A Drive for Innovation

Kinetic Engineering Services

In fact, Kinetic offers a full one-stop solution service for customers seeking a complete engineering solution involving precision machining, fabrication, and assembly. Whether routine or complex, and on both small or large projects, Kinetic likes to think out of the box.

All is certainly not doom and gloom around Geelong, on the Victorian coast, despite the well-documented imminent demise of car manufacturing at Ford. Kinetic, though not on the Ford scale, is deeply into the automotive industry and Tom Hawkes, Engineering Projects Manager, believes, “there are some very exciting business opportunities. We have new products. Establishing ourselves in the automotive market is something we have been working on for a long time and we have been able to build our own stream of products.”

Without trying to draw too many parallels to the Ford case, Kinetic is a good example of where Australian manufacturing can be – firmly in the innovative, value-added sector rather than bolting together long-established (some might say outdated) products of relatively low technological input. The company is adept at rapid prototyping, one example being its work with Toyota on re-engineering a long-standing problem the world’s largest carmaker had with Land Cruiser in Australasia. For this market there were specific issues with emissions regulations and the V8 version ended up with a front differential larger than the rear, creating handling and stability problems. Kinetic picked up the problem, ran with it and was able to provide a cost-effective fix.

Tom says this is how the company likes to work; “we recognise standalone opportunities, rather than simply trying to be quickest to market with a product.” In the case of the Land Cruiser, it seems everyone knew about the problem but no one was keen to come up with an answer; now Kinetic has taken its idea to a very receptive Toyota.

Multidrive is another example where the company has taken up a cause and developed it. Kinetic took over Multidrive itself when the latter was turning out just a couple of vehicles per year, four or six-wheel drive conversions of Toyota Land Cruiser for specialist applications such as emergency or mining utility vehicles. “We bought it and radically changed the way in which they did the vehicle upgrade and modification, pushing it more as a mainstream activity that we could sell to government, mines and other sectors,” Tom explains. Output is now in excess of 20 vehicles per year.

The company’s latest model is a 6×6 dual cab sports ute version destined for the markets of the Middle East, recently featured on the cover of glossy car magazines and aimed squarely at the affluent offroader in the deserts. At time of writing, it looked likely that this model might soon be offered through the carmaker’s network in the Middle East, an unusual move indicative of the quality of Kinetic’s engineering and production abilities. Tom admits to being “excited and nervous” about the outcome.

The work has included designing body panels, producing blanks with CNC machines on site and then making the panels in fibreglass, mounting them on a steel subframe, making the tub, then removing the standard rear bench seat and substituting four seats made by Paradrive. This brand is another company of Kinetic, which bought the Paratus company in 2006 to make high-specification vehicle seating for optimum occupant comfort and safety on long cross-country or offroad trips. The company makes the seats from scratch, stamping the frame, cutting the foam and even stitching the leather in-house. The prototype destined for Dubai features many ‘extras’ likely to appeal to that market – a $6,000 stereo system, suede roof liner, a special centre console and extra carpeting. “This is a prototype but everything has been designed to be replicated quickly in production,” Tom explains.

Tom regrets the company was unable to proceed with its bid for involvement in the military LAND121 project (which is intended to deliver around 7,500 protected and unprotected vehicles across the range of lightweight, light, medium and heavy fleet segments to the Australian Defence) because he knows Kinetic can compete in this sphere – after all, Multidrive is approved and even specified by SES and many other authorities across the country including Melbourne Water and New South Wales rural fire vehicles. Based on the latest information, Tom is disappointed that the military procurement appears to be backtracking from the original concept of sourcing as much as possible from Australian companies. Kinetic is too small to provide everything in such a project; nevertheless, he says, the larger companies need such a flexible agile and fast-reacting player to do what they cannot in the development engineering sphere. “We don’t have huge capacity but we can go in any direction,” he says.

The company is not only about vehicles, though – it has clients in the marine, heavy manufacturing and civil engineering industries as well. Kinetic has even undertaken process automation projects, as in the case of a famous fence post manufacturer. Waratah approached the company a couple of years ago with a project for a new fence post intended to stem the loss of market share to imports from China. The JIO post was due for launch in February at an event where the company sells a large proportion of its annual output. Kinetic was given a scant eight weeks (including the Christmas – New Year period) to generate new tooling and everything necessary to produce the new post design, to have the line commissioned by the last week of January.

“We ran 24 hours a day,” shares Tom. “Our design team was ordering materials for things of which we were only half confident we had the shape right because of lead times. We finished at 4am the day before they needed to prove it. We had the plant in, commissioned and punching posts, and did the initial production run with the Waratah general manager watching; they gave it a tick of approval and now we make the majority of all the JIO posts.” Waratah had previously taken the project to a very large and well known engineering corporation that had turned it down as simply impossible in the timeframe specified. “That is where we can add value. The guys on the machines are just a few metres away from the design office and they can provide instant feedback. It speeds things up.” Application of high-end technology to something as simple as a fence post might appear surprising but in this case it has proven to be the right thing to do.

The business has based itself on the company’s advanced 3D design capabilities, employing “enthusiastic and creative people and constantly trying to do something that is new.” Rather than just battening down the hatches and hiding when times get tough, this company has reacted to a tight economy by investing more in the last 18 months than ever before, pouring in all the resources at its disposal “to position ourselves to come out the other side. We have bought more 3D capability, employed more design engineers and gone for more new products,” rather than merely attempting to ride out the storm. “That is the worst thing you can do,” says Tom. “You would be hit by the impact of any downturn in what you previously did, so you need to be looking for new niches and markets to fill any gap that opens up.”

Kinetic Engineering Services likes to act as a ‘go-to’ company for just about any kind of manufacturing or production application. If a company has a problem with a component, such as excessive wear, or a process that appears to waste time or add cost, Kinetic can analyse and devise improvements. However, even if it does not appear to be broken, Kinetic can very often find better ways to do it. “You need to be tactful about suggesting improvements, and take care to manage change, but we come up with some very innovative ideas.”

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 19, 2018, 5:13 AM AEDT