Winning over an audience is never easy. Anyone who has dreamt of fame and played in a band will tell you this. At times, it’s nerve racking. Building a fan base takes time, hard work and commitment. The core ingredients in any successful band are self-belief and confidence. The Onguard engineers have demonstrated these traits right from the very beginning. The team kicked off 2016 by attending the wine symposium in Sacramento, California. It was the strategic beginning of Onguard’s expansion into the enormous US market. After Santa and his mates Dasher, Dancer and Prancer have dropped off this year’s presents, the guys will wing it back across the Pacific for an encore performance. The 2017 Symposium is being held between January 24 & 26th.
The year started with a rush for Onguard and it ended with a gigantic, earth shattering (literally) bang. The Kaikoura-Kekerengu-Hundalee fault lines let go in November and it’s been all hands-on deck since. Wineries, engineers, and tank manufacturers are all pushing hard to repair extensive earthquake damage. The race is on to be ready for the fast approaching 2017 harvest. The November earthquake sequence represents some of the largest and most powerful earthquakes in New Zealand’s history. And that’s saying something given the country’s reputation. That said, this is the wine industry, and there is always time for a glass of wine and some reflection.
The US beachhead is now firmly established with excellent commercial relationships in place with specialist consulting engineering firms, tank manufacturing companies, and the wider wine industry community in California. Along the way, Onguard’s system has drawn admiration from insurance companies and interest is morphing across categories. AB INBev, the USD $40 billion brewing conglomerate have expressed interest, considering the Onguard system for a new boutique brewing operation in St Louis. Oil and Gas players are showing interest too. At the end of the day Onguard’s seismic system has the design flexibility to be customized. It can be ‘tuned’ to suit any liquid storage tank need. The requirement to mitigate risk is not wine centric. Earthquakes are not selective about which industry’s tanks they damage.
Getting to this point has been a challenging journey. It would be fair to say, in the beginning there was a touch of skepticism, some serious resistance, and plenty of pushback from industry traditionalists. In 2013, when the first Onguard prototypes arrived on the scene, Marlborough and Seddon wineries were in damage repair mode. They had just suffered a once-in-a-lifetime event. This meant expensive repairs, but many also thought they were ok for the foreseeable future. It couldn’t happen again…surely. If you took the pulse of the industry at that time, there was certainly some concern, but no real sense of urgency…no real need for change. Insurers were still happy to provide insurance on reasonable terms and wineries and their suppliers were largely happy with the status quo. Most continued specifying traditional seismic systems. Everything was ‘all good’ in the NZ wine world. The market was picking up and the bad old bulk wine days with their cheap prices was a fading memory. Wineries were enjoying some good times again. And right there is the irony. Things almost never go as planned when you’re in a commercial relationship with Mother Nature. Too much rain, not enough rain. Too hot, too cold…frost, queue Robert Duvall Apocalypse Now music and helicopters. Then of course there is the shaky isle challenge, and let’s be honest…it’s a challenge that isn’t going away.
With all of this top-of-mind the Onguard engineers have stuck to their guns. They have stayed true to their mission the whole way through. After they reviewed the damage caused by the 2013 event their dissatisfaction with existing systems instigated an innovation sequence. That sequence has ended up with a New Zealand company designing a world first and positioning itself to build a premium export business. I can hear the Beehive buzzing. Premium, export, yep, exactly what the New Zealand economy needs.
At the same time the integrity of the engineering is shining through. The Seddon and Marlborough wine tanks protected by the Onguard Seismic System have stood tall. They have sailed through an event which left lesser tanks extensively damaged. It’s also left non- Onguard protected owners and their insurers with some hefty repairs to pay for. The Onguard system has now received the ultimate magnitude 7.8 ‘shake test’. There really isn’t much more to say. The system works beautifully. It works exactly as its designers said it would, and finally, it would be safe to say that everyone across the industry is now singing off the same hymn sheet.