Nick Gonios
January 20, 2022
39 min.

The Circulist Quest #11

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About the Episode

Episode 11: Show Notes

The COVID-19 pandemic has had widespread economic impacts, one of the largest of which is the interruption of the supply chain. Talking to us today about Australia’s manufacturing capabilities and why interruption of the supply chain is such a big deal here, is Black Lab Design CEO, Daen Simmat.  

Join us as we unpack how speed and customer-focused agility are the key levers for growing success with onshore design and manufacturing capabilities. We dive into the Australian “underdog” psyche, and how this affects attitudes towards capital and manufacturing. Hear why Daen is so focused on creating a good working culture at Black Lab Design, and why he never refuses leave requests or queries sick days.

We discuss how to get a client on your side by having their best interests at heart, and why providing helpful advice and guidance when you can’t meet the client’s needs is beneficial to your brand. We also look at the future of manufacturing in Australia, and where Daen thinks Black Lab Designs will be. When looking at the future, it's impossible not to address the impact of climate change, and we hear Daen's thoughts on using closed-loop design-manufacturing chains and how these should have a positive impact on both the environment and local communities.

Black Lab Design has stayed steady throughout the turbulence of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Daen tells us why: from competing in speed rather than price to addressing his employees needs first. We also learn about the three scenarios when convincing a client to move towards being more environmentally friendly (win-win, win-neutral, and win-lose), and what you can do to convince them of the necessity of change in each scenario.  Tune in to hear all this, and more, in today's exciting episode!

Key Points From This Episode:

  • How Daen entered the world of manufacturing.
  • The problem with the Australian attitude: why the underdog culture is not a good one.
  • Why Daen moved Black Lab Design out of sheet metal, and into other materials.
  • The importance of culture within the organisation, taking care of the employees and understanding why we work.
  • How to get your client to trust you by having their best interests at heart.
  • Why it’s difficult to grow a capital-intensive business in Australia.
  • How COVID affected Black Lab Design: using Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to help customers throughout the pandemic and how they adjusted their business model.
  • Competing on time instead of competing on price and how this set up Black Lab Design for success throughout the pandemic.
  • Australia's shortcomings in the manufacturing world, and why we need to start manufacturing locally.
  • How Black Lab Design thinks about the closed-loop and the environmental impact of not using the closed-loop.  
  • Motivating organisations to be environmentally responsible in win-win, win-neutral, and win-lose situations.
  • How Black Lab Design can serve as a blueprint for other companies, and what Daen feels is the most important part of his company (the people).
  • Why you should choose Black Lab Design: rising to the challenge.  

Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:

Daen Simmat on LinkedIn

Black Lab Design on LinkedIn

Black Lab Design

Circulist Quest

Host Nick Gonios
Producer Jim Lounsbury

Episode Transcript

Nick Gonios: 0:06

I'm talking to Daen Simmat, CEO of Black Lab D esign a local end to end design a manufacturing company that prides itself on creating cost effective local manufacturing solutions for the Australian manufacturing industry. Daen is passionate about showcasing the capabilities of the Australian manufacturing industry and leading a movement of local manufacturing for local economies, a critical step towards reducing our reliance on global supply chains and becoming more circular. Daen, welcome to the Circulist Quest podcast. Nice to have you. Thanks. It's a different experience, he was sort of doing it first time face to face, even during sort of a lockdown. It's coming out of the lockdown recently here in Sydney, which is great, we're about to hit 95% as well, in terms of doses I think will be world leading. In that sense soon, I've been sort of watching some of the stuff you guys have been doing online. And I've been quite sort of impressed with how you guys have been operating and be learning your story through the power of video and storytelling. And so the covering up what you guys focusing on and you're a local Northern Beaches boy as well and haven't left the place since birth. Tell us a bit about yourself Daen.

Daen Simmat: 1:04

I'm a designer at heart. That's where it all started for me, you know, pulling stuff apart, putting it back together, you know, wanting to learn more, that led me into studying Industrial Design at university, the concept of product design and bringing ideas and concepts and solutions to problems to life to like tangible things that you actually hold and feel and experience on a day to day basis. And what that basically look like so started out my life as a CAD jockey with a laptop, you know, designing things for other people in industry, trying to learn how to design better design products that worked with Australian manufacturing, because we can do it here. But that was hard as a junior or a young designer coming into the industry to actually get inside someone else's manufacturing facility and getting them to tell you what's difficult, so that you can stay away from it. They didn't like exposing those vulnerabilities to themselves. So ultimately, that led to how do we go and learn about this ourselves?

