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How to Come Back from the Brink!

Troubleshooters Podcast - Design to Production
Troubleshooters Podcast
Troubleshooters Podcast
How to Come Back from the Brink!
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In this episode of the Troubleshooters Podcast we speak to David Astone and Peter Gordon of Design to Production.  These guys are a dream team – Peter is an industrial designer and Dave is the manufacturing and operations guy. Together they have built a wonderful business that has managed to combine cutting edge design with cost efficient production. They have been at the forefront of digital signage solutions and have now moved well beyond signage supplying the likes of Wrigley with next generation vending solutions designed in Australia. Listen-in as they tell their stories, including how they got started, navigated 90% revenue concentration, and on to what they have achieved today – an international and diversified business.

About Peter

Peter Gordon is the Co-founder and Joint Managing Director of Design to Production, Australia’s leading designer and manufacturer of digital enclosures. Peter is an innovative and creative Industrial Designer with over 25 years of industry experience. Peter has worked for a number of leading design consultancies and has been responsible for a number of award-winning products. Having been one of the pioneers of small format digital advertising enclosures in Australia, he has continued to deliver cutting edge solutions and has positioned him as the partner of choice for Australia’s leading digital out of home providers.

Email: pg@d-p.com.au

About David

David Astone is the Co-founder and Joint Managing Director of Design to Production with over 20 years’ experience in working in engineering facilities both locally and internationally. Throughout this time he has had the opportunity to work with various global companies such as Electrolux, Westfield, 3M, Maytag, Nokia, Westpac, Siemens, General Electrics, IGT and HSBC to name a few. David’s knowledge in manufacturing has led Design to Production to develop a world class manufacturing facility, allowing for full end-to-end control – from design through to manufacture, testing and installation. As a Director of Design to Production, David oversees the general management of the company, working closely with all valuable clients and suppliers, managing projects to ensure they are completed to the highest quality and are delivered on schedule.

Email: da@d-p.com.au

For more information, please check out the Design to Production website.

Transcript below!

Note: This has been automatically transcribed so is likely to have errors! It may however help you navigate the points of interests for you.

Michael: Welcome to the Troubleshooters podcast with me your host Mike McGrath. Now today, I’ve been joined by two great business Troubleshooters, Peter Gordon and David asked are the founders and owners of Design to Production, a digital communications and merchandising solutions provider. Basically, they design and manufacture clever signage, and other cool stuff. Now these guys have built a great business and despite COVID. They’re killing it. However, this wasn’t always the case. They’ve had to dodge some bullets along the way, including a period where one custom was over 90% of total revenue. So sit back and enjoy their stories as they talk to us about how they came back from the brink.

Michael: So, Peter and David, welcome to the Troubleshooters podcast.

Peter: Thanks, Mike.

David: Thanks, Mike. Thanks for the nice intro.

Michael: It’s a pleasure. Good to have you both here. I’ve been looking forward to this chat. Now. We do go back a little bit of a way I think end of 17 I think we teamed up and we did a little bit of work together things a bit different for you back then were they you know, you had some challenges around revenue concentration, and the market was sliding a bit. So, before we get into that, tell us a little bit about how you guys met and what got you into business together. You’ve been in business designed to production for how long?

Peter: Almost 11 years now? In fact, timing over 11 years? I believe so, right Dave?

David: Yeah. 11 years to the last month.

Peter: Yep. So I was doing some contract design work. And Dave was working with a company that I was contracting to. And we were sent away on a project together. And I think was sitting at a bar one night thinking, you know, I think we can do this better ourselves. And we just started talking and, you know, one thing led to another and before too long, we were building prototypes on a kitchen bench.

Michael: Wow.

Peter: At that moment, I think we realised that we could do a better

Michael: Just so I’m clear, Peter, for the viewers, you were contracting at the time. So you’re a designer?

Peter: That’s right. I was a contract or industrial designer. And I was freelancing to various kiosk manufacturers and design companies working on similar projects to what we do now, although they’re more advanced these days. But I was designing and 3d modelling, drafting and documenting, design detailing, how these products were to be manufactured and how they ought to be built. And sort of at the same time talking to Dave, who was working with other company on building those products. So you know, Dave’s expertise in the manufacturing side of it was invaluable for me when I was designing these products, because we would always have conversations about how do you reckon this should be? Or what’s the economical way to do this? Or what does your machinery allow us to do here? And so we were having pretty in depth conversations about building a product and getting it to market as efficiently as possible.

