Argon & Co is quickly positioning itself to be the most comprehensive end-to-end operations and transformation consultancy in town, making strategic acquisition after strategic acquisition. Most recently, Argon & Co bolstered its intralogistics team in ANZ by merging with Fuzzy LogX and Studio Logistic. MHD speaks to Argon & Co’s Sean Mitchell and Richard Mahoney to discover the journey the company has taken, and what the new and improved Argon & Co offers the ANZ market today.
In last year’s August edition of MHD Supply Chain Solutions, we told the story of intralogistics experts Fuzzy LogX, and how they came to lead the way in warehouse design and transformation. One year later, Fuzzy LogX – as well as its New Zealand equivalent and sometime collaborator, Studio Logistic – has merged with the global management consulting firm Argon & Co, extending the reach and power of all parties.
The success of the merger lies in the fact that it was a true merger: a meeting and merging of like-minds and cultures.
“We are excited to begin this new chapter,” says Bas Schilders, Associate Partner at Argon & Co, and previously Founder of Fuzzy LogX. “Fuzzy LogX has earned its place as the de facto intralogistics consultancy in ANZ by focusing on our client’s needs and being part of Argon & Co will give our clients access to an impressive array of complementary services.”
Jeff Triantafilo, Associate Partner at Argon & Co (who co-led Fuzzy with Bas) adds: “This is a great opportunity for us to provide specialist services to new clients, to improve their warehouse efficiency. We are now positioned to build a brighter future together for our consultants and clients.”
But to understand how and why the folks from Argon & Co, Fuzzy LogX, and Studio Logistic got together – and what the new Argon & Co brings to the table – we need to go back to the beginning.
ARGON & Co – ORIGIN STORY
“Argon – as it then was named – originated back in 2001 in Paris, with the formation by Yvan Salamon – today CEO of Argon & Co – who started a company focusing on operations and transformation,” says Sean Mitchell, Partner at Argon & Co.
Two years later, across the English Channel, Crimson & Co came into existence, founded by Crispin Mayer. The focus was similar: operations and strategic transformation. “Crimson’s business had a wider geographic footprint, which included them making an acquisition in Australia of a company called Supply Chain Cover,” Sean says.
In a landmark moment for both companies, Argon and Crimson joined forces in 2018 under a new name: Argon & Co.
Back in Australia, 2016 saw the birth of Pollen, founded by Paul Eastwood (now Managing Partner of Argon & Co ANZ), and for whom Sean previously worked. Pollen was designed to serve as a comprehensive advisory service for COOs, and it carved a niche for itself in the manufacturing sector, later expanding its scope into a broader supply chain market.
2021 heralded a key strategic partnership between Argon & Co and Colliers, a move aimed at integrating property into the supply chain offer – crucially important in light of rising property costs. “Building out our property capability – through mergers and the strategic alliance with Colliers – was something we viewed as essential,” says Sean. “Particularly as property has gotten more and more expensive, the move to driving warehouses with online e-commerce really underscored that a lot more work needed to be done in the market.”
Having such a giant property partner in Colliers has been a boon to Argon & Co, but it still had work to do to be able to deliver comprehensive solutions inside the four walls of the warehouse itself.
“We still needed some real local intralogistics muscle on the ground in ANZ,” Sean says.
This recognition led to collaborations with two leading local entities, Fuzzy LogX and Studio Logistic, and their eventual merger into the Argon & Co fold. “Fuzzy and Studio were the two leading shops on either side of the Tasman in this respect and had the capability and the culture that we needed.”
NEW ZEALAND STUDIO
The tale of Studio Logistic reflects a shared passion for problem-solving in the logistics industry. As Richard Mahoney, the founder of Studio Logistic – now Associate Partner at Argon & Co – explains, the company was established in early 2019 out of a clear need to bridge the gap between theoretical logistics strategy and real-world implementation. “Studio was really there to do what was inside the fence line and that standard supply chain consultants couldn’t deliver,” says Richard.
Studio Logistic was conceived as a company that would effectively realise strategy in the real world, with many of its personnel equipped with engineering backgrounds. It positioned itself at the intersection of industrial engineering, architecture, and management consulting, offering a unique value proposition to the industry.
The uniqueness of Studio Logistic’s position in the market and its dedication to delivering effective logistics solutions led to successful collaborations with Argon & Co.
“We saw in each other people that came from similar backgrounds, came from technical and engineering backgrounds, who really cared about that aspect of things and really felt like there was an impact to be made around it,” Richard recalls.
