Smart design and good looks
Escea gas fires – taking on the world
Dunedin has a long history of nurturing innovative, design led companies. Luxury gas fire manufacturer Escea is the latest home-grown success story. Based in Green Island, Escea has been manufacturing and exporting luxury gas fireplaces for over seven years. Led by CEO Nigel Bamford, the company has been quickly recognised as an industry leader. Escea products are renowned for their modern minimalist styling, efficiency, and ease of use. The company currently exports to the United Kingdom, Australia, United States, Canada and more recently Norway.
Escea has grown from a handful of employees back in 2006, to a full time staff of 42. For three years running Escea featured as one of New Zealand’s 50 fastest growing companies as part of the Deloitte Fast50 Index.
In 2009 the company moved to its own purpose-built $4million factory in Green Island. The building houses the production line, storage for domestic and export sales, in-house powder coating plant, offices, and showroom facilities. The company has a strong commitment to on-going product development and invests a considerably higher percentage of its turnover on research and development than is usual for a New Zealand manufacturer.
Getting Better, by design
Late last year Escea was accepted in to New Zealand Trade and Enterprise’s ‘Better by Design’ Programme. The programme aims to help businesses increase their international competitiveness by integrating design principles across their business. The programme teaches design thinking and provides the tools of design integration to management teams. Escea have been partnered with leading industrial designer Peter Haythornthwaite to help identify and address company challenges and opportunities. Escea Marketing Manager Mark Cowden has been involved in the process for 9 months now and says it’s had a very real impact on how the company views its markets.
“Better by Design made us think deeply about the end user, what their requirements were, what they wanted in a fireplace and how it should look. It provides an opportunity for us to take another look at how we do things with some really good results early on”, Cowden says.
In July this year Bamford and Cowden will head to San Francisco as part of the NZTE’s US Study Tour. They will visit companies such as IDEO, Google, Apple, Survey Monkey and Sanford Design School to name a few. The aim of the tour is for companies to share insights and to get a hands-on look at the operations of design led companies on an international stage.
“The opportunity to get along-side some the biggest and most influential companies in the world is incredible. Being part of Better by Design has changed our thinking, but it’s also opened so many doors for us as a company”, Bamford says.
Smart phone, smart heat
As part of their on-going product development and customer driven approach the design team at Escea identified that the ability to turn on products remotely was attractive to consumers.
Working with a Dunedin based applications developer Escea developed the Smart Heat system. Smart Heat allows each fireplace to connect to the internet; homeowners can then turn on their fireplace from any location via a secure web screen or through the iPhone or Android smart phone app. The Smart Heat system also provides the option of using your smart phone as the fireplace remote-control and is compatible with most home management systems.
The DX Range of fireplaces with Smart Heat Technology also won a Best Design Award from the Design Institute of New Zealand last year.
Escea success can be attributed in part to a dedicated passionate team. Industrial Designer Alex Hodge was fresh out of Otago Polytechnic when he joined the Escea team in 2006. Since then he has worked on a wide range of projects for the company as both a design engineer and industrial designer. Hodge is particularly proud of his work on developing the Escea Fascia range. He was also the lead designer on the Smart Heat iPhone app designing the user interface and graphics for the product.
“It’s great to be working for a young company who are open to new and innovative ideas. We get involved at all stages of the development so you get a real buzz from seeing a product you’ve helped design coming off the production line and knowing people are enjoying it in their homes”. Hodge says.
Demand for Escea products continues to grow around the globe and the product development schedule is already full of new world-class designs planned for release locally and in export markets. With its design led approach, unique range and fresh slant on business Escea is certainly doing its bit to keep Dunedin manufacturing alive and kicking.
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