The TIG Brush

Ensitech

Clive White knew there had to be a better way to clean stainless steel welds. The engineer joined forces with two likeminded entrepreneurs and set out to solve the heat tint problem. It wasn’t easy. “We became a three man band that worked at night and on weekends trying to find a way,” Mr White remembers. “It took us four years.”

Finally, the inventors developed the TIG Brush – a system that quickly and easily cleans stainless steel welds using an innovative combination of heat, electricity, and chemistry. It was an immediate success. “We found that companies came to rely on the TIG Brush as part of their manufacturing process very, very quickly,” Mr White says. The men launched the New South Wales based company Ensitech to manufacture their product; an entirely new approach to stainless steel had just been born.

The next step was to take the TIG Brush to National Manufacturing Week. “In four days we got 200 customers who wanted the machine,” Mr White reports. “So you can imagine that 2008 was a very busy year building TIG Brushes at my garage.”

The company couldn’t stay in the garage for long. Business skyrocketed. Everyone, it seemed, wanted a TIG Brush, and Ensitech was soon receiving widespread recognition and a slew of coveted awards. “We also developed an intellectual property portfolio [with] patents and trademarks around the globe,” General Manager Ben Smith says. “That helped us cement our leading position in the market.”

Mr White says that he has “often contemplated what made us successful, whereas nine out of ten companies fail.” A dose of healthy ambition certainly contributed. “I like to think big and I think that helps,” he explains. Because if you have a really big picture that you are aiming toward, then the issues that you are facing on a day to day perspective become smaller because you are aiming toward a bigger goal.” From day one, Mr White “could see this big future,” even back when he was still fiddling with prototypes in his garage.

“We also had a fair bit of courage,” he adds. “To go to the National Manufacturing Week in 2008, we actually spent nearly every cent that we had in the business. So, sometimes you just have to be prepared to risk everything to meet that goal. And sometimes that can be really hard to do. But every time we’ve done that at Ensitech it has really paid off.”

Mr White believes that the number one reason for Ensitech’s success is the simple fact that the TIG Brush is an excellent product – and that the market needed it. “We found that the product basically sold itself,” he explains. From the beginning, the team wanted to not only invent a totally new system, but to also make that system as high quality and user friendly as possible. “We decided to make something that we would like to use ourselves,” Mr White explains. “We spent a lot of time designing it. We got people involved who shared our vision of [producing] something that was very high quality.”

They agonised over the smallest detail until everything was just right. “For example, the fluids that go with the machine are all different colours. They’ve even got different scents, so they all have a unique smell. We spent months choosing the right materials. Materials that wouldn’t go sticky with the acid, materials that were nice to hold. So we really put a huge amount of effort into the machine.”

The stainless steel industry recognised that the TIG Brush was just what it had been looking for. “We came out with a brand new product that was highly creative and high quality and the customers absolutely loved it,” Mr White remarks. “We had one of the first customers ring up and say it was gorgeous, which isn’t the sort of thing you normally associate with industrial equipment.”

The TIG Brush is also safe for both humans and the environment. This is in stark contrast to the other methods used to clean stainless steel welds. “One alternative is called pickling paste, which is a horrible combination of hydrofluoric acid and nitric acid,” Mr White reports. “It actually dissolves skeletons… The hydrofluoric acid combines with the calcium in the bones and starts to dissolve them [after] a cumulative process.”

Other traditional methods aren’t much better. “All of those [traditional methods] have got issues,” Mr White explains. “They are all slow. They are all dangerous to varying degrees. And none of them are good for the environment.”

The TIG Brush was designed with this in mind. Therefore, it does not use toxic chemicals to get the job done. “In most countries around the world you can basically wash our chemicals down the drain after a bit of dilution, as opposed to competitor solutions which require special disposal,” Mr Smith points out.

The real trick, however, is to make a product that is both safe and effective; remarkably, the TIG Brush accomplishes both. “Quite often, we find that when we say ‘we have a safe product,’ people groan because they think that it is going to be slow and difficult to use and basically ineffective,” Mr Smith explains. “So we have also really concentrated on the performance of the product.”

The TIG Brush has already transformed the industry, but Mr White is still thinking big. In fact, the team wants to make the TIG Brush even better. Already, Ensitech has expanded on its original product to offer a complete solution the team has dubbed the stainless steel surface finishing system. “The TIG brush is the most well-known aspect of Ensitech, but we are going through an evolution as we grow and the market changes,” Mr Smith explains.

To this end, the team is constantly updating and tweaking the system to ensure that it remains relevant. Three different TIG Brush models are now available. Each one is sold as a complete set and includes all of the necessary fluids and a large number of supporting documents – “everything that the customer might need to use the TIG Brush in his particular situation.” The scope of the TIG Brush has also increased. New versions are capable of cleaning MIG welds as well as TIG welds, and have broader finishing applications.

Continuing to innovate is crucial in staying ahead, Mr White explains. “Because nowadays, things change very rapidly, and if you want to still be the highest quality and the best product out in the industry, you have to constantly innovate.” Maintaining excellent customer service is part of this strategy, he adds, and having close relationships with customers is necessary in order to know what they need. “Our innovation comes from knowing what the issues are, what the customers are facing,” Mr White explains. “We want to find that out first and be the first to find a solution.”

Of course, quality will continue to be paramount at Ensitech. “As far as the future of the TIG Brush, we are looking at making it even faster than it is right now,” Mr White reports. “We are addressing different types of materials, and using the technology to branch out into different types of applications – but with the same philosophy that we want it to be fast, safe, and high performing.”

Offering a superior product will become increasingly important, Mr White says, as Australian manufacturers struggle to compete with low cost Asian imports. “We can’t compete on price, so we have to compete on something else.” Quality, he insists, is absolutely essential to the success of Aussie manufacturing.

And Mr White would know. After all, Ensitech has grown 444 per cent over the last five years – pretty impressive for a company that makes all of its product right here in Australia.

If fact, the story of the TIG Brush is proof that manufacturing can still flourish down under. “Ensitech has shown that with just a little bit of innovation, with just a little bit of thinking outside of the square, any company in Australia can be really, really competitive,” Mr White remarks. “We’ve had phenomenal growth. And it was just done by three guys who made something in the garage.”

Making Sense of Management

Management is the art, or science, of getting things done through people. Sounds fairly straightforward – except for the fact that people are not robots waiting to do our bidding. People have their own minds, motivations, and goals. So how do managers keep operations – and the people behind them – running as planned?

December 16, 2017, 6:54 AM AEDT

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