Nick Gonios: 2:08

Was this the repeated thing that you found here locally?

Daen Simmat: 2:11

Yeah, a couple of things that I found locally is we have a bit of a strain culture of saying that stuff's hard to try and make it more valuable what we're doing, as opposed to the concepts of saying that it's really easy, you know, everybody should get involved competition and activity, you know, breeds more volume of work, that the problem that we have in Australia is, you know, the concept of an underdog and you know, putting that over there, and it been really hard for everybody to do. And it always been a problem. And everybody always being busy. And it's three o'clock, and I'm really tired in an afternoon. They are the flaws that I see in manufacturing in Australia, everybody telling you why it can't be done, as opposed to telling you what needs to change so that we can do it. And for me, that's about people just having a go at it and going and trying to solve each and every one of those problems one at a time. So black lab, the conception of black lab was around us not being able to get into other people's factories. So let's create one of our own. The reason why we chose sheet metal was that it was a form of doing rapidly deployed physical, you know, infrastructure that was not reliant on custom tooling. So the lead time to delivery was a lot faster, you know, we could create very creative origami shapes out of metal very quickly. So that's where the journey started. And when we started the business, it was about diversification across different industries, how we were kind of support different sectors so that we weren't kind of held to task in any one, if we saw any impacts happen to a particular industry, it wouldn't necessarily affect us.

Nick Gonios: 4:00

So amazing learning to actually understand in your first venture of pretty much, many organisations, very young entrepreneurs sort of have to learn that lesson two or three times over before they get it, the diversification strategy, which is good.

Daen Simmat: 4:13

The problem is our business had a very, very good synergy with retail, it had a very good synergy with the reactive nature of marketing and a sales team and fast moving consumer goods. So it lended itself to grow in that area much faster than we could draw in any of the other areas of business. So so it's ultimately meant that our business does heavily rely on those industries. Now, that's kind of got us to where we have got to today from constantly trying to solve problems. You know, the business has grown, the equipment that we have acquired, has been from not suppliers letting us down but suppliers not being able to respond fast enough to our demands, and the type of work that we do Kids hurry up and wait. So we get a project, we need to rapidly deploy it, we understand that we just can't take over someone else's factory for four weeks, and then leave me in the lurch again. But that's what we do time and time and time again. So we bring that equipment in house, we have it here, it'll sit idle, some days, it won't be doing anything, we constantly run a battle ourselves of do we work for the reliable work, the cash cow that just churns through the machines, or do we leave our capabilities open for being able to really, you know, Excel and deploy with no speed bumps in a way to solve someone's project, when that project actually comes to us. And that's what's taking us out of sheet metal and into a final finished product timbers, plastics, metal, electronics, you name it, if you have a problem, and you want to have a go at solving it come and have a conversation with us.

Nick Gonios: 5:55

Before we actually started, this podcast now gave us a bit of a tour of the whole place here, up in French's forest. And I'm just impressed to see what you got going here, you got some great happy employees, again, you're building a great culture here, it would be great to see in this local market, some of the infrastructure that you have here some of the equipment and machinery sort of world class, from what I can tell, what's it been like actually trying to one of the things that I've read about you is that some quotes from previous conversations have been there are no secrets with customers, right was mentioned, challenge their ideas, right about challenging their ideas, because there's a big challenge we have locally from that point of view, as an important, right. And the other part of it is, you know, educate them on the journey, which I think you know, in how you operate, my first glance experience of what black lab design actually up how it operates is very much around transparency and engagement and bring organisations through to actually learn on the journey, and to build confidence in sort of what can be done here and ultimately become an example and what can be done here locally. So you know, back in the day, even even the normal would say the organization's would sort of want to get a new product design and take it to market and they get to a point where they design it through the digital square through the digital screen. And then we typically would send up into Asia, right without naming the country and expect something to come back a week or two. And you know, they've gotten faster and better and cheaper with doing that now, but it's still not as agile as it could be, from my point of view, least from a high level perspective. Take us a bit onto that, and your culture and your values here at Black Lab.

