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DEFSEC Media is New Zealand's defence, security and fire B2B/B2G publishing group. Our leading magazines, Line of DefenceNZ Security and Fire NZ are read by key business, government and military decision makers and influencers. This website is the online home of cutting-edge content from each of our titles.

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Loop Technologies: beyond technological obsolescence

Line of Defence Magazine, Spring 2017

The Hamilton-based company provides an in-country support business for suppliers to NZ DefenceThe Hamilton-based company provides an in-country support business for suppliers to NZ Defence

 

Loop Technologies has seemingly come from nowhere to gain a high profile in New Zealand’s defence industry, having been a finalist in the Minister of Defence Awards for Excellence to Industry in 2016 and hosting a Prime Ministerial visit last April. Line of Defence caught up with director Roger Hurst to find out more about the Loop journey.

 

High value assets, such as telecommunications networks, large facilities and defence platforms are critically dependent on their electronics.  When the electronics age and are no longer supported, it becomes a significant problem for the asset owner.

Hamilton-based Loop Technologies solves this problem with its team of highly skilled and innovative technical experts.  The company of 60 engineers, technicians and logistics specialists was originally the high technology repair centre for Spark until it was spun off in 1999.  In 2011 it was purchased by current directors Ross Olifent and Roger Hurst.

From repair centre beginnings, the company repackaged its expertise and processes to provide a wider range of high value services to customers across all stages of the equipment’s lifecycle. 

While the company’s original focus was on telecommunications, Loop’s customer base has expanded substantially in the last five years, and now includes power companies, emergency services, government agencies and facility managers. Overseas equipment manufacturers also use Loop to support equipment sold in New Zealand, saving them the high costs of setting up infrastructure themselves.

 

Defence obsolescence

“We made the decision to offer our services to Defence in 2012, and immediately joined the NZDIA, taking advantage of its events to understand the industry, to network and to exhibit,” Roger recalled. “This proved to be great for making contacts, whom we followed up and met with regularly.”

But three years after becoming involved in Defence, and having reviewed their Defence strategy, Roger and Ross were struck by the significant costs involved and their apparently insignificant progress. 

“At that stage we asked ourselves “Are were banging our heads against a brick wall here?”  We almost gave up at that point, but with our strategic hats on were sure that we had a solution to what was a growing problem in defence - obsolescence.  We decided to give it three more months.”

Existing approaches to obsolescence involved complete replacement and refit and there are significant costs associated with this. “Up to 10% of the Defence Force’s 600m operating budget, for example, is related to obsolescence, so anything that can be done to reduce that cost  is of benefit,” said Roger.

“The old approach was to buy equipment new until it became obsolete, and hopefully have enough spares, but then one got to the point where their spares were used up and there was no other option but to undertake a complete refit. Then we came along and said we’ve got a lot of skill in this area to refurbish, repair, re-engineer or remanufacture.

“Our services reduce the cost because procurement doesn’t have to go out and buy new kit. It gives them the option of how long they want to keep it for rather than being dictated to by the age of the equipment.”

One of the main advantages in treating obsolescence in this way is a delay in the capital spend. If the life of a piece of equipment can be prolonged for another five or ten years, then the replacement spend is delayed for the same period.

 

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Winning ways

Their three month gamble on obsolescence paid off. Within two months CAPT Andrew Brown (Director Programme Delivery, NZDF Capability Branch) introduced Loop to Babcock NZ, and they worked closely with Babcock to provide a solution for the un-supported tactical communications system in the RNZN’s Protector fleet. 

“We were delighted to be nominated by Babcock NZ for the Minister of Defence Award for Excellence to Industry, and to be a finalist in our category,” commented Roger. “It felt as though we had actually won the award! Working with Babcock and being nominated for the award was a very positive experience for our team, and has greatly assisted our profile within the industry.”

Soon afterwards, Loop gained a project to redesign and manufacture spares for the Seasprite Simulator, and since then the company has completed a number of other projects to provide solutions for obsolete defence electronics.

“Throughout this journey we have learned many lessons about the timeframes and complexities involved in working with defence, and how patience can pay off,” he said. “We have been particularly encouraged by Chief Joint Defence Services Charlie Lott, who saw a need for our services and encouraged us to keep working with Defence even when there appeared to be no progress.”

 

Tens of millions of dollars-worth of equipment used for testing.Tens of millions of dollars-worth of equipment used for testing.

 

In-country support

Initially seen as suppliers of solutions for obsolete electronics, Loop Technologies’ current challenge now is to make the defence and security markets aware of their broader range of our value-add services, including their in-country support business for suppliers to NZ Defence.

“What might typically happen is if a supplier sells some kind of electronics technology to the NZDF, the NZDF may ask ‘how are you going to support us in country?’, it means that organisation may need to set up a workshop here or in Australia that provides a level of responsiveness that the NZDF requires.

“Our solution is that we are already here with our depth and spread of electronic expertise and tens of millions of dollars-worth of equipment that’s used for testing or helping setting up equipment that’s sold to the NZDF. So it’s a big saving for an organisation doing the selling and not having to set up themselves.”

As a 60-person organisation that has been supporting electronics right since its beginnings in the 1990s, Loop is in a compelling position to deliver savings and improve customer service for overseas manufacturers selling into New Zealand.

 

Roger Hurst is a director and co-owner of Hamilton-based electronics company Loop Technologies. An electronics engineer, he has previously worked in quality management in the telecommunications and health sectors and as a telecommunications design and build manager.

 

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