When Alan Bowmar founded Acma in 1978, it was a major producer of foam seating and head rests for the automotive industry, and cushioning for commercial furniture. Since then the family-owned, Upper Hutt-based business has evolved to produce a diverse range of foam products for domestic and international customers involved in transportation, flooring, furniture, bathware, healthcare and recreation.
Alan’s son, CEO John Bowmar comments, “Upper Hutt was once home to one of our biggest customers General Motors. We supplied local car manufacturers Ford and Mitsubishi too. Our business also relied on the demand from commercial furniture manufacturers in New Zealand and Australia. As they closed down or moved offshore, we shifted away from commodity products.”
Experts in chemistry and specialists in polyurethane, Acma develops formulations to produce a range of low and high density, soft or hard, foam which is moulded into various shapes.
John explains the benefits of its main raw material polyurethane, “It isn’t the cheapest but it’s the best option when it comes to making products for cushioning and comfort. It’s also very versatile. Every customer has different technical requirements and performance standards”.
Acma currently produces fire retardant seating for trains that meets the world’s highest fire standards in Australia, China, the US and Europe; safety tiles to protect the elderly in Singapore and Sweden, foam seals for sleep apnoea masks made in Mexico, foam underlay for flooring installers in New Zealand.
John’s 20 years in business and background in physics and maths have complemented his father’s chemistry skills. “We’re always keeping our minds open for new opportunities,” John says. “We’re constantly changing to meet our customers’ needs,” John says. The high-tech manufacturer operates eight robots, laser cutters, laminators and large scale printers.
Collaborating with customers and academic researchers, has led to Acma’s development of highly innovative products such as foam safety tiles.
“There was hip protector on the market for the elderly (to protect them if they fell) but nobody wanted to wear it,” John explains. “In response to a Swedish university’s brief to keep the elderly moving without the fear of falling over at home or in residential care, we collaborated with Otago University’s Medical School to develop a range of foam floor tiles”.
Acma has the capacity to print stone-like images on the tiles to make them appear like conventional tiles. So far, the two and a half year clinical trial in Scandinavia has resulted in a 50 percent reduction in injuries with obvious cost savings in healthcare. “One elderly man in the trial has fallen over 26 times but the tiles have saved him from injury every time!”
Acma also designs its own products. One of its latest inventions is foam underlay made from a mixture of new foam and rubber crumb (finely ground rubber, recycled from car tyres).
Even though 85 percent of Acma’s products are currently destined for markets off-shore, Upper Hutt continues to meet its needs. “We’re near the port and airport which makes shipping and travel convenient, John says. “We appreciate the short commute from home to work, paying affordable rent and having a stable team of local staff. Some staff have been with us for ten years, many others for 20 to 25 years. They want to live and work in Upper Hutt too”.
Visit the ACMA website: www.acma.co.nz