Daen Simmat: 7:20

So culture is massive for me, it's why do we do it at all? Okay, everybody that works here has a family, you know, families come first. I've never said no to leave, I've never, you know, had to go at someone for being sick. I've never had to go in anybody for looking after their family first, because that is ultimately why we go to work every day, you know, why we have income, you know, it's about living a better life that is massive in this organisation. And I try and play that out, you know, I try and make it as comfortable for people. We talk about COVID There is some things in COVID that have just happened at the moment that like a lot of organisations, you know, looked at the survival of the business being one of the most important things we questioned how do we keep everybody or we make the survival of everybody who is the business through COVID, we can go into more depth in that in a little bit. But definitely that culture for us is really important. You know, having fun, having a laugh, you know, being in a stressful environment that we are in constantly. It's the only way that we can break it up. You know, everybody needs to enjoy what they're doing. And everybody is different. Everybody needs different things out of the business. Some people need to feel recognise, some people need to be rewarded for their actions. Some people just need time to understand clarity, you know, again, no secrets. That's a big thing that I find me staff, and that generates trust with our stuff that then leads across to the trust conversation. He said, with customers, you know, what we're actually trying to do or no secrets again, there's nothing to hide, like everybody knows what's going on. Everybody knows when you're trying to drag something out for the wrong reasons. Everybody knows that we have a business that we're trying to run here. And there's compromises, sacrifices, everything that happens along the line, there's no need to sugarcoat it, tell it how it is tell people what's actually going on, have the difficult conversation early rather than later, and educate the client about why the problem occurred. And then the other side of it is have the clients best interests at heart. When you approach it in the first place. If you have that client's best interests at heart and you actually try and help them execute and implement what they're trying to do, then it's easy to have that conversation with no secrets. You know, you're not trying to hide something, you're not trying to gouge them. You're not trying to take advantage of them. You're just you know, trying to get on and do what you need to

Nick Gonios: 9:46

do as collaborative partners coming in to the same outcome. Right? Yeah. If not better from a black.

Daen Simmat: 9:51

Yes. And that's the most important thing that I can say. What I can say is hard, is we've had to follow you know, sometimes What I call a Noah's Ark principle, the hardest thing to do in Australia is to grow a capital intensive business. Because capital is hard to find, you know, financing. It's like it's to go to a bank and have a conversation about, you know, what it looks like with proof to go and have a conversation with an angel investor about well, you know, where does the risk actually lie, versus the, you know, the reward of actually what they're creating, it's difficult in creating black lab, we've had to go and buy extremely expensive assets in our reactive business on a potential opportunity, where we work in six weeks cycles. And it takes us 120 days to land a new piece of equipment. So you've tried to predict four cycles out about what your potential needs going to be. So a lot of the equipment that we've actually got on the floor has not necessarily been our ideal piece of equipment, what we've needed to do is take what's available and figure out how to utilise it inside our business. So we've taken a lot of stock machines off the floor, and modified designs around what's been available for us actually to deploy. If we get a whisper of a conversation, if something potentially happening in the future. We take Gamble's on buying tooling or buying equipment, or those sorts of things that we know has lead times so that we can be ready for when the customer actually needs to deploy. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose, you know, sometimes that sits there, and we figure out how to use it on the next

Nick Gonios: 11:31

one. Interesting. It's really interesting to hear, I mean, you guys are making some strategic bets. I think I even look at it from a point of bringing sovereignty back to manufacturing and sort of design here in Australia again, right, because we've lost our way from my point of view, because of other reasons. It's just great to see you guys actually take that step and actually take those strategic bits, which actually means real capital, not just ideas, but execution, and be agile enough to be able to work out how can we sort of connect the dots here to sort of create value in market so I gather, that's what's happening in the business at an executive level. Then there's the other side of the equation, which is actually getting the market to understand the capability and value can deliver above and beyond being an industrial design firm or mega tronics firm right? For me when I look at the business and I look at what you guys are doing it's like that missing gap right now to get the market to understand what you're working on and, and delivering as core differentiated value is the challenge I would think.

