In 2012, Steve and Cassie Gallehawk were busy in their construction and maintenance business in regional Queensland, Australia. For a tiny business, it boasted an extraordinary client list of universities, hospitals and food production factories. Much of the work revolved around repairs and maintenance in those facilities.
It was this endless flood of repair work that led the couple to see the enormous market for products that could “take a beating” in these facilities and remain intact both functionally and bacterially.
The couple set out to build “Armourline”, a second business using CNC machining to manufacture plastic products. These products were designed to break the cycle of huge maintenance costs in facilities.
“Holding back the tide would have been easier”. The business floundered for a time in seemingly endless research and development, exploring dead ends and false starts.
By 2017, the business had gained focus and begun to specialize in manufacturing polymer door frames , followed by doors then other products. What started off with some basic CNC machining and a lot of manual assembly, grew into highly automated robotic manufacturing that required a serious level of software to keep it under control.
By this stage, the tiny building company is “punching well above its weight”, it is heavily invested in the design of parametric software, and has creating and patented new manufacturing processes unlike any other. The factory is full of scary homemade machinery and hundreds of failed prototypes but the goal is getting clearer and the failure pile is getting smaller.
After a family tragedy in 2018 made them revaluate their work commitments, Steve and Cassie made the monumental decision to close one business and focus fully on the other. All construction activity ceased and the couple focussed fully on Armourline, working tirelessly to refine the technology and build a world class product range.
To self-fund a robotic manufacturing factory was absolute madness, but they did it anyway. Steve recalls that the term “boot strapping” suggested that “we had enough money to buy boots”. He recalls, “we didn’t just have a light bulb idea and send it off to China to be built. We designed it, we wrote the software that built it, we built the robotic equipment that produced it”. If it couldn’t be done in-house, it wasn’t getting done!
Steve and Cassie credit their success so far to being “blessed with so much help from so many special and talented people, people with such extraordinary skills, offered to us cheaply and sometimes free”. “The government people said we had accessed an amazing network of specialists, we said, we just had a bunch of good mates that really had a clue!!”
As the business began to grow it needed more space, a lot more space. At the end of 2019 the couple sold up property assets in Toowoomba and moved to their very modest beach house on the Fraser Coast. Downsizing at home, meant they could upsize at work, they bought a larger factory allowing them to expand the business, now moving heavily into doors, as well as other new products.
Amongst the chaos of Covid in 2020, the couple put together a very “last minute” entry for the Australian Good Design Awards. Because of Covid, the awards received the largest field of Australian and international entries in its 63 year history. Armourline Polymer Door Frames emerged as a “Winner”.
The business was selected by Ten Network’s “Australia By Design-Innovations” to feature internationally. Suddenly the tiny company with the big idea is looking a little less crazy. “Who knew that building plaque proof door frames in 2020 would get us noticed !!“
With much of the hard work done, the couple are now looking for partners that can work with them to expand Armourline throughout Australia and internationally.