Michael: So, David, tell us about your background. So what were you doing at that point?

David: So slightly before that time I was in manufacturing, it’s where I did my trade, I actually remember Pete first coming into the manufacturing place and placing an order for a few digital signs when it was this was pre-D2P. And I sort of, you know, met him a few times through there. And then a couple of years after that, I ended up getting poached from a company that does sort of touchscreen, interactive stuff. That’s when we sort of got to spend a little bit more time with each other. And yeah, like what Pete was sort of suggesting, you know, my background was manufacturing, Pete’s was design. And we were just, you know, gelling really well doing what we do for someone else. And, you know, the more time we sort of spent with each other, the more time we realised that, you know, the synergy was really good between us not from a design and production point of view, necessarily, but just general friendship and how we got on. Yeah, so that’s sort of what happened there. We sat down in a pub and had a few drinks and made the decision to consider doing something ourselves.

Michael: Great. Look, I think there’s important points here, really around partnerships and teaming up, because I remember back in ‘17, when I sort of met, you guys started working with you. I was quite excited, because I felt you were a great team. And so, you know, I saw that, you know, Peter on the one hand was very good at sort of design, he was quite creative. And he sort of had that kind of hello fellow well met. And then Dave, you were the production guy, like the nuts and bolts. How are we going to make it? How are we going to do it? So I think that’s quite important. A lot of businesses I see where people partner up, and they’re sort of the same. The magic is in the differences in a way, you know, so the, the sum of the parts is less than the sum of the whole, really, if you can get the right partner,

Peter: I think would have been a lot more challenging if we both enjoyed the same tasks at work. You know, like if we were both competing over the same tasks to draw the sketch of what it’s going to look like. for both saying, I know, I think it should be made this way or, you know, I think there’s a better way to do it. You know, we had trust in each other to sense that, well, Dave thinks that this is the best way to make it. I’m not gonna argue, you know, gonna back at 100% and vice versa.

Michael: Yeah. And so you decided to start the business? Who came up with the name design to production?

Peter: Dave?

David: Look, we both did. And we did a lot of time on the kitchen bench with, you know, prototyping and going back and forth before we got our first office. And yeah, we came up with some cool sketches. And we were sort of saying, what are we about? What are we about, and Dave, and Pete is the two initials that sort of needed to represent something. And so we sort of, you know, form that into

Michael: Dave, and Pete

David: Design to Production. And so we said, you know, it’s gonna be a little bit of a play on words with the DP. Yeah, that’s what we roll with. And then when everyone sort of meets us, they do sort of give us credit and take some more “Oh, Dave and Pete, is that …”

Michael: So, before we get into the story design to production, because it’s a great story, and you’ve built a fantastic business. Let’s go back a little bit further. So was there anything in your background that suggested you were going to end up running your own business building a company being entrepreneurs, you know, were you always those kinds of people, Pete?

Peter: I never saw myself as owning a business. To be honest, both of my parents are school teachers. My father teaches industrial arts, material science and manufacturing technologies and things like that. And so there was yes, kind of always had a passion for that. My mother was quite artistic as well. She used to paint and do drawings and [on] weekends she sent me off to do drawing classes in the park, and things like that. And so I was always quite creative. But in terms of owning my own business, I remember when I first started working for myself, my parents were just so nervous thinking, you know, we have nothing to be able to offer you in knowledge of how to run a business, because, you know, they were very hard working, and they had work ethics, but they really didn’t have any experience in running a business. So I never saw myself to do that, to be honest. And for many years after I finished university, I studied industrial design. I was making furniture, but it was a bit of a labour of love and only making and designing things for friends. Very wrong approach to the way a business should be set out. I guess,

Michael: David, have you ever done metal works school or anything like that?

David: I did. I didn’t take too much of a liking into it. I mean, I sit there and I think about it and I go, you know, why did mom choose that, Or why did mom choose that, and I remember I did a little bit of experience in the kitchens, and then she sort of just went into one thing to the other and guided me around, and I was a bit of a brat, you know, in my younger days. And when I sort of found myself at this place, I didn’t put you know, when I say I was a bit of a brat, that’s probably me talking very nicely. But I just thought that this was the opportunity to really make up for all my school years and really put some serious effort.