Daen Simmat: 12:25

It kind of isn't it isn't one of the things is that what we actually do is we solve problems for people. The people that have the problems don't know what the solutions are to those problems in the first place. And we've got to be careful that we don't go too technical. Okay, when someone has a sanitise our dispensing problem, they don't need to know about how we're going to laser cut something out of a particular thickness sheet, and then what we're going to do for powder coating and how we're going to mount the, the dispenser on a stand and those sorts of things, the problem that we're trying to help them solve is that they want customers to have confidence in their shops, because they know that the nine, the majority of the people entering them have been sanitising and disinfecting their hands on entry. So once you actually draw away from the fact that we've got a manufacturing facility that helps us solve problems and start looking at how we are listening out for what the problem is that the customer is trying to solve. It changes the thought process about what you want to show someone as far as a capability to really communicating with people out in the industry. It's like, you know, we're here to help, come talk to us when you're in trouble doesn't matter what the trouble is, if we can't help you, you know, we've been in industry for a long time, we can probably point you in the direction of someone who can. And because we really care about, you know, the customer actually having the problem solved because if we solve the problem for them, they'll come back to us with the next problem. And that one might be in alignment with what we need to do as a business. And that helps us go through that journey. Like that is a big problem in Australia that we have is is trying to overthink what we're trying to

Nick Gonios: 14:09

do. Yeah, I'm with 100% What are we just going to be thinking about COVID Oh, shit moment, right, was around about february, march 2019. When we started to get quite serious about it. What was that moment like? And how did you change or shift from a client demand point of view and take us on a bit of a journey and a practical example of of a journey without having to name companies is up to you and how did you guys adapt and actually

Daen Simmat: 14:33

For us COVID hit. We kind of set up a bit of a warm, we walked into that room and looked at the concept of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Okay and said not look at who we've got as a customer base yet but what is the general populations need going to be? And we went down all the way to the bottom of you know, the bottom of this, which is the fact that people need to eat Do we have customers that are helping people eat? Yes. And we were like, Okay, how do we lean into helping that customer continue to support? You know, their customers making their customers feel comfortable in the environment? What does that look like? How can we help on that journey? Again, we have a massive facility that's here, but it's it's about helping our customers service their customers. That was how it happened for us. Then came the phone calls, then came the education, the massive information gathering about that, who and how and what, where, and, you know, other suppliers in industry, how can we work together what we can do, then the reactivity came into it, when everybody was going indoors, I was doing hundreds of kilometres visiting different stores trying to solve problems, practically restore practically in a storm vein, and I didn't want to put my staff at risk. So my staff weren't going into the environments, you know, I was going into hotspots about, you know, where, where there was, you know, significant problems. And and, you know, there was, there was a couple of issues, there was staff in the stores not wanting to go and work because of the exposure, but the stores needed to stay open. You know, there was customers having to go through an education journey about how you would interact around social distancing screens, you know, what was the practice around masks and sanitizers? And, you know, what this look like, it was interesting, when it sort of started to take off and we were doing this work, and then we were starting to deploy and then and then we had to ask the questions. How do you keep sanitizer in a sanitizer? You know, how do you know when the batteries aren't, you know, aren't working, you know, going through the problem diagnostics, this turned into creating video help guides about how you, he kind of worked with it, because we were getting 1000s of questions and the you know, the common answer stuff that you would have never thought about, was coming into us as as a business. So that was interesting. Then came supply chain problems, you know, where do you buy plastic from some social distancing screens? Where do you get the sanitizer dispensers from? You know, you know, this is stuff that we're not making necessarily in the country. So how do we get him here? How do we get them he quick, that was an amazing and reflecting on what happened in a very, very short period of time for our business. And what we needed to do and how we behaved around it is very interesting.

Nick Gonios: 17:26

I'm sure it's a great learning and capability, you build a build about, you've built a new strength and capability organisation, I would say, not knowing what you were doing in the past, but delta moves so fast and act bit like I just said, like a war room or Mission Control Centre. Yeah, I think that was in your DNA already. I mean, yeah,

Daen Simmat: 17:42

I think that one of the benefits we had is it was in our DNA, to be a manufacturer that's going in Australia, we couldn't compete on price. So we had to compete on something else. So we competed on time, okay, and in competing in time meant that we were set up as an agile business that could pivot into making whatever you wanted us to make, in a really short period of time. So we were already sitting in that space, kind of ready to launch.

