From humble beginnings more than 50 years ago, Autex has grown to serve over 18 export markets, with manufacturing networks in four countries. As a New Zealand-owned company, we've become a world leader in non-woven architectural textiles, supplying an increasingly sophisticated range of products to the building industry.
Autex’s roots lie in the highly regulated New Zealand economy of the 1960s and 1970s. What the directors lacked in capital and connections, they made up for with ambition and innovation. The family-based company - now with the third generation making its mark - has grown into one of Australasia’s manufacturing success stories, and is a leader in modern acoustic and environmentally-friendly polyester insulation products.
Autex’s expertise in needle-punch textiles goes right back to the humble jute fibre and the carding technology of the 1960s. The first directors were all British immigrants to New Zealand, coming over on the post-war skills shortage programme. They arrived with an international outlook and adventurous spirit, and soon set up a textile enterprise on Surrey Crescent. Their first success was jute underfelt for the flooring industry, and within a few years they had developed a line of peel-and-stick polypropylene carpet tiles, obliging them to take larger premises in Avondale.
In the tightly regulated economy of the time, export incentives were closely tied to synthetic fibre import licences, which forced the men to develop export markets from the very start. Australia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea and Singapore all bought the New Zealand-made product, with the Autex Module carpet tile soon becoming ubiquitous in rumpus rooms, first homes and holidays homes across the region.
Spurred on by early success, the directors tried their hand at new styles of flooring. A few poor decisions led to some difficult years, only to see them bounce back as new opportunities opened. They navigated the peaks and troughs of a volatile decade, marked by two global oil shocks and a deregulating New Zealand economy.
Undoubtedly tough, this period seasoned the young directors, and by 1980 they had made the transition from rookie to established manufacturer and importer–exporter.
Well-connected internationally, by the mid- 1980s the directors had greatly expanded their carpet range; become suppliers of sound absorption and interior linings to the automotive assembly industries in New Zealand and Australia; opened a polyester line for industrial waddings and bedware; and established an electronics division - their only non-manufacturing division. But the carpet division was the backbone of the company for nearly two decades. Autex were the largest producer of non-woven carpets in New Zealand, and won large contracts around the region, cementing a reputation for their high-quality product.
The 1990s was a period of huge change for New Zealand, as cheaper imported product heavily impacted on local manufacturers. Car assembly lines shut, and imported bedware shaved any remaining margins from locally made product. Autex carpets kept going strong, but the directors had to develop new products to keep the factories busy. They decided to focus on polyester, and soon launched their own brand of building insulation - GreenStuf® - first in New Zealand and then in Australia. They gradually opened plants around the four main Australian cities, until Autex became the largest manufacturer of non-fibreglass building insulation in the country.
Polyester wall textiles soon followed, where the engineering team worked with new fibres and technology to produce a whole new category of acoustic panels – Vertiface® Composition®, Cube™ and the whole Quietspace® range. They had found an immensely practical and cost effective solution to the acoustic problems experienced in classrooms and offices of the time. This pitched the business into a new era and speciality, supporting architects and specifiers to combine their desire for aesthetic solutions with Autex’s acoustic knowledge to create better and more tailored built environments.
Autex has become a global leader in polyester architectural textiles and received numerous environmental certifications for the zero-waste manufacturing process, as well as the high percentage of recycled fibre in products derived from recycled plastic bottles.
With two design patents in place and in-house designers, Autex has turned non-woven textiles into an art form. Success comes down to a combination of ambition, hard-won experience, constant innovation and the ability to retain key staff over the long term. As Autex celebrated its fiftieth anniversary, the company remains proudly family-owned and is as busy as ever with a string of next-generation product releases.