Michael: I was gonna say you knuckle down, you took to it. You did your apprenticeship. You’re obviously learning a lot, right about how stuff got done. Yeah,

David: yeah, absolutely. And the guys there, you know, big credit to my past and my future. They were allowing me to do things that they hadn’t done before. So dealing with big companies like Letralux, and just managing like a new barbecue, or Maytag and managing a new rollout where we’d be importing fridges in reskinning them locally, and this place was huge, right? And they were not normally picking up these deals and given me free rein and I was 20. This is you know, 2007 and I was on about 100k, which is a lot. It’s a lot now. It’s a lot back then. And I was just always inspired to go to work, you know, and tell my story, you know, come home and tell my dad, you know, I like dealt with Maytag though, with Letralux deal with these guys sitting in the room, project managers and I was just really, really driving me.

Michael: So Dave fairplay that they gave you some responsibility really didn’t they. They must have seen something in you that said, Look, you know, we’ll let this guy off the chain a bit.

David: Yeah, absolutely. And again, a big credit to where I’m at is, is those guys and given me the opportunity, and I remember the boss, my boss said to me at the time, so he said, you probably want my job. And I said, Nana, I don’t think I do, because I don’t think there’s enough there for me. And I and we laughed about it. And I still, you know, I still laugh about it. And he goes, you’re gonna have your own business and because I know you’re gonna have your own business, and it’s gonna be really successful. And I said, yeah, we’ll say, Yeah, and I’m not sort of blowing any smoke out. But as we’ve gone along that whole journey, those guys have supported us massively. Yeah,

Peter: so in fact one of our first jobs when I dive when we first started working together, it was FJ precision metal company and one of the big first projects we did was designing and documenting the Westpac ATM surrounds. There was literally a new design every week and they would be manufacturing them a day or two after we finished the drawing. And, you know, a week later, though being installed across Australia,

David: that was actually our first job in DPS. Before we even had our office, you know, and again, that gave us another opportunity, knowing that we were just starting out in business, I guess there’s a story there, definitely don’t ever burn your bridges. But they got us back. And they knew Pete, because they used to, like I said, Before buying closure so fast that we used to manufacture and sell them in the digital space. And then so then you asked, and they couldn’t have done that project without us. And yet to get introduced to something of that scale was massive for our first bit of credibility for the business as well. But it was really big. So

Michael: You team up, you meet up, you have a drink in a pub, and you say, right, let’s get going. You call on your off, FJ Precision, and you get some work. So when was the first time you thought day? Okay, I want to get into business. I mean, what was it because you clearly had something going on?

David: Look, I guess it was probably paid. So, you know, Pete’s a little bit older than me, and a little bit more experienced. So when I was still working at FJ’s or the other mob, he sort of did say to me, and I remember and I never forget it. But he did say to me, he says, Man, I know it’s gonna be hard for you, because you’re probably thinking working for yourself, you know, no stability. And it’s just you taking that risk, you know, and I guess I completely understand that. I know, it’d be hard, but be the nice guy that he is, you know, sort of say, Man, I can tell you, it’s okay, I’ve got you know, some contacts are really believed that we can make this work. Yeah. And so I had a chat to my dad and dad’s like, mate, just do it. And he is back to me a little bit. Financial Aid just sort of said, right for the next couple of months, don’t worry about the money in your bank for rent and things like that, yes, just go out there and do what you do best and do it with pay. And I took that late with all my sort of knowledge and understanding of where I wanted to do, but he kind of pushed me over the edge. And then we kicked things off and never looked back. I guess it’s one of those things, once you make that leap, and you’re flying solo, yes, you can’t really look back and you don’t really want to look down, you just want to put your blinkers on and keep looking ahead.

Michael: He said an interesting thing. And you said that you wanted to do things better, and really thought you could do things better? What did that mean for you at that point?