Nick Gonios: 18:09

It's amazing. So it's interesting, most of it come out of sort of, you know, middle fabrication, and then sort of a look at the organic sort of change and shaping of the of your business. And it's gotten to the simple fundamental Metal Shaping Ukraine sort of products to then adding another layer of intelligence to that with, you know, intelligent technologies, incorporating them with your digital screens. And you start to add levels of complexity when it comes to design work, and so forth. So it's just great to see you on the journey. And I look forward to say, where is he, where you're going to be intended 20 years time, right. It's just great to see from a point of the Australian manufacturing landscape, recognising some of the stats locally, close to 93%. I think of manufacturing, inverted commas manufacturers in Australia, relatively small cottage plays, I call them with 10 to 20 people in them doing really, I would say, from my perspective, relatively mundane type of manufacturing work, so to speak, that you've read seem to sort of come out of that and you're now at a point where you've got close to 100 if not more 100 employees and growing and thinking about next steps you've gotten out of that bracket. In our economy here in Australia, it's pretty much in all verticals and industries. We've got an oligopoly of players mostly manufacturing pretty much overseas with subsidiaries so to speak how do you see yourself I think I really believe you guys are pioneering a new wave of what we've been calling in the press sovereignty back into the country you really testing the boundaries around capability building and we obviously have the smartphone framework that we're aware of where we haven't been doing too much on pre prod and post production work and we stand to do more of that and I'm specimen I say, we I mean selves it by execution. How do you see the local market focus local ecosystem where where to pull a Paul Keating comment in 20 years ago, we're at the centre of the world, right, which actually creates major supply chain issues good enough up north northern hemisphere anyway, you seem to have reacted and actually been proactive in trying to drive capability building in Australia.

Daen Simmat: 19:57

Yeah, I think that the thing for me is I don't Talk about manufacturing in Australia, I talk about manufacturing local to where we can shoot. Right. Okay. So it's local for local, so and it's local for local everywhere. So, you know, the idea of like sharing designs, sharing philosophy, one of the strengths that I've always said that, you know, we can do in manufacturing Australia is, is if we're making something for Australians in Australia, we understand that culture of the consumer. Okay, one of the problems that I see where, you know, we have quality issues that come in from, you know, international procurement. It's because where, or how that product was purchased, the person didn't understand the culture of the person that was at the thing that was actually consuming, you know, the goods. The sad thing about manufacturing in Australia is the capital expense, like, you know, I'm eight years now in black lab, you know, I got to the five year point of the journey where I needed to go through the capital expenditure again, you know, we had to start that process that was right at the beginning of COVID. You know, how do we write it out, we were moving into more intelligent products and making less of it, we had to move very quickly into the fact that people weren't talking to us about intelligent products, they were talking about smart design, but have very dumb things, and lots of it. So we needed to be able to pivot into that quite quickly. And that came capital expense, we just haven't spent the capital on the equipment in the country, to continue to compete with the rest of the world. So if someone when tomorrow, everything's going to have to be made in Australia, we actually can't support ourselves at the moment. And it's not from a labour force perspective, like the people are there to do the work, we just don't have the capital equipment to do it. To get the capital equipment, we don't have the facility to build the capital equipment here ourselves. And if I'm talking sheetmetal, fabrication, we don't have companies in Australia, making metalworking equipment here in Australia, like the ones that you showed me in the factory floor. So that's coming out of Europe and Japan, and, and you know, there's more of that equipment coming out of Asia, that's a big problem for us. So we need to slowly start giving little bits back to Australia, not turn the tap right on, just start to dribble it back in so that companies can with confidence, not feel like they gambling, on going out and spending a lot of money on a piece of capital, and then trying to figure out how they paid it off, or how they go through that journey. And setting up good relationships mean, where everybody understands it's a bit of a journey, because not everybody is going to have the appetite for risk that I have that's meant that I've taken the leap of faith and and God will get there in the end and had the stubbornness and determination to make it work.

