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Innovation and design to maximise comfort

Sprial graphic image featured in the artwork for Rollease Acmeda article in Window Furnishings Australia magazine March 2016

Rollease Acmeda cover story article as featured in Window Furnishings Australia magazine

3 Mar 2016

Just over a year after the merger of their respective companies, Rollease Acmeda is quickly growing as an international enterprise with a compelling innovation and design strategy, expansive distribution footprint, and efficient supply chain, which the company believes will empower its customers to create window furnishings for superior comfort management.

In an increasingly fast-changing market, Rollease Acmeda has made clear its commitment to position itself at the forefront of the window furnishing industry through an ongoing strategy of innovation and design.

In the last five years alone the company introduced a stream of market-leading products. This included a competitive motorisation and automation program, an award-winning awnings range, efficient childsafe options, an intelligently designed cassette suite, a flagship chain control series, and a hugely popular outdoor shade system. General Manager, Adam Licciardi says, “We’re constantly updating, upgrading and bringing out new products. We’re passionate about developing market-leading technology that adds value for our customers, and in turn their customers”. 

As Rollease Acmeda moves into the next phase of growth, it promises to be an exciting year of delivering innovation, with technology playing an increasingly central role in steering the window furnishings market. “The industry is rapidly progressing, which is driven by technology that adds value and shifts the traditional roller or ‘Holland’ blind to sophisticated, energy-saving devices for the modern lifestyle,” says Licciardi.

The industry itself is not solely responsible for taking the lead in technological advancements; these are also the result of consumer demand. “Attitudes in the past five years have changed” says Licciardi. “Shades are being used for energy efficiency and light control rather than just a ‘fashion accessory’ for interior design or privacy.” The company’s CEO, Derick Marsh concurs. “We are designing for comfort management. We are focused on creating high-quality window furnishings that contribute to a reduction in heat, glare and energy consumption while at the same time maximising natural light and maintaining privacy.”

The company believes this notion of ‘comfort’ is not only attributed to how consumers physically feel within their surroundings, it’s about feeling a sense of security knowing that young children are kept safe around window furnishings. It’s also about generating a comfortable home environment in an effortless way — one of the advantages that come from creating a ‘smart home’. In light of this, Rollease Acmeda is committed to prioritising the development of products that fully embrace child-safety in addition to focusing on automation for the operation of indoor and outdoor shades.


Major investment in Innovation & Design Centre

So how does Rollease Acmeda plan on leading the way with innovation? Licciardi explains, “We are seriously focused on product development and the combined group will invest heavily in a new and expanded Innovation & Design Centre in Melbourne to head up the global R&D efforts”.

He adds that the merger enabled Rollease Acmeda to double its R&D resources virtually overnight, therefore capitalising on the knowledge and experience of over 20 engineers, designers, technicians and product managers between the USA and Australian divisions. Now the decision has been made to not only expand the Melbourne R&D centre but make it the central lead for the entire group. To be suitably renamed as the Innovation & Design Centre, its footprint will triple in size — equally in staffing, equipment and a dedicated physical space in excess of one thousand square metres. The Innovation & Design Centre will also house a newly acquired state-of-the-art 3D printer, climate chamber, laser 3D measuring equipment and up to 15 automated cycle test machines. Alirio Guerra, Manager of the Centre explains, “We utilise leading technologies to create differentiated and improved products for our market as fast as possible. Harnessing 3D printing has been an invaluable tool for expediting the development and testing phases of the product development process”.

“This new investment and expansion in Melbourne is not only extremely exciting for our company but something the country can be proud of. It was not so long ago that Australia was overlooked as a key player in the market due to our geographical location. Now we are contributing to investment in innovation not only within the industry but also to our country and our people. We are motivated for the journey ahead.”

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Designing for lifestyle shifts

Rollease Acmeda is designing for comfort management with a holistic approach. This is addressed by incorporating automation, energy efficiency and child-safety in the creation of window furnishings.

Much like the Window Energy Rating Scheme (WERS) in Australia, the US government is going that one step further by funding the establishment of an energy rating scheme that applies to window attachments. It is especially fitting that Rollease Acmeda will have a direct impact on the development of energy efficient shades, since John Crowley, Vice President of R&D, USA, is a board member of the newly formed Attachments Energy Rating Council (AERC). Crowley says, “An important charter for AERC is to establish a rating system for window attachments which will validate and provide credibility to the energy benefits of manual and motorised shading systems”.

