Invention gives company strength

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An illuminated hand rail bracket is the latest invention from a small New Zealand hardware manufacturer intent on developing new products to stave off threats to its business from cheaper imports and to create export potential.

Combining a step lighting system into a staircase handrail bracket provides one product to do the work of two in private homes and commercial buildings such as rest homes.

For Auckland-based Miles Nelson Manufacturing, the invention is part of a new and necessary approach to innovation.

“We have to develop different products to protect us from the plethora of low cost Chinese imports in a competitive, oversupplied market,” managing director Brenton Lee says.

Mr Lee’s grandfather started the business in 1928. Miles Nelson has concentrated on manufacturing metal hardware since 1945, and is one of the few New Zealand-owned hardware manufacturers still in business.

“Developing something different is the only way a New Zealand manufacturer has any chance of survival. Anyone can go to China, source a product and put it on their shelf back in New Zealand. We need to be developing and establishing our own products,” Mr Lee says.

Novel and trendy

The new Lumos bracket is novel and trendy and about to make its export debut on the Australian market where it is being designed into the building for a new bar on Sydney’s Circular Quay.

Extensive research of appropriate casting and coating methods and production systems has gone into the product development, supported by research and development investment of almost $150,000 from the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology through its Technology for Business Growth (TBG) scheme.

“Such innovation and technology shift is vital for Miles Nelson to survive market challenges. It is companies like this taking a step up to create their own intellectual property (IP) and patented products that protects New Zealand’s manufacturing base,” Foundation business manager Tom McLeod says.

The illuminated handrail has LED (narrow spectrum light-emitting diode) lighting concealed in the bracket of the stair railing. It is a 12V system, making it economical and environmentally friendly. The bulbs do not warm up like normal stair lights, reducing chances of heat injury.

Combining the light into the railing removes the need for low level stairwell lights which heat up when left on and become a risk to youngsters. The system doubles as emergency lighting as it can be wired to activate a battery supply during power failure.

The company, which has 30 staff, says it probably couldn’t have afforded the technology shift without the Foundation investment.

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