Chamelon: Mixing it up in a market where innovation is survival

Irish Times Innovation awards finalist in the manufacturing and design category uses tech to dramatically improve customer experience

Padraic Timon, managing director and Colum O Laighin, sales and marketing manager, from Chameleon Colour Systems

Padraic Timon, managing director and Colum O Laighin, sales and marketing manager, from Chameleon Colour Systems

 

Next time you’re planning a spot of redecorating and choose that particular pastel shade from the colour card you might pause to consider the technology involved in getting the exact colour you require and matching it precisely when you run out. The paint manufacturers can’t possibly supply the full range of colours on the card while no shop could stock them all.

Consumer choice is fulfilled by the computerised paint mixing machines found in DIY and specialist paint and decorating stores around the world and most advanced model available comes from Irish company Chameleon Colour Systems.

Chameleon managing director Padraic Timon uses the example of a coffee machine to describe the product. “That’s a tool to make coffee but it can be used as a marketing tool as well. But the machine needs to work well. If it goes down the shop can’t sell coffee. If a paint shop customer wants to choose a colour, the shop needs a machine. They can’t sell all the different colours if they haven’t got a machine. Our customers are paint manufacturers who reluctantly use our machines. If they could supply all the colours themselves, they would.”

The paint manufacturers have little or no contact with the machines after they are installed at the point of sale, however. This inevitably leads to reliability issues.

“The model is quite weak,” says Timon. “Our focus for the past 10 years has been on innovation and customer support. Our existence is based on innovation. We have to give customers a reason to buy from us. The Chinese have entered the market over the past 20 years and have pushed down prices. Our latest machine is quite different. We looked at the point of sale issues to see if we could solve them and raise the bar in how they are managed. We started to develop the new machine in 2016.”

He points to simple user errors which the machine addresses. “If you misalign a paint tin on a mixing machine it will make it unstable and cause a breakdown. This happens all too often. The machine detects stress and self-corrects. The machine acts as the first responder. The operator also gets shown a video to explain how the issue can be avoided in future. We are the first in the industry to incorporate a screen to communicate with the operator.”

The screen comes into play for a range of issues. “When the machine starts up it runs a best practice tutorial for 15 seconds. When an employee presses the emergency button and calls for support the machine plays a video to assist them to deal with issue. The old idea of getting technical call outs for everything is obsolete. Rather than producing idiot proof machines we make them more collaborative. If a machine is due for service, the engineer can look at the history of machine remotely. The machines are internet enabled and communicate with the paint companies to plan maintenance or give the engineer advance information about the problem they need to solve. If the machine just requires a setting change, they we dial in and do it remotely.”

Chameleon can also offer that service. “The machines are pressure sensitive and it is possible to adjust the pressure remotely if a machine sends a signal indicating that is required. We are currently doing it for a customer in New Zealand. The great thing is that consumers are oblivious to all this happening in the background.”

Market reception has been very good, according to Timon. “Converting existing customers to new technology can be a challenge because of the change involved, but they warm to it when they see it in action,” he says. “We have been at two significant trade shows this year and without doubt it has opened doors to us that were closed before this. We are now talking to two global paint companies which have been buying our competitors’ products up until now. When they see the machine self-correct or when they see the video playing following the emergency stop the reaction is great.”

Chameleon has also launched a service app for technicians. “Technicians around the world speak different languages but encounter the same problems,” Timon explains. “All of the technical information they need is now on their phone. The app is able to tell them what the issue is, what tools they need to fix it and plays a demo video to explain how to fix it. Innovation is survival. It’s a continuous process that doesn’t stop. If you want to stay in business, you have to keep innovating.”

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