Kevin Rough: Daniamant
Kevin Rough of Danish headquartered Daniamant is getting used to pushing for change. But, he admitted, “it wasn’t something I was originally looking for”.
As he explained, “I had grown up with Chemring, then McMurdo. I’d been there 18 years, and I was very comfortable with the team, products and my position as operations manager”.
But thirteen years ago Daniamant acquired a portion of McMurdo’s business, inviting Rough along: “I remembered one of my old bosses said ‘opportunities are like doors, they open for you to go through them. You don’t want to look back and ask, ‘what if?’ So, I took over as Daniamant’s new general manager for lights – and was tasked to set up a new company from scratch.”
At this point significant choices had to be made: “The first was deciding to update our lifebuoy lights as the designs we inherited were in some cases 40 years old. Not only was the technology out of date, but the build time was lengthy and the costs uneconomical.” A new, cutting-edge range beckoned.
However, having committed to a radical redesign, Rough and his team decided to take these new products even further, though gaining offshore and US approvals required hefty additional investment in time and effort. After 18 months they’d achieved SOLAS/MED/USCG and ATEX certification - and a Queens Award for Innovation followed. “It was a pretty tough process, but it increased our total sales of this product type tenfold and gave us an opening in the USA where we previously had no market share. In fact, this range became one of our biggest successes with payback coming inside three months, not the usual three years.”
Unfortunately, smarter technology “comes with disadvantages”, explained Rough: “People started to break it apart, see what we’ve done... and replicate it. Once upon a time we didn’t have to worry about that – but now we have to keep ahead.”
Luckily, he has the knack of seeing the potential in novel innovation. Spotting an LED flare demo at a trade show aroused an echoing flash of inspiration: “Pyrotechnics have some great advantages, but they’ve also got issues around transport, storage and heat risk,” he explained.
But an LED flare? The Omni Directional Electrical Optical (ODEO) signal stood well outside the regulations of the time, being limited to ‘clever gadgetry’ in application. However, Daniamant trusted Rough’s instincts and acquired the business, as a result countries such as Finland and the US are beginning to accept electronic visual distress signals for certain uses, the latest version winning the Safety at Seas product of the Year award. It’s a good place to be, said Rough: “Sometimes you are developing a product to meet new rules – but now we are beginning to influence legislation itself.”
He concluded: “To see something like this through you need determination… but that’s not enough; you need support from those around you. Without the teams in Denmark and the UK it would just not have been possible.”
By Stevie Knight
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