, and Acmeda’s commitment to child safety products was strongly represented at the R+T exhibition with the new Chainwand and Cordwand systems on display. The Chainwand is an all in one chain control and built in tensioner, with a self-tensioning feature to keep the chain taut and secure at all times, while the Cordwand operates by pulling a wand, which houses a retractable cord operated mechanism that safely returns the blind to its desired position in one easy motion. Both systems are set for significant launches by major retailers in the USA in the latter part of the year.”

On the stand were also Acmeda’s external drop awnings featuring a self-tensioning locking system, in wire guide and Zipscreen versions, both with self-locking mechanism. The Zipscreen version also features a new fabric tensioning motor which automatically locks as the shade is lowered in order to hold the fabric taut.

R+T Stuttgart also saw the S45 G200 geared chain winder previewed. This product allows the user to install a greater weight of shade, up to 11 kg, due to innovative, patented gearing technology within the mechanism that enables a light user force for operation. The S45 G200 will be available in second half of the year.

The new Extreme roller system from Acmeda was also on display, along with a complete external and internal motorised range for rollers and awnings A new style semi-cassette awning was previewed, named POD, further expanding Acmeda’s growing awnings range.

Licciardi indicates the products showcased merely scratch the surface of what the new company will be capable of going forward.

In the shorter term, a key task that lies ahead is rationalising the vast product range from both companies to create a cohesive overall offer.

“The amalgamation process will comprise a three stage process of implementation, integration and consolidation,” he says. “Following the first implementation stage of implementing existing products/systems to each respective market, a second stage will entail the integration of certain products and technologies to the US and Australian existing ranges. The third stage will involve consolidation of any products and technologies we can rationalise. Our view is this process will take approximately three years to complete, with the simpler implementation and integration of parts to occur over the next six to 12 months.

The project will be a significant undertaking, with 12,000 SKUs across both companies. However, Acmeda envisages a significant amount of products will be streamlined over time, simply due to duplication and similarities of products and technologies in the independent ranges. Licciardi is confident that this and other such operational matters will be smooth, given the strong alignment of the two companies.

Key to this are the teams across the two businesses, with plans afoot for extensive staff exchange programs including five or six a year for longer programs of a few months and numerous shorter exchanges more frequently throughout the calendar.

“The working cultures of the two companies are very similar and R+T Stuttgart proved a great platform for team building across the two, as well as exchange and cross-pollination of ideas. All indications at the expo were of a very promising and exciting future. There was definitely a buzz in the air at R+T, which looks set to continue.”

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