Innovation

Stories of Innovation - Sample Preparation

The ROCKLABS® story of innovation

the early years, becoming a global sole trader

Over the last 40 years, Ian Devereux has seen many ups and downs in the mining and commercial laboratory fields, having set up ROCKLABS with Dr Jim Sprott in Parnell, Auckland in 1969. He recalls, "Mineral prospecting geologists used to come to Jim Sprott's laboratory occasionally with soil samples to analyze and I suggested to Jim that we should introduce a service catering specifically for this sector."

Jim Sprott agreed with him, so they set-up what became a successful analysis service for this new sector. Prompted by enquiries from his analytical customers, Ian then decided to look at producing equipment which would fit their needs and could be sold to a wider group of potential customers engaged in the mining and exploration industry.

Many of his analysis customers had enquired about the sample-pulverising ring mill he had adapted from a German model for his own sample preparation work in the laboratory, so he decided to base his new product on this. Having worked on developing a basic production model, he engaged a local engineering company Gilco Products to produce the new equipment and set about this new business venture.

Between 1970 and 1974 Ian sold his innovative equipment part-time, whilst still working in the laboratory. In 1974 he sought financial backing for the new business venture promoting his "global economy" approach. He believed he had found an international market niche, supplying a unique product not available to his specialist clients in their own countries. He aimed to become what he saw as a "global sole trader". His focus was to provide unique equipment, easily available spare parts, excellent service and fast delivery - he aimed to become known as the supplier for sample preparation equipment for the mining industry.

In 1973, Ian applied for and was awarded an ANZAC Fellowship by the Australian Government. This award allowed him to spend seven months visiting laboratories and mines, mostly in West Australia, seeing for the first time just how big this industry was. This experience showed him the potential for selling equipment world-wide and influenced his decision to change ROCKLABS from a lab to a full time, laboratory equipment manufacturer/exporter in 1974.

In 1975 Devereux and Sprott parted company, with Devereux taking forward the equipment supply business and the ROCKLABS name, and Jim Sprott adding the ROCKLABS laboratory to his larger analytical laboratory that covered a wide range of samples such as forensic, insurance, water, industrial products, etc.

"My machines had been made for local geologists from the New Zealand with demand growing year on year" recalls Ian. When he went out on his own, he decided to manufacture a wider range of sample preparation equipment on a commercial basis — initially ring and puck mills.

He now had financial backing from his bank, market knowledge, a reliable source of supply and the drive and ambition to make his vision happen. This was the beginning of the next stage of his venture which was to eventually develop ROCKLABS into the world-leading sample preparation equipment company known and respected today throughout the global mining and commercial laboratory industries.