Peter: Yeah, I think we identified that the guy that we’re working for, and with at the time, seemed like they were wasting time and energy wasting money, I think we just understood what the client wanted. And we figured out the best and quickest way to do it for them, yes, and less sort of mucking around, you know, less money on overhead, I mean, we were lucky to have a clean slate in a way, because we didn’t have to have all the equipment and all the machinery, you know, we just literally have a laptop and a couple of telephones. And at that time, that’s all we needed, because we would get different companies to manufacture different parts for us. And all we needed was a little bit of space to do some assembly work. And sometimes we would do that assembly work with the companies who are doing the manufacturing for us, you know, we’d borrow a bit of space in their back shed and back workshop, and, you know, pay them for it. But at the same time, we didn’t have a huge amount of tools and equipment and you know, all the gear and we’ve only purchased something if you really needed it, you know, like if we needed to set up a workbench, for instance, or if we needed to set up an assembly area. And yeah, we’ll roll up bubble wrap, we didn’t have an account with a packaging company, we didn’t have to have accounts for freight companies, you know, all those things. They take time to set up but they also cost money. And and I guess that was one of the next lessons was cash flow. And Dave’s very good at that. And I remember one of the early challenges we had is, the faster we grew, the bigger the projects were, the bigger the cash flow we’d need, you know, so it’s just it was finding that line, once one time, we’d look at a job and it was like a $3,000 job, we go well, okay, well, we need to pay those guys and pay those guys, but we can’t pay them until we get paid. And then at the same time, we’d be taken on a job for $100,000. And all of a sudden, we’ve got a 30 grand to these guys. And only got the last job that was worth five grand to pay them with it. So, it was a real balancing act in Dave’s dad gave us some great advice and helped us a lot of those early stages. Not so much financially. But more just like this is how you guys got to do it. This is how you got to set yourselves up. This is how we do it, you know, pretty fast learning curve for that type of work is every couple of months go by the projects just got bigger and bigger.

Michael: So, let’s just put some context around this. So, you start collecting some clients, you start making stuff, you know, you’re finding your way to put things together, you’re being efficient. And then you stagger yourself a big client at some point in this cycle that turns you into a multimillion-dollar business effect. You know, quite quickly, so that whole outdoor advertising space kind of blew up didn’t run there was a big demand for digital signage. Just walk us through that kind of expansion. Really that explosion that happened to you.

Peter: I think Dave mentioned before one of the first projects that I was working on was a digital signage. In fact, I think we were one of the first to do a small format digital sign in In Australia, and that’s, you know, the signs you see when you go to the shopping centre or the signs, the digital signs you see when you go to the airports or you see them on the side of the roads now, you know, in bus shelters, etc. So we had a client, and I’ve been working with them for a couple of years in their early stages. And as they grew, we grew, because we were, you know, we had a great working relationship with these guys. And when we still do, and we were designing, and we’re innovating, and we were manufacturing, and we were assembling them, and it was going pretty well. And it still does. So yeah, yeah, we were at the mercy of them. Yeah, because after five years of Moore’s, like, as I guess, of supplying them, they were going gangbusters, they were just getting bigger and bigger themselves. And there was some little sideline sort of businesses that we would do work for, as well, in a similar space, you know, smaller, out of home companies, we got a really good reputation of being able to deliver and innovate. Some of the reasons why we were getting so much work is that we were not just necessarily following the brief but coming back to them with ideas of how we could make it better and coming up with packaging solutions for them coming up with installation solutions, ways to make the logistics of that particular sign more efficient. Yes. And, yeah, like I said, we had some great contacts in their business and all that industry as well. And so that just led the growth.

Michael: So you were very responsive, you were very focused. I mean, this is quite a common story. Insofar as you know, you don’t get to choose a concentration issue, it finds you effectively, you know, there’s an opportunity a client’s growing, you’re Johnny on the spot, you’ve been very good to them, they’re giving you all the work, and then all of a sudden, you’ve got a multimillion-dollar business that we’re talking about more than $5 million. And 90% of it’s with one customer. That was the kind of story wasn’t it, really. And everything was going great insofar as they were paying well, we’re able to cash flow the business, but

Peter: I think that’s about the time we met you. Yeah. And I think you’re pretty quick to identify, you said, guys, you know, you need someone on the outside looking in to give you some guidance. And I’m so grateful that we did that at the time. Because, you know, I remember you saying, you know, you’re one phone call away from extinction. And that sort of rang true. You look around and go shit, imagine, you know, if those guys rang up and said, Sorry, guys, we found someone else off. Thanks. But no, thanks. So, you know,

