With a veritable encyclopaedia of industry knowledge, the experienced team behind Skyspan™ Umbrellas have been creating world class products right here in Australia since the 1980s. Based in Brisbane, Skyspan™'s products provide much needed protection from the elements both at home and across the globe.
Behind any successful enterprise is a team with a dedicated leader, who is an ambassador for the company's products. We talked with Skyspan™'s General Manager Wayne Downie, who took over the Skyspan™ company 15 years ago, to take a look at the foundations behind the company's success, as well as what's in store for the future.
Building on history of quality
Over the course of the company's history, about $1.2 million has gone into the research and development of the umbrellas which would go on to form the basis for the high standard to which Skyspan™ manufactures products today.
The key to Skyspan™'s success? Knowing your products and not settling for anything less than the best.
"They're probably the most premium umbrellas in the world, because they are fully retractable," Mr Downie explains. "A five year old could wind them up and down. Whereas all our competitors are either not retractable, or if they are, they take a few men to put them up and down."
In addition to their user friendliness, Skyspan™ umbrellas have an aluminium frame which can not only withstand the elements without rusting, it can also ease the load in terms of freighting and installation. The lightweight construction, in addition to full retractability, means the company can send out its umbrellas fully assembled, meaning less hassle for customers.
"Quality, innovation and design are what make the Skyspan™ umbrella what it is," says Mr Downie. "Ours is the only truly retractable, engineer wind rated umbrella on the market."
Bringing Aussie Made to the world
Although Skyspan™ supplies shades and umbrellas around the world, Mr Downie prides himself on the company's involvement in the Australian Made Campaign over the past decade.
The aluminium for the umbrellas is cast locally, and everything is powder-coated, galvanised and painted here, meaning that orders can be ready to go within a matter of weeks rather than months. In addition, any scraps left over from the manufacturing process are gathered up and sent off for aluminium and steel recycling.
With many consumables on the market being imported from overseas, having an Australian Made product is not only a matter of pride, but logistics.
"For our clients that is the benefit, it's the quality benefit. I guess you could say it's like the Rolls Royce of umbrellas," Mr Downie adds.
But delivering the renowned Skyspan™ quality isn't always smooth sailing, with some difficult jobs truly putting the team to the test. Mr Downie recalls one instance where an installation required the team to carry heavy components up a high rise by hand without the help of any elevators.
However, one of the most memorable highlights of Mr Downie's time with the company so far has been the project which won the company an award from the Specialised Textile Association of Australia in 2014 – for "Overall Structure of the Year" an engineering marvel of a shade structure which covered a dining area built on a platform over the glistening waters of the Maldives.
On the Skyspan™ horizon
With the release of the company's latest Hypar canopy product, Mr Downie is optimistic about the future. Unlike many sails, the new, all-aluminium Hypar structure has the option of being retractable, meaning it can be installed without any machinery, and the canopy brought down within minutes.
"It's good for places like Cairns and Townsville, and even over in Miami and Florida where there are a lot of storms and they need to get things put away," Mr Downie says.