March 13th 2014 – Tim Modra

“Innovation and staying close to the customer is the key to success” was said in a presentation, worthy of the red carpet, given by Tim Modra, founder of Modra Technology; an export driven company that makes  flexible, small scale carpet making machinery for designers and product development around the world.”

Coming all the way from Warragul to speak at the Vernier Society’s March meeting was Tim Modra, founder and owner of Modra Technology.  The members were delighted he came as he weaved a colourful and very engaging story of the over 20 year journey of his manufacturing company’s development into the world niche provider it is today. While the news is piled high with stories on the decline of manufacturing and the difficulties of exporting, Modra Technology is another hidden success, carefully treading its way to export success as the world’s leader in the manufacture of carpet making machines specifically targeted at the design and product development area.

At the heart of Tim’s success is his mechanical engineering expertise, gained in his early days at Swinburne and through his work experience in a local company he showed his promise by being sent abroad to install product and then joining the company as a contractor.  It was in the early 1990’s that Tim saw the opportunity for developing a small, very flexible carpet making machine because the only way carpet designers could get new design samples made was to take production time of the large high volume machines, which in times of full production was very ineffective.  He produced his first Axminster sample machine in his back garden, selling it to a UK company and now has over 300 machines in 40 countries through 150 customers.

Modra Technology boomed through the early 2000’s and in a frank admission, thought that the boom would go on and on.  He had a staff of 20 and revenues of over $6m when the recession struck and Tim, like many businesses, had to cut back and actually moved his desk back next to the engineers; a move that he suggests came him new insights into product diversification and gave further impetus to the important message he had employed right through his career – the key to success is talking and listening to customers and hearing would benefit them and their business.  And then designing solutions!  It is this passion for the customer that leads Tim to spend a great deal of time on aircraft reaching his major customers in the US and China.  Somewhat surprisingly for a small company Modra prefers to make most mechanical parts in-house and explained that the cost of motion feedback systems is coming down all the time so constant innovation is now his theme.  He has now produced a ‘tufted’ carpet sample machine and has code names for his developments like the ‘split’ and the ‘hedge’.  Tim is enthusiastic about the maxim “If it can’t be done – there is money in it”.

In a lively Q&A session after; besides receiving plaudits from an admiring audience, Tim was asked about the use of government grants, an area close to the Society’s heart after the recent manufacturing audit and while he does try to maximise research tax concessions and took start up grants, he finds like many other companies that the audit process for approval takes too long.  He will have designed, built and delivered the machine by the time the grant application process is completed!

Overall Modra Technology is a great story of innovation; seeing a need in the marketplace and having the ingenuity and determination to fill the need.  It is also another example of the priority of every business to really servicing the customer.  Understand what drives the customer and the way their business is developing is crucial to ongoing success.  As the carpet industry worldwide slowly comes back, Tim has foreseen the need for further automation of the industry and is therefore looking at applying robotics to his machines; a real example of innovative thinking ahead of the curve.  Modra Technology certainly demonstrated its hard wearing qualities and Tim’s presentation was worthy of the red carpet treatment!

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Our speaker this month is Tim Modra who runs Modra Technology, a worldwide business from Warragul. Winner of the 2006 Export category of the Gippsland Business Awards.

13th March 2014 12:30pm for drinks. Lunch from 1pm – 3pm. The Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club at 489 Glenferrie Rd  Kooyong VIC 3142