Flashing lights, glamorous hotels and iconic casinos, Las Vegas is a city where life-changing decisions are made at the roll of a dice.
It’s appropriate, then, that the famous city in Nevada was also where an Australian innovation caused a ripple in the North American market and may prove a game-changing move for its creators.
This past March, Las Vegas hosted CONEXPO-CON/AGG – the international gathering place for construction industries that features exhibits of the latest technology, innovation in equipment, products and services.
Australian company Stabilcorp showcased its unique ShoulderMaster product at the trade event where it proved a hit with the locals.
The ShoulderMaster attachment, designed and built by the New South Wales-based company, is a road repair and widening skid steer attachment that safely and effectively fixes dangerous narrow roads and crumbling road shoulders, particularly on rural road networks.
Since entering the Australian market more than two years ago, it has garnered industry praise and acceptance, winning a range of industry awards.
Geoff Jackson, Stabilcorp Business Development Manager, explains that growing interest in the ShoulderMaster internationally made the decision to attend the expo an easy one.
“What became evident to us was that there were a significant number of enquiries coming through our networks and social media, particularly from Canada and the United States.
“A company we do business with – Hedweld Group – was exhibiting at the expo and they let us use their stand as a base, which gave us insight into what the market was like over there for our products.”
During the five-day event, the Stabilcorp team engaged with the local industry, learning about the North American road construction and maintenance sector and whether the ShoulderMaster had relevance or not. In this case, it did.
“The process of profiling out a road shoulder and then filling that using some form of equipment is probably more widely known and accepted in North America than in Australia,” says Mr. Jackson.
“When we arrived, there were a large number of people who said this is a machine that will do what they need. There’s nothing really like it in the market over there that adheres specifically to asphalt that fits to a skid-steer.
“They have similar machines, but nothing quite as robust as the ShoulderMaster with its heated screed, which is important for the application of asphalt.”
Mr. Jackson says engagement with industry at the expo certainly showed the ShoulderMaster had a place in the market, but also that business confidence was on the rise.
“With the US election over, there was a significant amount of drive from the construction industry to push for more infrastructure spending – confidence was very high.”
With both the interest and market confidence evident, Stabilcorp is now cementing its plans to launch the ShoulderMaster in the North American market.
“While we were there we received a lot of enquiries from contractors themselves, as well as distributors. We’ve now identified one distributor partner in particular we are working with to assist in launching in the US,” says Mr. Jackson.
“We’re looking at doing a soft launch to the North American market in August/September this year, and firm it up in the New Year.
“There are some changes that need to be made to the product for it to enter the American market, but that’s something we identified early on.”
The most obvious change is to modify the unit to suit left-hand drive vehicles, which, Mr. Jackson says, is a relatively small modification to make.
The big questions for Stabilcorp concern how it will supply its innovative ShoulderMaster product to North America.
“We’ve made initial enquiries with potential channel partners and we are currently evaluating options with regards to delivering ShoulderMasters into the North American market,” says Mr. Jackson.
While Stabilcorp’s North American journey is just beginning, the company’s growth at home has continued to rise.
The business’ dedicated manufacturing facility in Wauchope, NSW, officially opened in July last year, has contributed to the firm’s steady growth across the country, as well as its decision to seek opportunities abroad.
“We’ve got the product in most of the states now in a lot of rural areas. I’ve just come back from Tasmania where we introduced the first ShoulderMaster there to Stornoway, which is working all over the state,” says Mr. Jackson.
“Every day we’re getting enquiries about our ShoulderMaster products, whether that’s for sale or hire. Hiring the product has proved a really good way to get it out in the market, and it’s a great way for companies to trial the technology too.
“When we hire out the product, we supply the contractor with a fully trained operator. It’s not just about using the machine safely, but it’s about how to get the most out of it too – we want our customers to realise the benefits of the machine.”
The company is also promoting its ShoulderMaster SM2100 attachment, which it most recently showcased at the 2017 Diesel, Dirt and Turf Expo in Penrith, NSW. The SM2100 screed extends 2100 millimetres and was most recently hired on a job on the Hume Highway in Wangaratta, where it laid one to eight kilometres of asphalt in one day.
Mr. Jackson says the uptake of the ShoulderMaster is increasing, and given its significance in improving rural road networks, it’s being recognised as an effective tool in improving safety.
“People are realising more and more the benefits of the machine, and that by investing in these areas they are getting more bang for their buck too.”
If a growing acceptance and identity in the Australian market wasn’t enough, Stabilcorp is working with the Mechanical Engineering Unit at the University of Newcastle on a research study on the ShoulderMaster to optimise its use.
“We’re always looking at improving the performance of the product and staying ahead of the curve as well.”