The leaders in timber are fast becoming the forerunners in fasteners.
Written by Jake Frost for Builders Construction Magazine
As Australia’s largest independent timber distributor, it made perfect sense that ITI (Innovative Timber Ideas) entered the space of fasteners a few years ago. While many may not know the ITI name, most of you would have used their products, often daily on the construction site. Throughout their 32 years of operation they have developed and established many of their own specialty timber, moulding and wood products; from Ezitrim Plus (pre-primed timber mouldings) and Prolam (structural and decorative Merbau products) to Champion Boards (Radiata Pine boards) and Extreme Timber (Engineered Wood Products).
“The most well-known of the ITI owned brands would be Design Pine,” added ITI National Category Manager, Matthew Tojic. “If not the name, the distinctive blue coloured timber. This was a product developed by the ITI team and has been one of our best selling products for many years.”
As well as championing the strength, beauty and environmental benefits of using timber, ITI are also exclusive Australian distributors of other leading brands; TimberTech, Modwood, Tier Flooring and Fortress Railing.
Since first being established in 1987 by Paul Shadbolt, who still remains the Managing Director today, the proudly Australian and privately-owned company has grown exponentially and continues to stay ahead of the competition by constantly developing new ranges of innovative products that provide solutions to real-world, industry problems.
“ITI has nine centres located around Australia with a Head Office based in St Marys, New South Wales,” Matthew outlined. “We have three distribution centres in New Zealand, a manufacturing site in Chile and a sourcing office in Indonesia. We have approximately 400 staff spread around these countries and locations.”
ITI’s vast knowledge gained from over three decades in the construction industry, their detailed understanding of the precise products that requires fastening (that being wood) and the extensive research and development that they undertook to get to this point, has given them an undeniable advantage and helped them produce an unparalleled product range that they have just launched to market.
“The Blackhawk brand was established in 2015,” explained Matthew. “The original Blackhawk products included hidden decking fasteners and joist tape. In 2018 the decision was made to start expanding our fastener offer to greater compliment the wide range of products supplied by the other ITI brands.”
Blackhawk haven’t just released some new, groundbreaking (and wood piercing) decking fasteners, they have completely reinvented their brand and are shaking up the industry even further with revolutionary new packaging and a web platform that will actually benefit customers.
Excited about his development role in the Blackhawk brand, Matthew continued "Blackhawk strongly leverages the knowledge gained over the 32 years ITI has been in business.” With all their experience and contacts they were able to find the right methods, materials and collaborators to help engineer the very best fastening products for the Australian market.
“We travelled the world speaking with industry experts to source the right manufacturers for our products,” he said. “We have two manufacturing sites in China and one in Taiwan. We have also partnered with Nanjing Forestry University in China, an industry leader in wood technology and research, to ensure a high level of quality is maintained throughout the Blackhawk product range.”
Blackhawk have their own R&D base in Australia that houses some state-of-the-art equipment to analyse their products and create optimum results.
“We have set up a testing facility at our St Marys Head Office to test the quality of each shipment that arrives,” explained Matthew. “The facility includes a custom-made accelerated weather chamber, a ductility block and a custom-made 3D printer to develop prototypes”.
“Because of the harsh climate in Australia, we have sourced advanced materials to reduce the risk of corrosion. Blackhawk Protect™ is a tri-layer, high-grade coating system that we are using on some of our fasteners. This system creates a chemical barrier against the formation of rust. Blackhawk Fasteners decking screws are also available in 304 stainless steel, 316 stainless steel and 304 Extreme stainless steel. 304 Extreme stainless steel shares a lot of characteristics of standard 304 stainless steel, but has a greater resistance to corrosion. Adding to the innovation, part of the Blackhawk range will be the Speed Drive decking screw. This uses a patented, self-drilling point that can be used for fixing hardwood decking boards without the need for pre-drilling or countersinking”
Innovation hasn’t stopped with the product itself. Through extensive market research, the team at Blackhawk found that customers were finding it difficult to find the information they needed on fastener packaging. So they spent a great amount of time designing their packaging labels so the customer can find what they need at a glance. Colour coding and iconography is cleverly used to make the most relevant info stand out; from different lengths, gauges and package quantity, through to being able to identify the characteristics of the screw quickly and easily.
And then the packaging itself wasn’t skimped on either. On the contrary, it was enhanced so it was no longer a wasted byproduct, but instead transformed into something of value.
“As an environmentally aware company, it was important to us that the packaging for our fasteners be as environmentally friendly as possible. The idea came up to be able to reuse the containers after all of the screws were gone. And what can you never have enough of?… storage. One hundred per cent designed by ITI, the Versi-Tub™ was born.”
This secure box incorporates a hanger tab on the back so it can be used as hanging storage, and it has a foldable lid with a fully integrated, one-of-a-kind bit holder on the underside. All this, along with being made from recyclable materials, makes it safer, easier and faster for you to organise, find and retrieve what you are looking for, and save the planet, all at the same time.
Blackhawk are also excelling in the digital sphere as well, having just launched a new online platform that Matthew claimed is “the best fastener website in Australia due to its user interface and user experience” and will soon become “a leading source of fastener information”. As well as easy-to-browse products through “Fast-Find codes” and a stockist location tool to find your nearest store, the website also features a couple of ingenious calculators, the first to help the user choose the right decking screw for the right job.
“This calculator will ask the relevant questions that most users do not think about to ensure they buy the correct screw. Then there is our Decking Screw Quantity Calculator. While this is not something new, all others that are available online do not account for the joins in the boards. The Blackhawk Decking Screw Quantity Calculator will be the most accurate available.”
It’s a momentous time for Blackhawk with their exciting rebranding, the release of their new decking fasteners, encased in resourceful packaging, wrapped by helpful labelling and backed by an advanced website. This is all putting them in good stead for leaders in the fastening field, although Matthew hinted that there is even more to come.
“This is only the start for the Blackhawk brand,” he concluded. “There are big things planned and we will continue to grow our range.”