Michael: it’s interesting, Dave, I mean, you talk about that, that’s not an issue when everything’s going great. And the point is, you can’t solve a concentration issue quickly or easily. Like, I mean, you’ve got to almost put a cotton wall around that client and treat them really well, whilst figuring out a plan to perhaps do something else to diversify over time. So tell us a bit about what you did there. Because you guys did some great work around diversification, I know it was thrust on you a bit. Because you know, that client through no fault of yours began to just buy less off you didn’t it? Because it didn’t have the need it previously had. That was a challenge. Dave,

Peter: Dave was pretty good. I mean, you can expand on this, Dave, but you’re pretty good to identify how we, how we go about that. Because when they stop ordering, and we’ve still got 20 staff, and we’ve got massive factory space and massive office space, you know, a couple of quiet months, and you’re going backwards pretty quick. And I think Dave was quick to react to that and identify that we needed to have a more flexible work staff to expand and contract was required.

David: Yes, that was the big challenge, I guess. And that was, that was the thing. So, you know, coming into the to the large growth is what you’re talking about, it’s a little bit easier to grow. And you don’t think about having a contract until you obviously need to. And so that was the obvious challenge, but it is obviously keeping a close eye on the finances and what they’re doing, you know, quite far ahead. I remember at that time; my old man was giving us advice on the accounting side of things. And he was, you know, showing me to look into the future, your regular cash flow reports and things like that. And when everything looks okay, you know, it’s easy to sort of manage, but you start to sort of see it get a little bit lumpy, that’s when you sort of have to really buckle down and lock up period Express, you know, starting to contract and be able to be in a position that you can expand again,

Peter: because one of the ways out of that is to diversify. But that takes a while, you know, you can’t just turn that tap on immediately you need to get out there and start looking for it. And I think Mike, you helped us identify other industries that we could be looking into in other markets. And that was when we started to look at international markets.

Michael: Yeah, look, it was a classic textbook, right. So you’ve got, you know, 90 plus percent of revenue with one client, that client is demanding a certain level of loyalty which limits your ability to go into their market and supply their competitor, the Australian market, it’s not that big. And then you start looking okay, well, what are you guys good at, and you are extremely good at manufacturing. You’re extremely good at design. I mean, that’s one of the reasons those guys were using you is that you are coming up with very contemporary looking design that was leading the lead in the industry. And so, you know, could you switch that. And I know, we looked at the US. And we felt the US market was certainly large enough to dip your toe in. But you guys executed that beautifully. You guys just got on a plane,

Peter: We had a bit of an advantage in the sense that Australia is one of the leading markets for digital out of home, especially the small format, even now, like you go to the state. So you go to Europe, they don’t have as much small format, digital advertising as we do here. And especially back then, like even five years ago, they were, I mean, I know they do now, but they were using less facial recognition that while we do programmatic advertising, their signage was less sophisticated. And I don’t know why that was, I mean, because they’re quite advanced economies and technology, other areas, but it just didn’t seem like they were quite there. And so when we went to a couple of international trade shows and had some products on exhibition there, so like, we went to the digital signage Show in Las Vegas, there was a good one for us. And the other one was the ISC, which was in Amsterdam. And these are the ISC is one of the largest possibly in the world for that type of products. We had some products there. And I think that’s where people sort of took notice of what we could do, we had some cutting-edge designs there that people couldn’t really believe that we could make something so thin and the build quality was second to none. And it was at those shows that we were introduced to a couple of potential clients. And that’s led to, you know, the last three years working with companies like Mars Wrigleys. And that’s been a great project for us.

Michael: And I mean, that’s a great story, isn’t it? That, you know, you were able to compete globally? Yeah. Talk about that, what you’ve been able to do there, because I think it’s such a great story.

