Manufacturing, selling and supplying from NZ has its own unique set of challenges. Perhaps that’s why such importance is attached to NZ's export successes. With an export history that dates back to 1964 in Hawaii, Gerard Roofs was a true Kiwi pioneer.
A durable, weatherproof roof panel offering quick installation quickly got attention from customers throughout the Pacific, who sought solutions for everything from arid dry, to monsoon wet, to hurricanes and cyclones, and wildfire. "The fact that we had all these credentials but were also light in weight was popular in every market, as we shipped large quantities and areas of roof with a very small footprint," says Peter Richards, Product Innovation Manager.
Export growth was rapid and huge. In 1977 the business won the Governor General’s Export Award, and by 1984, exports had grown to $83m (equivalent to $280m in today’s value).
Australia: the 'WA' mining boom, and the world's biggest roof
Soon after entering New South Wales and Victoria, Gerard began roofing whole new towns during the mining boom in Western Australia, with the settlement of Mt Tom Price just one example.
In 1983, Gerard won the contract to supply 13,000m² of roof at a new Surfer’s Paradise resort. It was considered at the time to be the world’s biggest, and a single fixer installed the whole lot over ten months.
USA: Gerard was the answer to wildfire and high wind
After breaking into Hawaii, Kiwi pressed steel roofing gained soon became renowned for its fire performance on the US mainland, particularly in wildfire-prone California.
Gerard’s steel substrate, multi-layered non-combustible coating and horizontal fixing method was a winning formula, and Auckland’s annual US-bound volume peaked at two million units.
Japan: From a trade show in Osaka to Gerard's #1 export market
No single contract would have more long-term impact for the New Zealand business than in Osaka, Japan, where in 1969 Gerard won the job of roofing New Zealand House at the upcoming EXPO '70.
Eventually Japan volumes also grew to millions, and bespoke products like recyclable cardboard pallets and solar brackets have since been developed locally in New Zealand for the Japanese market. "We acquired one particular (Japanese) customer in 2000, and over time we’ve been able to continually prove ourselves in the face of competition from Europe, and elsewhere in Asia," says Peter Richards, Product Innovation Manager. "It would be easy for them to accept a supplier who is situated much closer, but they're really happy with the customer service and technical support they receive from us in New Zealand, as well as from our local Japanese office staff.”
Becoming truly global: the 90s and 2000s
By the mid-2000s, Gerard was either exporting to or manufacturing locally in over 120 countries across Africa, Asia, the Americas and Europe: "When I first started here, there was no Malaysian plant and no Hungarian plant," says Geoff Allan, Engineering Technical Manager. "We were producing big volumes of millions of tiles annually in New Zealand, but it was only a '50:50' split between domestic and export. In the early 2000s we doubled that volume, but we still couldn't keep up, and the only real alternative was establishing local operations overseas. At our absolute peak, we were producing 85% export here in Auckland."
Exporting knowledge and expertise
Gerard's international success isn't just a case of loading up shipping containers and 'hoping for the best'.
It's also a story of the export and application of New Zealand knowledge and expertise around the world, covering product scope and use, manufacturing and quality processes and installation. It’s a story that continues to evolve.