Nick Gonios: 22:50

So you finding that's a capital issue in Australia, fundamentally, fundamentally, yeah, so it's an interesting, yeah, I've experienced that to see the journey. And it's sort of a lot, it's been difficult to see hardware hard businesses be backed in Australia, because they want to see it with digital businesses and software driven businesses, within three to six months, you actually know where you're at in terms of delivering positive consumer behaviour, or behaviour for business as well, where that gets back to right through a lot of evidence and examples, comparative companies internationally, when it comes to hardware based infrastructure that are bringing real capability back, I think we do have a gap and a challenge in Australia to deal with so but it's great to see that you're, you know, just you got the grit to make it happen, which I think will prove out great. It's I was gonna say to the end, but on the journey, right, I do believe this will yarn at the beginning. So let's shift to thinking about closed loop side of things and the impact on the environment and socially how the current way our world works, which is take making waste products. As we're aware, over the last few decades, we've actually seen seeing the impact of be driven specifically on price, right? And price has actually created these negative externalities that are around environmental impact. climate crisis seems to be the thing of the day. And we're sort of driving that I was watching cop 26 actually got up on the Sunday morning at 5am. I got bullied on Sunday, last Sunday. And what did I do? I'm watching the cop 26 final remarks on YouTube in the morning and in the lounge room, which my wife started laughing about. But that's going to show that we won't go there. The challenge that we have is trying to apply closed loop thinking in a place like Australia, where a net importer of products, right, it's so challenging, right, so even more complicated products, we get circulars, we're fundamentally going after trying to reshape the thinking and reimagining how we ultimately deal with the externality of something like e waste, right? You know, we get great products designed and delivered so complex in terms of their production, that ultimately they actually are hard to disassemble, therefore going to E waste and it's a big wicked problem. How do you see closed loop sort of manufacturing or closer to the closed loop of circularity in that sense? Do you think about that sort of medium to long term? Do you think about it now? How does black lab think about those challenges that need to be sorted out because we actually haven't got even in that equation? Yeah, but like we spoke about recently, we still have some fundamental roadblocks in just people understanding that we need to sort out for recycling and remanufacturing of materials, right at its core, how do you think about that is that part of your philosophy going long term.

Daen Simmat: 25:15

It is something that I I think about it is something that I will always have a conversation about the problem that we constantly, you know, that we talk about is, we've got this price quality time as a triangle, it's about educating people about it. Now being a square, you know, it's price quality time environment. Now, when you're pulling any direction, something else is going to be impacted. You know, one of the problems that you have with closed loop is that the second time you use it, it's not as good as it was the first time you use it. Okay, so you're pulling away from quality, the potential for price, you know, I know that there is issues where we went through a period of time of burying and stockpiling steel, because it was more cost effective to, to go through the process with iron ore than than it was actually to recycle the steel, because of how cheap it was, you know, with the steel prices increasing at the moment, that will draw the steel out of those stockpiles of recycle. And it'll start going through a recycling process. And steel is a great one, because if done, right, it can maintain the same quality, we can turn out the same thing constantly over and over again. But plastics, you know, there's a problem there glass, you know, it's very hard to maintain a crystal clear glass without taking it through a very toxic process to bring it back to what it is. So what's the environmental impact of that as well. So I think that the education side of this is that that until people start getting performance managed, or we start looking at this from a board level of making that environment, part of someone's KPI in what they do on a daily basis with work, people aren't going to start thinking about it when they go to a shelf, and they will get the product and they buy it on the shelf. And sometimes it's hard to identify between the two of them, and they grab the popular brand that they like, or they grab the cheapest one, frequently, environment isn't sexy, either. It's not the sexiest thing on the shelf. So people trying to compete in that closed loop environment need to a I think try and compete in the other spaces as well, if they want to make it a priority. Or oh, we need to force the behaviour through, you know how you would Performance Manager.

Nick Gonios: 27:31

When you talk about performance management, I hear that and it reminds me of a book I read about nearly close to 20 years ago, I think I was on a holiday somewhere in a beach somewhere in the islands on that where it was in Europe. I think it was actually Lou Gerstner, who was one of the old ex CEOs of IBM IBM CEO, he was coming in just before IBM was actually going through and possibly even going bankrupt as a company. And he took 18 months because the company was so complex in how it operated had a multi matrix environment and how they operated with so many different divisions and sectors that were going after. And after 18 months of doing a few trips around the world to understand the business before it was getting ready to go belly up. He recognised that people respect what's expected of them, right? It's a very simple but powerful term. They basically respect what's expected of them, right? It's typically nine to five salary type of environments. And all they care about in my mind, aspirationally actually do have an interest in sort of going forward and tackling some of the tech the hard stuff, if they're being bonused on their top three things for the year. That's all they will basically execute on. Right. So it's a bit of human behaviour in that sense. And I agree with you there is an aspect of actually getting leaders to leave for tomorrow and sort of applying thinking around KPIs and so forth accordingly, or missions or values. A lot of organisations are applying Impact Reporting right now in ESG reports. And some people are saying that sort of greenwashing, possibly it's at this stage sort of where we're at, it's about doing the harder part operationally in an organisation to get them to that point. So I'm a really strong believer that consumers, we've got a massive growing community of women around conscious consumerism and businesses that are looking to apply best practice execution around closed loop and be part of the story every day, they actually just, you know, demanded. I think, from our perspective, brands are shifting towards that model, but it's taken too long. Our perspective is to try and actually accelerate that movement of the Dewar's doing foot tomorrow around environment and impact. From that point of view, what are you seeing some about top leaders and organisations, some of the brands who work with amazing large organisations in Australia that you're operating with in partnership? Do you ever see those type of conversations happening with sort of those executives?