Peter: When we first went to it was a trade show called cinema con. And it was basically at the Bellagio Casino. They have fun some of the big conference centres there. And unfortunately, yeah. It was supposed to be it was products, they have everything to do cinemas. So they’ve got ticketing machines, they got popcorn machines, they’ve got candy vending machines. And so one of our friends said, Come over and check out this machine, you know, this isn’t was a Skittles vending machine. And they go, you guys should be able to do one of those. And we sort of, yeah, of course, but can we ever look inside, we took some photos. And we were in the States for a couple of weeks at that time. And so we thought, let’s just get on the front foot here. And we were travelling with one of our senior designers as well, we all sort of sat down together and drew some shapes and said, Oh, imagine if we could make it look like this. And we spent a bit of time on it. And within a couple of weeks, I think it was less than probably about a week, we’d actually done some 3d modelling. And we’ve done some renders of what it could look like. And we sent that straight back to the guys. And they couldn’t believe that we could turn something around so quick. And that we were firstly that were Australian, and in America, even talking to them, like half them and even pregnant, even Australia was that I think it was that sort of efficiency or the speed that we done that sort of work for them without asking for anything, you know, like to hear this concept? Or what about this? Or what if it could be like that. And so that got pushed down the road a bit further. And we will ask them to provide some pricing and go a little bit further down the track. And that probably took two or three months. And then by that time we’re back in Australia and sort of went dead, then for a while. And we sort of followed up a little bit later and said what’s going on? They said, Look, you know what, it’s just a little bit too hard. You know, you guys down in Australia, it’s too hard for us to vet you guys. And you know, I just don’t think it’s gonna work. Thanks, great ideas, but I just don’t think it’s going to work class yet. And then six months later, or maybe a little bit more, maybe seven months, phone rings, and it’s like, Are you guys still interested? And apparently, they they try to get some American companies to do it. I think they even spoke to a European company. And they just didn’t have the spunk that we were showing in the sense that, you know, we were proposing facial recognition and Gesture Control and a few cool things like that. Yeah. And these other companies hadn’t even heard of that. Or, I mean, the trouble was while talking to an old school vending company, or they were talking to an old school sheetmetal manufacturer, they weren’t really thinking about it as a smart kiosk. They were just coming out from the same old approach as the vending industry has been doing for 2030 years. Yes, yeah, we had to sharpen the pencil and we had to come up with better ways. And we had to do a lot more work on it. That’s when we got the Go ahead. Basically, they said, Well, if you guys can produce these at x price, and you can add these features into it, you’re on and so we literally just got back from presenting the prototypes about a month ago now, about a 95% chance we’re going into production before the end of the year.

Michael: Isn’t that great? And I mean, to put this in context, this is a multimillion dollar orders with a likes of Wrigley that’s gonna run for several years. Yeah,

Peter: they got a schedule to roll out 3000 Over the next couple of years and I mean, for Australian company that’s massive. Yeah, we just don’t have the scale here of that. I mean, like, just say there was gonna be a Skittles machine in every, the most you could go for might be couple of 100. And yeah, and that would be it, you’d be kept. But I guess that’s why these other markets for us is now so important. And yes, not to forget the Australian markets, of course, and will always work for Australian markets, but it just opens a lot more doors. And I mean, they’re already talking about M&Ms and other products.

Michael: So Dave, just putting this into context for me. So four years ago, you you’re a $5 million dollar business, you’ve got 90% Concentration quite quickly, that unravels a bit, you know, you’re down to a couple of million very quickly. You are a big part, as Pete said earlier of reorganising that business of yours. And now four years later, you’re diversified? Nobody’s more than I don’t know. 10 or 15%. Is that right? Yeah,

David: Yeah, we’ve we’ve got everyone down on a pretty sort of equal playing ground, I guess, so to speak. But yeah, look, my definitely has its challenges, as you know, and yeah, looking at the numbers, I think, you know, you also reinforces, I guess, with your understanding of business and knowledge, which is the accounting side of things that you know, you really need to spend a lot of time in looking at and focusing on or just, you know, enjoy doing it sitting down with our with our accounts, and just keeping a close eye on where things are out in the future and putting it all together with your income with your sales, taking the advice of obviously, people like yourself have diversifying, and then you know, really putting money back into not only how we diversify our income, but how do we diversify our technology? And how do we diversify what we’re building? You know, and if this industry is flooded, and what other industry can we move into, they’re the big things that we’ve done really well. And the things that when Pete was talking about the Mastiff is the technology that they really saw that we were good at, you know, we are probably the best in design. And we were looked upon as like a European sort of, you know, design Ferrari, Lamborghini sort of style of electronics and digital technology. Yeah, but with the software, that’s what we’re able to do really well. And so having your one stop shop, I guess, so to speak, just to supply the whole thing, turnkey, there’s a lot of merits there, I guess for big clients looking at, you know, companies just to one solution, one final, they don’t want to necessarily know too much about the detail, but they want to leave it up to one person because, obviously in the industry that’s quite common that, you know, everyone tries to dissect certain things, and, and everyone starts to sort of not really synergize too well. So it’s been a pretty interesting last couple of years.

