Tonsley companies focus on international markets

Global engineering, technology and manufacturing businesses based out of the Tonsley Innovation District in Adelaide are among those broadening their reach across the Pacific and opening offices in cities across the United States.

XFrame managing director Carsten Dethlefsen said they launched in the US last year at NeoCon in Chicago, one of the country’s largest commercial furniture conferences.

Without using a single nail or screw, the Tonsley-based business has invented a system of interlocking plywood that can be used to build shelters, office pods and studios.

“Within two weeks of that conference we had projects on our books,” Dethlefsen said.

“We delivered those projects within four weeks of that, so speed to market there. The type of clients I think caught us a little by surprise as well.”

Dethlefsen said there was a “big appetite” for their work post-COVID-19 because many offices needed reconfiguring. Their product allows companies to change their fit-out down the track without costly renovations.

Dethlefsen said construction of trade show booths and retail display stands were in hot demand. As a result, the company now has manufacturing partners in Michigan, Oregon, and Grand Junction, Colorado.

He said companies also wanted XFrame to build ancillary housing units to meet the huge demand for housing in the US.

“The booth we did for that conference was all manufactured in the States, so we used local manufacturing, local supply chains and local labour.

“We designed it up, sent it across the desert, they cut the components delivered to our team, they pre-assembled it and stood it up in the conference.

“That’s how we deliver projects. We don’t need to invest in manufacturing facilities over there, we just partner with existing companies that already have that capability and capacity.”

Dethlefsen manages these projects from his base at the Tonsley Innovation District, a repurposed area that once housed a Mitsubishi car assembly plant but is now home to more than 1,700 workers in key industries including CleanTech and Renewable Energy, Medical devices, Mining and energy services and automation and simulation.

More recently, XFrame began working with prisons in California that train inmates by paying them to learn basic manufacturing skills.

The company is constructing phone booths that can be used for prisoners to have private conversations.

“The conversation that we’re having there is they can actually manufacture, assemble, install and distribute and we just provide them with the ingredients and the parts to deliver that product,” Dethlefsen said.

Meanwhile technology commercialisation company Innovyz has recently opened a Chicago office to cater to the increased demand.

Co-founder Brett Jackson said the Tonsley-based business assists tech companies like XFrame to commercialise their ideas and turn them into structural businesses.

“We’ll double our footprint in Chicago in the next 12 months and we’ll be doing 12 technologies per annum,” Jackson said.

“Thanks to COVID-19, we’ve been able to create a phenomenal process of commercialising innovation, and we’ve got a really good model to fast-track commercialisation.

“We couldn’t do it face-to-face so we had to do it through Zoom and Teams, and these are the stepping stones because it’s been a massive benefit for us.”

This story first appeared in The Lead, South Australia

Picture: The Lead/A phone booth made by XFrame, which can be easily disassembled and moved

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