It’s Panel Tools’ 5th birthday and we can’t thank our customers enough for the trust they put in us when we launched in 2018.
Our Co-Founder and Director, Craig Honeyman says Panel Tools was established to service cabinetmakers, shopfitters, joiners, and similar trades in the flat panel market.
“We know what a vast difference quality tooling makes,” Craig says. “It’s our job to listen to our customers and bring them solutions to challenges they’re facing. And often, our ideas are not in response to challenges, but to questions around growth and profitability. We’ll always find a way to deliver for them.”
Indeed, Fraser Killen, Panel Tools’ other Co-Founder and Director says the company will literally go the extra mile to help.
“I remember we had a customer that was desperate to get a job out and needed more tooling. They called on a Thursday afternoon to ask what we could do. I literally booked a flight for the Friday and flew down to deliver the cutters so they could run the order over the weekend.”
Timberline Bathroom Products in Armidale were one of Panel Tools’ very first customers and today, are our biggest customer. Back then, they were a mid-sized company with just three machines. Since then, they’ve grown to become one of the biggest vanity manufacturers in Australia.
“We improved their normal cutting speed by fifty percent,” Fraser says. “We’ve designed tools specifically for their profile so they can run at high speeds, and we’ve helped them manage the more abrasive materials they use for their Corian tops. We also introduced them to diamond tools and have since made custom diamond tools for them.”
Timberline’s Operations Manager, Marius Vanderwalt, says they partner with Panel Tools because the company makes everything easy for them.
“They consistently come up with solutions for us. In fact, before moving to our bigger site, they helped us double the amount of production we got out of our existing space by optimising our speed and feed rates, providing a better tool, providing a faster tool. They push boundaries for us.”
Similarly, Capital Veneering’s Systems Manager, Andy Mann, has found the relationship with Panel Tools to be highly collaborative.
“We were having issues with lifespan and quality of cut with our main cutters,” Andy explains. “Fraser sent some new ones and we found them to be a huge improvement. This has saved money for us. We can cut more because we’re only replacing cutters every two or three weeks. The knowledge that Panel Tools offers really complements the works we do here.”
At Thor’s Hammer in Canberra, Managing Director, Thor Diesendorf, says they used to contract out their CNC work but when they looked at doing it in-house to keep costs down and improve efficiencies, Panel Tools was their go-to supplier. Brad Anderson, Panel Tools’ CNC Specialist took a close look at the specific needs.
“Brad and Fraser have a lot of expertise and knowledge and it was a great, collaborative effort,” Thor says. “We know what we want to do and there’s usually a bit of back and forth before we come up with a really good solution together. Our finishes, accuracy, and repeatability have all improved thanks to the tooling and advice we’ve received from Panel Tools. Our CNC is making a huge difference to the way our team feels at the end of the day and how much they can achieve each day.”
Fraser says that Panel Tools’ goal is to always progress a meaningful improvement in customers’ operations.
“We have a customer on the Sunshine Coast that makes mouldings for windows and doors. They produce an arched window and use a profile around the curved section. It used to take five or six tools to produce the shape they wanted but we designed and manufactured two new tools that do the same job. In fact, we got them designed and done within a day and shaved sixty percent off the amount of time it takes to create the arches.”
At this five-year mark, Fraser reflects on how far Panel Tools has come in terms of its value to customers.
“With five years of experience behind us,” he says, “we’ve built relationships with some of the world’s best suppliers. Any time a supplier brings an innovation into the market, we’re the ones heroing it in Australia. It’s not at all a stretch to say we’re bringing Australian manufacturing up to speed with the rest of the world.”
One example of this is the partnership with Bacci, the Italian manufacturer of world-leading CNC machines. As part of The Stirling Group, Panel Tools benefits from the Group’s global relationships.
As Brad explains, “Bacci wins awards every year for innovation and design. They are the experts when it comes to 5-axis machines and solid timber. Any Australian or NZ manufacturer who wants a Bacci machine goes through Stirling, and Panel Tools is Bacci’s official tooling partner for Australia and NZ. Everything is highly specialised, it’s a high-performance brand.”
Craig, Brad, and Stirling Group’s Group Sales Manager, Leon Botes, attend LIGNA, the world’s biggest biennial woodworking fair.
“We go there to seek out new suppliers and new ways of doing things and we’re always investing in ourselves to be cutting edge,” Craig explains.
As a company, we’re constantly evolving. We’re a very different company now to even a year ago, yet our values never waver. What also doesn’t change is that every triumph for our customer is a triumph for us.
“It doesn’t matter where you are in your business’s growth,” Brad says, “if you’re getting more life out of your tools, getting more efficient and more productive in your business, then that’s a massive win for you and for us.”
Panel Tools originated as an eCommerce supplier of a small core range of high-quality tools. While this has remained an important part of the business, today we are known for our tailored tooling and custom profiles. We meet face-to-face with manufacturing businesses daily.
“We are extremely confident in our capabilities,” Fraser says. “This is affirmed via the success of our customers. Our purpose is to empower Australian manufactures to create the perfect result between machinery and the end-product and help their businesses thrive. Here’s to another five years!”