Daen Simmat: 29:28

I definitely think the conversations are definitely happening. And they're happening more frequently. And the transition is is definitely happening there. And I think that it's a conversation about win, win, win, lose, lose, win, okay. So if it's, if it's a win win in the right direction, then it's going to be a win win. Win. It was three, right? Yeah. So if it's a win, lose, where, like, it becomes a much harder, harder sell if it's a win neutral. So it's like it doesn't change status quo on what their processes but the environment wins over that transactions going to be easy. But when there's something that gets sacrificed, like quality, like time, or like the price directly exposed to the environment side of it, it just hasn't filtered entirely through those organisations. Because people don't know how to make that decision and don't know how it works. Or with everything else going on, and all the other stresses, you know, we talk about COVID, we talk about the fact that we've all paused for two years, as we've gone through this, this journey. That's what's hard for everybody. But again, capability and total understanding is also important. We might talk about recyclable materials that technically are recyclable, but practically aren't at the moment from again, a capital expenditure and, and how we would look about going about recycling or reusing those materials, that attitude about someone feeling like they're dealing with something that's new and refreshed, as opposed to really quantifying whether or not the old thing needed to be replaced, or whether it's just part of due process, who wants to take responsibility for saying that that thing's still safe? You know, nobody, when you put the safe term in front of someone says Actually, no, that is still safe, we don't need to replace it. When you have a safety conversation, someone goes will will just change it anyway. Because then we know it's safe. I think that it is definitely happening. I think that stuff. For instance, when you look at solar, you know, and the massive transition across the world, it's one of those things about Win Win, okay, you know, we've got a transition going across the soul, because people are getting financial benefits, because they can do a long term ROI on it, I don't want to go into conversations about how that affects our infrastructure and the other problems that solar causes. But, you know, the perception in society is a win win. Okay, so that's why you're getting acquisition of it, when you're talking about LED lights, you know, low energy use, and the transition that happens across to that it's a win win in people's minds, because it's going to last longer, you're not going to have you know, be changing lightbulbs frequently, and it's going to be cheap at around. That's why we see transition that happens into it. But the true cyclic nature of automotive feels like you know, vehicles, those sorts of stuff, we are seeing resurgence at the moment of from supply chain problems of older vehicles, I think that's fantastic. People seeing value in stuff that they didn't, you know, historically see value in and wanting to buy a vehicle that they're going to know is going to go from million kilometres not going to go for 100,000 kilometres.

Nick Gonios: 32:36

I'm gonna say something about the solar side of things, I think we're kicking the can down the road for another big problem that's going to be with regards to the solar panels. And they're having those disassembled and recycled to be remade again into other things. There is some activity on around sort of trying to deal with that at a federal level, I think it's going to be a massive issue for us in the next it's actually known that within the next few years, we'll have a massive issue with first generation panels that have come through that have to be taken down and replaced with something else. So that's another conversation for another time to go deeper in. But look at just final thoughts now just going in where do you you know, where do you see black level design in the next five or 10 years? Where are you seeing I just see, based on what you're looking for my perspective, looking at it at a high level, that there's capability building to be added over time getting more intelligent, you know, improving operationalization we have a philosophy that's part of our five levels of Circulus advancement that we're sort of rolling up soon, once we launch our new site, which will actually talk about how do we start looking at taking away from Mega factories and the global supply chain paradigm and re imagining pushing everything back to local cities with micro surgery service centres enabled city by city globally, right? I mean, what I've seen in what you're doing here, you're very much an integrator and assembly enabler through your fabrication and intelligent componentry to deliver solutions in the market. Imagine if you had a satellite capability city by city around the world by being able to validate this operating model and take it into other markets is that sort of party I mean, I'm throwing something at you, but they can see where your black tape black lab. So

