HUDSON – The UK Operation

Junior Rowing News recently made the trip down to Reading to visit their repairs centre. Here, we talk with their team on plans, innovation and HUDSON as a brand…

 

‘Can you tell us something about what you do at this facility in Reading?’

‘We created the service facility as we identified a need to better support our customers. There are so many customers in the UK and European market now. It is almost a three-pronged approach to the service centre. We provide a base for customers to come and visit us. Part of that also enables us to keep a full stock of parts to be able to deliver any part overnight to a customer. That can be useful if you lose your fin a couple of days before a race. The other need we felt was important for the market was to have a place where repairs can be done to factory standards. All our repair materials you find in the service centre are imported from the factory and the staff working here are trained in the factory in Canada.

‘Our group of staff has grown from one person two years ago to a team of four now. Andy and Scott are taking responsibility for the repairs & service. Kris, who recently came on board, is aimed at customer support and sales.

‘We do have an open door policy so anyone is welcome to visit us and see the centre with their own eyes.’

 

‘What kind of business do you get here in the UK in terms of a split between junior, club and international? Do you get a range of all three of them?’

‘We have a broad range of customers, from national team level, to clubs, universities and schools but we also have many individual customers that want to buy a single for themselves or their son or daughter.’

 

‘I have definitely seen a lot of Hudsons. The USP (Ultra Super Predator) made a big splash when it came out – Eton College and Hampton were very impressed with that technology.’

‘Naturally – and some people argue that it should not be natural – schools and universities have different budgets to clubs which allow a new equipment turnover at a different rate.’

 

‘Do you have any research projects going on in the UK, maybe in partnership with the universities, or just in general?’

‘In terms of the research products, we manage those from the Canadian side. That is where the manufacturing happens; our team of engineers consists of eight people. We also have a PhD bio-mechanic specialist on board. This specialist works from our Canadian office and works with a lot of high-level programs. He goes and works with coaches, analyses what the boats are doing, what we can change to improve it. We plan to have him make a European trip as well, probably early next year at some point to come over and work with our key UK customers.’

 

‘Is there any new technology in the works that you can talk to us about.’

‘Probably not, to be honest! New technology is kept secret until the Shark physically hits the water. I think the best thing about Hudson is that it focuses on engineering and development. To be innovative we try to stay one step ahead of the competition. We are always trying to push the boundaries.’

 

‘How recently was this facility set up?’

‘We took ownership of the service centre in April 2016. It was September before we were starting to put repairs through the system. It was a blank space which we have looked to expand. Now we are all setup we have more time to visit customers and take repairs. It is also important to be more accessible to our European customers.’

 

‘Have you thought about expanding to any new centres in the UK or is this the maximum demand?’

‘To open in multiple centres in the UK would not make sense. It is expensive to run a service centre and a high volume of repairs is needed to keep the repair cost low for our customers. We do make monthly trips to the north of England and Scotland to ensure more remote areas understand that we are never far away.’

 

‘Do you carry out remote repairs there then?’

‘For repairs we bring all boats back here because we believe a repair has to be factory standard and for that you need the correct facilities and safety for spray painting. Although we are based here, a five hour drive for us is no problem. It is very much a market thing. Customers in North America would think nothing of driving for six hours, but when you have to drive from West to East coast, that is when you are a long way away from your manufacturer.’

 

‘You are very popular on the junior rowing scene. I remember people being very excited when they got their hands on a Hudson. It seemed to be the thing that schools were doing. Can you talk about why you are getting so much business on the junior rowing scene?’

‘The first thing I think is always curiosity. If you have got strong junior rowing programmes, everyone wants to try and get that little bit extra and I think when Hudson came on the scene it offered innovation and engagement. I think people like the boats because they are very responsive and I think juniors like rowing like that. All of that goes hand in hand with our tagline on the website when you open it up: Athlete focused, Technology driven. The athlete in the boat is very important; that is what makes the boat move. So they need to be on a comfortable platform but equally there is nothing to say that the technology cannot develop. We have dared to move away from the traditional manufacturing methods and explore other ways of engineering performance. Obviously there have been some projects that we have canned, and there have been a lot of projects that have been released. Hopefully the athletes are getting a sense of speed and victory, which is important.’

 

‘Do you look for a lot of feedback from rowers about how to make their equipment more comfortable?’

‘Comfortable is the wrong word here. We are looking to make HUDSON faster. In the end it is about getting first over the finish line. If some comfort can help, that’s okay. We discuss with coaches too, not just athletes. It is little things that make the difference, such as the inverted slide design on USP models. Boatmen around the country cleaning out slide beds will now have a simple design which is really effective. Take that part specifically; we have really decided to push the boat out. The traditional design of a slide is moulded aluminium extrusions with an anodised aluminium finish. With the USP slide, we have got the anodised finish, but we have also added a Teflon silicone coating. Let’s increase the lifespan of that part. Why does it need to be changed every five years? These were questions we asked ourselves throughout the design and manufacturing process and feedback is really important in encouraging innovation. It is why we employ bio-mechanics. Their purpose is to bring us feedback. Kris will regularly go out to one of our Hudson programmes to spend time with the coach and listen to what is happening in their world. It is ultimately trying to make them go faster and make their lives easier. That is the goal.’

 

‘Just to sum up, this is your chance to give us a sales pitch. In a few words, what would really set your brand apart from all the others?’

‘I would be tempted to stick to the simple tagline on the website: Athlete focused, Technology driven. Explore the website from there. The internet holds a lot of information. Four words hopefully fits your remit, but go and find the shark tank on the website. That presents our glass factory project, whereby our manufacturing processes are fully transparent. Ultimately though, it’s all about going out and trying a HUDSON. See what you think. That is really important.’

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