Cogent Industries is an innovative Kiwi business that makes high quality titanium products. A focus on well-thought out design and excellent customer service underpins the business strategy of founder, Magnus MacDonald. With almost all customers based overseas and a need to import all raw materials, ensuring a swift and reliable delivery service is crucial.
Cogent Industries is a growing Kiwi SME (small to medium sized enterprise) shipping internationally. How did the business get started?
Like a lot of Kiwi businesses, it started with an idea to create high quality products that we can proudly export to the world. About mid-2013, I discovered the Kickstarter website, which uses crowd-funding to fund poduct development. I loved the idea of gaining funding from a community who really wants your product. I also had a real interest in products made with titanium, and it just grew from there.
I’m committed to offering our customers the best possible product, and this also includes a high level of customer service.
A key element involves in building relationships with customers and I spend a lot of time blogging, emailing customers and ensuring they receive a service that reflects our quality of products. Also, because a lot of our customers have found our products via Kickstarter before development, they tend to be more invested in the background story and so the engagement level is high.
Titanium is a very unique product. How did you first get into designing and working with this lustrous transition metal?
Titanium really appealed to me, however being in New Zealand it’s quite difficult to even source titanium – it has to be brought it in from overseas. Initially I had an idea to create a pocket tool from titanium, building on a tried and tested design but making it the best possible quality I could using a really cool metal. So I ordered a sheet of titanium from the US, developed the design, worked with a firm in Wellington to cut it out, and used a hand grinder to finish it off. So it was very hands on!
From then I’ve grown Cogent Industries into a business with 12 products and counting. I work closely with a CNC machinist to help realise my designs.
My main objective is to take products that already exist – such as pens and tweezers — and make them better. I didn’t set out to produce original pieces, and in fact only one of my designs is original. However the business strategy centres on producing items that are better quality, with a lifetime warranty and excellent service to ensure my customers receive something they love and that will last.
What are your best selling products and who orders them?
Interestingly our best selling product is one of the simplest. It’s called a HangKeyTM – a keyholder clip that allows you to dangle keys on the outside of your pocket, or on the inside so they don’t scratch your phone or eventually make a hole in your pocket. Because like all Cogent Industries products it’s made from titanium, it’s light yet strong and 100% resistant to corrosion.
Our customers tend to be people who really appreciate good design and high quality products – engineers feature a lot on our customer list. They can get a similar item for cheaper elsewhere, but it wouldn’t have the design standard or quality that Cogent Industries offers. We don’t cut corners and spare no expense to make the product as good as it can be. The result means it is more expensive to purchase but it’ll last and that’s what our customers are looking for.
Almost all of our customers come from outside New Zealand. Around half are from the US, 30% from Canada, Europe and Australia, with the remaining portion coming from all over the world.
What have been the greatest challenges as you have grown into an international organisation?
As we import everything and then need to export almost all products to international buyers, logistics are incredibly important and have been a big challenge. There are two parts to this:
- Importing all elements including tools and raw materials. If there are any time delays getting the titanium to New Zealand this can hold up the whole production process. After negotiating bulk rates with DHL Express, I’ve managed to find a cost effective import solution via international air express. Raw materials now arrive in one week, whereas in the past it’d take much longer.
- Exporting the final product to my customers. Initially, products were sent using the postal service but we started having major issues with time delays. Packages to the US were taking six weeks instead of the promised two weeks, which obviously caused issues with customers and meant increased administration to communicate about this. I’d first thought DHL Express would be too expensive for a small business like ours, but after working with my sales rep on the value and shipments per month we could guarantee, we’ve ended up with a great solution. Now products take an average of three days to reach customers in the US. While I need to charge for shipping (it used to be free) and have to absorb some of the related costs, customers are much happier and I can process orders a lot quicker – making it a win-win for everyone.
Have you adapted your packaging to be ‘shipping friendly’?
Luckily with small titanium products, packaging is not an issue. They fit easily into a flyer bag, and as long as the paperwork is correct all is ok.
When Cogent Industries first started working with DHL Express we had to do integration of our website with the DHL interface. The tech team in Auckland were amazing. They were able to troubleshoot wherever needed and really knew their stuff. Now everything is integrated and it seems to work very smoothly, meaning it’s something I don’t need to worry about.
What role is DHL playing in helping Cogent Industries to achieve success?
The two core elements are speed and trust.
In terms of speed: since I’ve been using DHL Express the speed to import increased dramatically. I’ve gone from taking around eight weeks to receive an order of titanium down to one week, which means I can turn orders around much quicker. This has had a major effect on my bottom line.
The second element is trust: that I’ll get what I need when I need it. With relatively high value products, I need to trust that what I send will be delivered. With DHL Express I have huge trust that it’s going to get there on time. I know that they’ll do their best to deliver our shipments and will keep following up if they have delivery issues.
What’s next for Cogent Industries?
Cogent Industries is expanding. We continue to grow and so may need to move to another location and soon hire my first full-time employee. Now that shipping concerns have been sorted and a number of new systems are in place, we’re ready to expand further.
We’ve just launched a new product on Kickstarter, another set of titanium tweezers (for more information, visit cogentindustries ). This will be my tenth Kickstarter project and anticipate this one being another success like the others.
It’s a new milestone but the one consistent element is the Cogent Industries standards will be followed; using only the best materials for products that are well-designed and are a pleasure to use for years to come.