Daen Simmat: 34:06

it definitely is. And what we have created here is a blueprint of something that works. And it's easy to replicate that blueprint as somebody that works. You know, the hardest thing about what we do on a daily basis, and I will walk anybody through our factory and show them the software, we use the equipment that we use, you know, talk about our core philosophies, but the reality is, it's hard. Okay, anything that you feel like you've achieved anything, it was hard in the process. What we do isn't hard. It's just that it's constant. You think you get over a hump and there's another hump in front of you. The hill gets bigger, those sorts of things. It's hard work and because it's hard work, it's rewarding. And we get someone there. You go back and you quote guys like Elon Musk, and he talks about you want to be more successful than the next guy. Just work twice as many hours is a bit of a school of thought. body that work is part of life, it's part of our journey, we don't go to work so that we can go home and go to the beach afterwards, do more of what you want to do and less of what you don't want to do. So it's more enjoyable. So you can do it for longer. So you can sustain it for longer, there is a point in life where you're gonna have to let go of the difficult thing that you've been doing for a long period of time and generated your skilling. Because you can't scale that anymore. And you need to let someone else make a mistake going through the same journey, and encourage them and take them through that to realise that you can't run a business without a team of people around you. Okay. And then And so, the hardest thing about running black lab is not about buying equipment. It's not the capital side of it, it's keeping your team motivated, keeping them enthusiastic, you know, going through COVID, you know, we did heaps of stuff, we wanted to make people not have to worry about how they were eating everyday. So we fed our staff, the whole factory, the whole way through COVID, we had some chefs that weren't able to work in hospitality at the moment that were coming up and doing very, you know, mediocre labour intensive jobs in the factory. And I was like, hang on a second, guys. Do you guys want to cater for us? Okay, so we opened it up. And we did, we did breakfast two days a week and lunch three days a week in the factory, to try and take a stress away from those guys. So that it was one less thing that they needed to worry about. All of this stuff is about people. It's actually not about products. It's not about it's about people's decisions about how they're going to buy stuff. It's people's decisions. So what does black lab look like in five to 20 years? It's lots more people doing lots more exciting stuff.

Nick Gonios: 36:48

Bring it on, bring it on, Dean, let's wrap it up with some final thoughts on if anybody's thinking about challenges they might have, you know, why black lab? Right, we've got a lot of listeners and growing at the moment, what is it about this sort of story when they hear a psych? You know, what would you be saying like in terms of come along in partnership on the journey with yourselves? You know, what's the big why? And

Daen Simmat: 37:06

I'd say we are incredibly fast learners. And if you've got a problem, come and have a conversation with us because we'll find a solution. And it doesn't matter how big how small. That problem is, we welcome the challenge, tell me there's something I can't do, and so what happens,

Nick Gonios: 37:24

Bring it on. That's a great way to close. What I wanted to do is actually just thank you for giving us the time to actually have this conversation and seeing that the whole experience here that you have in French's Forest, I hope I see more of these locations around the world actually starting off with Australia, clearly, I think that conversation has been great, it really opened up and I got to hear more about what your selves are doing and the opportunity and trying to solve some of those gaps in Australia's ecosystem right now, which is great to see. Just for our listeners and viewers. If you want to find out more about what Daen is doing here at black lab design, you can check black lab design on Daen's LinkedIn profile, easy way to get started, or go to Black Lab Design. That's the website to find out more. They've got some amazing videos and been documenting their journey along the way over the years. And you know, they're quite open and transparent around the challenges that exist in going through this process. And I take my hat off to them for doing that as well. So on that note, I'd like to thank you for your time.

Daen Simmat: 38:16

Thank you. Thank you.

Nick Gonios: 38:18

At Circulist Quest we're always interested in stories about entrepreneurs, designers, engineers and scientists who are hoping to accelerate the shift to a circular economy. If you know of someone we just have to talk to, or have any questions about the technology we're developing to help product manufacturers close the loop, visit our website at or write to us at

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