Michael: Yes. But I mean, it’s interesting that you the way you see yourselves now as a digital communications and merchandising business, that you’re just got a broader self-concept, haven’t you of what it is that you can do? Because, you know, you’ve moved into confectionery, you’re not just the cool sign guys anymore?

Peter: No, definitely. I think the things that put us on the map, in terms of Myers Wrigley’s and those sorts of clients is the ability to have the gesture control gamification, and we’ve dipped their toe in the water with that with that futuristic fun. That’s like a kid’s games console. And currently there, we’ve got a few into shopping centres. And yes, for instance, we found that when COVID hit, we had a touchscreen on there and a payment device, and you had to enter your details for photograph via the touchscreen. During COVID. We thought we’ve got the in house software, let’s develop some gesture control. So you don’t even have to touch the unit anymore. And yeah, the ability to have that software in house and being able to pivot like that, I guess, helps keep the wheels turning. Yeah. And it’s so timely, because that’s as soon as we develop that we thought, well, perfect application would be in a vending machine as well. You know, I mean, even though you have to touch the machine to take the cup of product out the last touches, the better. Yeah. And plus, it makes it fun. And you see someone standing in front of a digital enclosure, and they’re waving their arms around and then laughing and they’re mucking around with their friends. Of course, other people are going to be attracted to that. And they’re gonna come over and go, Oh, give me a go with it. And I think that’s the types of innovation that Design to Production is good at and that I think international companies are looking for right now.

Michael: Yeah. What’s the future for Design to Production? I mean, you guys obviously love what you do. You’ve definitely found a nice here, haven’t you? Both of you, you complement each other. So what’s the future to see more growth? Expansion? You see more overseas, where you go in?

Peter: I think definitely more international work for sure. I think, where in the past we would be designing an enclosure and then handing it on to our clients to instal them and maintain them and monitor them. We’re moving into more of a full turnkey solution where we can offer everything so right, not just the enclosure, but the actual hardware that goes within the enclosure, the installation services, the monitoring services, that’s really important, especially for companies that have large networks. They just want to know that it’s all being looked after. Yes, one of the things that we’ve seen right now and that we’re working on is the electric vehicle charging stations. Okay, that’s a pretty hot topic at the moment. Yes, I’m sure it’s going to happen. At the moment, this company is trying to roll these out with the help of media revenue. Yeah. Okay. So rather than just putting a charging station in a shopping centre, the model is that you can put one up front, you know, in a good parking spot. And so if you’ve got a good parking spot, obviously, the media dollars is going to be there as well, because people want to advertise in the most visible, prominent sites. Yes. So we’re working on a bit of that at the moment.

Michael: And how has COVID affected you guys, I know that you’ve done some pretty cool work, Dave, on the back end to make sure you can fluctuate with, you know, rising and falling demand, right, which I think is smart. But have you managed with COVID? You’ve talked about overseas, how’s that going to be affected, you think, in this sort of post COVID era?

David: Yeah, look, certainly affected us. You know, late last year and early last year, probably the most, I think the whole world stood still. And what we’re sort of seeing, you know, obviously, a lot of our work is in the retail space, where I think shopping centres and that whole retail space are actually getting hungrier, I guess, for our kind of products, right? They’ve got that ongoing fight with online, right. And so that’s a thing and that’s happening. And so how do they fight back, you know, and they fight back by, you know, making their shopping centres, better environments, they want, you know, more interaction, you can see that by what they’re doing other means of revenue coming out of self service, digital cool things, which is basically our space. So what we’ve been really good at, and what we’ve been actively doing is, you know, not necessarily waiting for clients to come to us your product, we’ve been jumping on the front foot, but software, we’ve got platforms, we’ve got design, we’ve got prototyping, we’ve got high volume manufacturing, we’ve got overseas capacity. So right now is probably the most exciting time for us. Because we’re basically putting everything together. And no one really has to think, you know, some of the products that we’ve come and develop, especially these last couple of years, like what people went on their COVID safe. You know, we’re actually on the front foot with, you know, saying, right, well, you can touch the screen, but you don’t actually have to touch it, you can have this in your shopping centre. And these can bring kids into want to be able to play this game and in all time, increase the dwell time and things like that. And so we’re sort of following that trend. And that’s what’s been good, you know, and that only comes with experience, it only comes with trust from not only obviously, your business partner, your client, and also your employees, it’s a massive thing, you know, everyone sort of sticking together and putting their faith in each other and trust and just moving forward. And yes, yeah, big credit to the whole team, we’ve just been able to really execute well and off the back of having, you know, clients that are always willing to back us as well. So

Michael: well, look, I mean, it’s a huge shout out to you guys. Because, you know, if I was able to help a little bit back in 17, great, but Steve Jobs said that a great idea, or a strategy is worthless without top class execution. And I think the fact that you’re here now that you executed on some of that strategy, you know, I mean, Pete, you’re in the US last week or the week before?

