Building toolholders at home is a new direction in Innovation

Lockdown has been tough for everyone, but the people at Integra Systems recognise they have been luckier than many due to the continuity of their work. For those in the local community who haven’t been so lucky and may have lost their income and/or sense of purpose, Integra found a way to help them through these difficult times: an at-home program for assembling toolholder kits.

The program idea came from their Director of Innovation, Russell Hughes, who adapted it from a traditional German cottage industry model used by the cuckoo clock trade.

In the Black Forest region of Germany, the villagers would get snowed in during the winter, so, to combat this issue, families focused on specific parts of cuckoo clock production, such as woodcarving, so they could generate an income during their isolation across the colder months.

The Integra at-home program works in a similar way to these cuckoo clock creators in Germany. “We create kits at our facility in Melbourne’s North and then send these kits out to members of the community,” explains Hughes. “These are families, students without work, single people, anyone who puts up their hand for it – who then assemble these kits into toolholders from their lounge rooms, garages or kitchen tables.”

Georgia Hughes and Nick Hardy, part of the team at Integra System, have been in charge of running this at-home program, packing their cars to the brim daily to deliver kits directly to the doors of workers as early in the morning as possible. Each kit comes as a set of components – screws, grub screws, final bags, final boxes, tools and parts ready to be assembled – that equate to 200 tool-holders per kit. Workers are paid per toolholder so, the more kits they can get through, the more money they make.

The completed toolholders then go to Integra’s client where they are distributed to major retail centres for tool merchandising displays.

“Providing kits to homeworkers in exchange for earning money is not a new initiative at Integra Systems,” explains Hughes. “The programs have had varying levels of success in the past but, with COVID and more people than ever working from home, or stood down from work, this initiative has worked extremely well.”

“The idea is to provide workers with a continuous supply of toolholder kits and incentivise the workers to make the toolholders by paying them for their hard work,” Hughes continues. “To run effectively, the program must involve simple processes that require few specialty tools. When the toolholders are picked up and kits are dropped off regularly, we’ve found that the home workers feel highly valued; that they are doing something productive and contributing to the supply chain.”

The Integra at-home toolholder kit program has been running since August, with a total of 18 families currently assembling toolholders on a regular basis. By the end of 2021, the home workers had assembled 25,000 tool-holders.

“We’ve got a family of workers – the Cleeve family,” explains Hughes. “They decided not to keep the cash themselves but, instead, are a great example of paying it forward at a time when people are doing it tough. They’ve been using the money they’ve earned to purchase coffee cards for the frontline workers at the Austin Hospital.”

“People have joined this program for so many reasons, whether it’s to take some pressure off themselves or to help others. Either way, it’s a win-win situation for everyone who’s involved, including us here at Integra Systems.”