Fit For Life

Forpark Australia

“We’ve been spending a lot of time expanding our Orbit play range with the admission of a new platform system and stainless steel componentry,” says Forpark’s National Operations Manager, Michael De Sousa. “We’ve also released several new freestanding items as a part of our traditional play range so we’ve been quite busy.”

Being relevant and innovative has been key to the continued success of Forpark, which was the first company to introduce outdoor fitness equipment to Australians. The team has been busy putting the final touches on an exciting new range that took two years to develop in collaboration with fitness experts and is unlike anything else on the market.

Forpark’s new ParkFit range combines quality Australian design and manufacturing with the best of European technology. Prior to designing and manufacturing ParkFit, Mr De Sousa says that Forpark engaged with a local sports physiotherapist. “The idea behind that was to ensure that the items actually offered a range of movement that would create the desired workout and target the intended muscle groups, particularly with the moving pieces. We also wanted to make sure that the equipment would be comfortable and feel quite natural to use.” Forpark is also working with a Sydney based personal trainer to further develop the range. “The beauty of this type of equipment is that it is modular so you can actually design it to suit almost any set of requirements.” There are plans to develop combination units utilising various static items from the ParkFit range along with instructional videos and workout plans.

Beating the bulge can be a drag but ParkFit makes it easy (and we daresay fun) for just about anyone to get in shape. The 22-piece range of static and moving equipment incorporates the latest in rubber resistance system technology, offering users a unique workout experience. This technology also reduces the need for maintenance and increases the life of the equipment. ParkFit has a sleek, contemporary look and is built to last, using 316 electro polished stainless steel, anodised aluminium and injection moulded glass filled nylon. “There was quite a bit of development work that had to go ahead,” comments Mr De Sousa. “We had to make sure that every aspect, from product design and usability to production was just right.”

While there was a soft launch of ParkFit at the beginning of this year, within the next few months Forpark will be holding a proper national launch. Forpark had originally planned to release ParkFit during the first half of 2013. “We did, however, hit a few snags along the way which did slow down the process,” shares Mr De Sousa. “The design with this type of fitness equipment had to be spot on the first time.” From a design point of view, even though ParkFit looks quite simple, it is relatively complex. Rubber resistance system technology has been critical to the line’s success.

Playground and outdoor fitness equipment is a long-term investment, and finding spare parts can be impossible if a manufacturer has gone out of business – as many have in the time Forpark has been operating. To meet this need, Forpark sells spare parts for product ranges that are no longer being actively marketed or sold and has been doing so for 30 years. Forpark is an industry leader in Australia and continues to receive export enquiries from around the world. The level of enquiries from buyers in the Middle East has been relatively steady and there has recently been a large influx of enquiries from Asia, being led by customers in Japan and Vietnam.

What sets Forpark apart from competitors in China and Europe comes down to quality control, safety and price. While Chinese manufacturers can often offer customers lower prices, they cannot compete with Forpark on quality. Forpark has a strong commitment to using only the highest grade materials. Manufacturing in-house gives the company superior control over quality and helps keep prices down. Forpark is based in Welshpool, Western Australia and is divided into two manufacturing facilities. The main one is located at head office and is where all the steel fabrication, welding, drilling, powder coating and any timber fabrication takes place. Located just five minutes away is the plastic manufacturing plant.

When it comes to Australian workmanship, Mr De Sousa explains that most Forpark employees are locals, many of which have been with the company for over a decade and take great pride in what they do. “We’re very committed to keeping the manufacturing of our product in-house and protecting local jobs – so much so that we’re currently exploring options for a new, larger premises twice the size of our current one.”

Forpark is quickly closing the gap with European competitors when it comes to style and innovation as well. “The European product is actually more expensive but we’re able to offer a similar level of style and innovation but without the European price tag,” comments Mr De Sousa. Forpark’s range of play equipment mixes dynamic lines with bold colours for a look that is fresh and fun, and the company is ahead of the game with emerging trends in playground and outdoor fitness equipment. Staff brainstorm product ideas at regular production meetings, think tanks and round table discussions. Forpark has also worked with school groups on a number of occasions because there is no better way to find out what kind of equipment kids like playing on than by asking them directly or having them draw it. A while back, Forpark ran a program where schoolchildren could design a playground and they came up with some wildly extravagant ideas.

In an age of social media overload and smartphones, parks and playgrounds are still an important part of local communities. Children who are hooked on playing with the latest gadgets for hours at a time will fail to develop to their full potential, and cyberbullying is an awful reality of the online world, one that psychologists believe is just as damaging to a child’s self-esteem as schoolyard bullying. To develop a sense of identity and confidence, children need to have the sort of real life interactions and experiences that their parents had. They need to mix with other children and have a go on the swings, see-saw and slide. Play equipment that is colourful, challenging and exciting will stimulate a child’s imagination and help them develop.

Childhood obesity is growing in Australia at an alarming rate. Playgrounds are the key to getting children up off the couch and exercising while they are having fun and anything that offers a high degree of movement is going to be popular. Forpark’s Orbit range has been a real winner, teaming rope based play with time-tested classics like slides and monkey bars. While old favourites from the traditional playground range still form the bulk of the business, the R&D team at Forpark is always bringing something new to the table. It is this sense of childlike curiosity that has been driving Forpark forward ever since the early days of the business when most playgrounds were made from timber and outdoor fitness equipment did not exist.

When it comes to outdoor fitness equipment, ParkFit has been another brilliant Forpark creation and it will definitely not be the last. Forpark takes an innovative approach to business and is open to customer enquiries. “We’re continually looking to grow our business both locally and internationally mainly through the development of new products,” says Mr De Sousa. “You really need to stay innovative in this industry to be successful. We really see a lot of growth potential in the outdoor fitness market and rope based play in Australia and overseas. There is a big demand for stainless steel componentry from customers looking for high-end European style products.”

Forpark has been “helping young Australians grow” since 1979 and the journey is far from over. “We are very committed to our people and our community and have been for the last 30 years. We intend to be here for a lot longer to come.”

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December 19, 2018, 5:15 AM AEDT