Fast becoming a core business segment for Rollease Acmeda is motorisation, which focuses on providing exceptional quality and cost-competitive wire-free solutions capable of harvesting energy for completely autonomous operation. The automation team has five staff members dedicated to development in this area and 21 new products from the Automate range are currently being introduced to the US and to Australian customers in due course. Motorisation Product Manager, Anthony D’Agostino, comments: “This is part of an ongoing strategy to make motorisation more accessible to the mass market, not only to enhance the user experience but also as a fundamental child-safe option. The Automate program will see some exciting changes in 2016. We have been very busy developing the next generation of products and are close to introducing a new RF protocol — ARC (Automate Radio Communication). ARC delivers features such as bi-directional communication enabling feedback on motor position and even battery health. ARC is optimised to ensure minimum energy consumption when the motor is not ‘active’. We will also be launching a Wi-Fi hub and smart phone app this year.”

Aside from motorisation being at the premium end of childsafe solutions, Rollease Acmeda is striving to lead the way in developing child-safe options for window furnishings that go beyond meeting the required Australian industry standards. The safety regulations that apply for window furnishings in Europe and the USA are of the most stringent in the world and products for the Australian market are undergoing more rigorous safety reviews as a result of Rollease Acmeda’s globalised approach to product design, development and testing.

Licciardi further advocates this: “The chain-free version of our new One Touch system as well as a wand-operated product currently in the final stages of development are ideal for affordable and attractive child-safe options because they completely eliminate the need for hanging chains or cords”.

Expanding the portfolio

Aside from the boost in resources for new product design, the substantial expansion of the Rollease Acmeda product portfolio will be of great benefit to customers in Australia and New Zealand. Licciardi says this is due to, “new developments reaching the commercialisation stage and providing more options to our customers by introducing products from the Rollease product line. We are now able to directly supply original Rollease branded items that were previously available to the Australian market via agents and resellers”.

One of the products coming into the commercialisation stage is the One Touch roller blind system that Rollease Acmeda will launch at SuperExpo 2016. Licciardi is passionate when he describes the functionality of the system, “One Touch is set to revolutionise the usability and aesthetics of roller shades”. The patent protected One Touch offers a semi-automatic operation requiring only ‘one touch’ of the chain or bottom rail to smoothly raise the blind. The ground-breaking dual position limiter within the system allows for controlled movement of the blind along with top and bottom set positions. The One Touch dual version only requires one chain to operate two shades which are neatly housed within a slim profile cassette, improving the visual bulk of day/night blinds. The single version of One Touch is also compatible with the CF Cassette/Fascia suite which allows for increased versatility.

In the area of externals, Zipscreen and its side fastening system has been a star performer for Rollease Acmeda, and it will be advancing this year with the introduction of the accompanying Veue Drop Awning range. The comprehensive Veue suite will include straight drop, wire guide, channel guide and pivot arm configurations, showcasing an expanded array of outdoor roller shades. Veue Wire Guide and Zipscreen will be compatible with Rollease Acmeda’s patented locking device, Ultra-Lock. When Ultra-Lock is combined with the proprietary Automate fabric tension motor, outdoor blinds can be automatically closed, locked and tensioned in one action. “The thinking behind Veue is to provide manufacturers with a modular-type system featuring common components to minimise inventory and increase production efficiency, while extending the quality and functionality we’ve established with the highly-regarded Zipscreen shades. For the end user, Veue and Zipscreen will offer five independent solutions for outdoor shading yet also provide a consistent aesthetic that’s only achievable with an allinclusive suite,” says Licciardi.


Efficiency is key

Since the merger announcement in late 2014, Rollease Acmeda staff have worked tirelessly to help realise the company’s new potential, and the focus thus far has been on integrating operations, consolidating resources and improving supply chain management.

Re-defining the sales and distribution channels amongst the three major divisions has enabled Rollease Acmeda to establish the best methods for efficient and effective customer service for the various regions across the globe.

Entry into the coveted but parochial European market has been established out of Milan, Italy which now manages administration, sales and distribution for the region, working closely with Scandinavian and Russian distributor and partner, Domicet, based out of Finland.

In the US, Rollease Acmeda is based in Stamford, Connecticut, with a 12,000 square metre distribution centre outside of Charlotte, North Carolina. The division handles the US, Canada, and Latin American markets. The new global Innovation & Design Centre and Australian distribution centre are located in Melbourne’s north, servicing the Australian national and Asian Pacific markets with supporting branches in Queensland and Western Australia, and major partnerships with Waypoint Distribution in South Australia and GAT Agencies in New Zealand.

Manufacturing will be consolidated and centralised at Rollease Acmeda’s production facility in Shanghai, China. The supporting facility will not only deliver to the company’s local distribution centres, but direct to customers and affiliated distributors worldwide.

“We are trying our best to offer more to our customers and creating a proficient supply chain is part of that offering. If we provide cost effective, high-quality products to our customers we are facilitating them to thrive in the marketplace and this allows us to drive the development of pioneering products. The merger of Rollease and Acmeda has greatly assisted in making all this a reality,” says Licciardi.