Innovation driven by needs of customers

Mechline's Peter Sage-Passant with the Waste20 machine
Mechline's Peter Sage-Passant with the Waste20 machine

KEEPING in touch with the needs of customers has given a Milton Keynes company a steady stream of potential money making ideas.

The latest product - Waste20 - created by Mechline, based on Carters Lane, Kiln Farm, takes food waste and turns it into grey water that can be poured down the drain like bath water.

Mechline’s ethos won it both the innovation through technology award and the overall business excellence award at the Milton Keynes and North Bucks Chamber of Commerce awards.

Mechline MD Peter Sage-Passant was one of four people who set up Mechline 20 years ago. The others are financial director David Graves, Ian Blakeman and Peter Galliford. He’s an engineer by training and at heart and there’s little he likes more than sticking his head under a sink with a spanner in hand making something work.

But, as Mr Sage-Passant says, that gives him a real strategic insight into the needs of his company’s customers. “Our whole ethos is growth through innovation,” he said. “It positions us as a deliverer of really good solutions and new products.”

Despite current problems with funding - Waste20 and its self-funded development costs were put at “hundreds of thousands of pounds” - Mr Sage-Passant says investment is something that has to be done.

“The biggest risk to us is through not doing it,” said Mr Sage-Passant. “The danger of not being innovative is that we become stagnant as a company and are seen as irrelevant by our customers.”

Mr Sage-Passant said Mechline benefits from having a “brilliant team” of people, who help think of new products and who are keen on the change culture that the company thrives on.

It was that striving for something new that helped create Waste20 that has been successfully trialed at a major food outlet. The idea developed from trade calls for a product that deals with fats, oils and grease and an appreciation of demands from government to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill.

Companies that use food, like restaurants and supermarkets, can make big savings on waste costs by reducing the amount they send to landfill. Products were available but generally bulky and at a high price. Mechline’s customers needed something that was simple to use and robust. The resultant machine has one button and uses a 5amp fuse.

Importantly to the company, Waste20 was created using products from British companies, some of which are only a stone’s throw from Mechline. The machine works by using bacteria in wood chips to break down food waste. Mechline claims the hungry bugs can digest up to 180kg of food waste in 24 hours.