Peter: Yeah, well, two weeks in quarantine. But

Michael: I don’t know anyone that’s been to the US in the last month, let me tell.

David: They’re actually chasing him out of the airport. At the checkout sort of saying “can you just tell me how you got back to Australia? Because I’ve got family that have been trying for three months and you just for two weeks and then and then jumped on an aeroplane that he thought he was?”

Michael: Yeah,

Peter: yeah. A bit scary. Getting off at LA. And there was literally only 25 people on the plane over there. If you get off the plane and the airport was packed. It was people everywhere. And no one wearing masks.

Michael: Yeah, the airline industry in the US has just carried on. I mean, right the way through. Okay, I

Peter: can’t fly. Yeah. Well, there’s three flights leaving Sydney every day to LA. Is that right? Three different airlines are flying from Sydney de la daily. Wow. Wow. Yeah. The planes are empty and the return flights are empty as well. I don’t understand it. Anyway.

Michael: Yeah. Our chats about COVID Recently data, this podcast, so we’re all stuck in said, Yeah. quite severe locked down. Right. But you know, the vaccine rates are on the rise, which is good. I saw the UK have are opening up quite nicely at the moment. I think there’s 75% vaccinated. So

Peter: just sort of one thing. I think we just didn’t mention there was the effects of the COVID with freight costs and international shipping. And yes, we’ll feel the effects of that a little bit. Yes. No doubt. And it’s just so hard to get anything these days. And

Michael: yeah, look, as you know, I’m on the board of quite a few companies, five of the manufacturers. We’re all doing pretty well. All our problems on the supply side. Not the demand side. demand strong. Yeah. Mining in going well, you know, on the board of a lighting company, we’re flying but also supply-side issues here. Yeah, and I think that’s going to get worse. I mean, we’re not predicting any kind of normality till next April or May on some of our supplying involved, the company can Harness Master. And we’re really struggling to get copper and some of the raw material stuff into our factory in the Philippines.

David: That’s the big thing in the shipping industry, right? It’s just, you know, less boats, less aeroplanes, high demand, everyone’s trying to get back to business, and feeling the effects of, you know, companies contracting and not being able to expand fast enough or whether they do or not. And so the the demand has gone absolutely through the roof, hence why, you know, 12 months offers 1,000% increase. Well,

Michael: yeah, but look, you know, the good news is, is that I’m speaking to lots of companies in the course of my work, which is always interesting, a bit of a joy, really, and I’m amazed how many companies like you have been able to navigate COVID and done well. I mean, there’s definitely some losers. Anyone in the airline or anyone, you know, in hospitality. But overall, I’m amazed how we’ve been able to kind of manage really so far. It’s incredible. It’s been remarkable, I think, my growth Well, thanks so much for coming on, guys have been so honest and vulnerable. And talking a bit about your story. I’ve no doubt you two guys are going to go from strength to strength and the design to production. I was going to be around for a long time. And if anyone wants some cool signings, other cool stuff, right? The place, where do they need to get a hold of you

Peter: Design to Production

David: www.d-p.com.au Check out our YouTube channel.

Michael: you will be inundated. Now you have no idea how many people who want signings, you listen to this podcast. So thanks again. And stay safe, fellas.

Peter: Thanks, Mike.

David: Thanks, Mike. You too.

Michael: So have you enjoyed this episode of The troubleshooters podcast? I think Dave and Pete are a great team and complement each other’s different skill sets very well. They also have what it takes to stare down the proverbial barrel and make the tough calls when they have to. Now if you like this content, be sure to subscribe and tell your friends. Big shout out to our sponsors, Oasis Partners, for great corporate advice with a practical bias call the guys at Oasis. And finally, if you want to talk to Peter and David about their business Design to Production, then their contact details will be in the show notes. So, until next time, stay safe