Separately, there developed a synergy between Studio Logistic in New Zealand, and Fuzzy LogX in Australia. Despite sometimes competing for work, there was a mutual desire to work together, and an impressive level of trust had been established, to the degree that during COVID Fuzzy and Studio formed an agreement that, should one go out of business, each would take on the other’s clients, so there’d be no drop-off in client service.
In the end, the separate decisions of both Studio and Fuzzy to merge with Argon were based on shared values, mutual trust, and a shared vision for what the logistics industry needed. “We really wanted to work with each other, we thought we could make a really big impact,” Richard says. “We also knew how much cooler it would be if we were somehow able to get the company barriers out of the way.
“We believed in a collaborative and inclusive culture, where everyone’s ideas and expertise were valued. That mentality, I think, played a huge part in our ability to merge successfully into Argon & Co.”
DELIVERING TRANSFORMATIONAL CHANGE
The supply chain and logistics industry’s realities are often vastly different from the theoretical concepts devised in boardrooms and meetings, notes Richard. Argon & Co, with its roster of professionals boasting strong engineering backgrounds, ensures that the gap between theory and practice is bridged through meticulous planning and first principles analysis.
“When you dig a little under the surface, you’ll find many people come from an engineering background, trained from the beginning in first principles,” says Richard. “So, you live in a world that contains things like physics, which you just can’t talk yourself out of. You need to be able to predict, for instance, that the building you’re sitting in will stand up, because it was designed by someone who could make that prediction.”
Many seemingly good ideas are built on faulty assumptions. Argon & Co brings an engineering mindset to bear on problems: thinking systematically and testing rigorously.
At the same time, Argon & Co is committed to delivering transformational change at a pace that significantly impacts the businesses they work with. This commitment also means a higher risk profile, making it imperative that every detail, no matter how minor, is thought through meticulously.
Delivering a successful warehouse or property project hinges on a detailed understanding of the undertaking’s complexity and purpose, a notion Argon & Co understands wholeheartedly, Richard says.
If a project isn’t properly executed, or the underlying details have not been sufficiently scrutinised, the chances of project failure increase: “If you get it wrong and turn on something that doesn’t work, you may not be able to make substantial changes or improvements.”
This is frequently apparent in the planning and construction of distribution centres. The task requires much more than a simple measure of square footage and the procurement of operational staff. Understanding the intricacies of the operation and predicting its functionality are vital steps in the process.
“Many people approach their DC-design process the wrong way around – getting what they can in terms of rough space requirements based on current projections, instead of assessing operations from first principles,” Richard says. “They go to the property market, saying, ‘I have a 10,000 square metre DC now. I think I need another 10,000, maybe even 12,000. Go find me a 12,000 square metre DC.’ That’s not enough.
“It’s not about space, it’s about service. Can you efficiently pack and supply everything you need to your customers in a dependable way, so they continue to trust you and do business with you?”
He stresses that careful planning and design, coupled with a firm understanding of the operation’s requirements, is paramount. “At Argon we come in and lay out how we’ll set it up, how it will work, how much space it will require,” he says.
Predictability is another crucial factor in these large-scale projects. “It’s about design and planning capability, but also being able to predict results using first principles methods,” Richard says. Confidence in the project is only possible if there is a concrete demonstration of its potential success, especially when dealing with significant investments. “If a client is looking at spending 100 million bucks on automation, they need to be sure that these 100 million dollars are going to work.”
Demonstrating a project’s viability isn’t just about securing funds; it’s also about convincing stakeholders of its value. Richard explains that this involves taking them through the project’s details, reinforcing their belief in it, and giving them the assurance to back the project. “We can point to the things that prove it will work and take people through that journey so they can believe in it,” he says. “That’s a big part of getting the commitment to do the project over the line with higher-ups.”
The merging of Studio Logistic into Argon & Co offered a plethora of opportunities for growth and improvement that go beyond the capabilities of each company standing alone.
“Importantly for me, Argon is committed to investment in this space,” Richard says. “Before I joined Argon & Co, making a significant investment in the space meant underwriting the whole company personally. There are limits to how much you can fund that way, or how much risk you’re prepared to take.” The merger with Argon & Co changes the dynamic, affording Richard – and Bas and Jeff from Fuzzy – access to investments that would have been impossible were they still operating solo.
Moreover, the merger allowed Studio Logistic to realise a long-held aspiration to have an international footprint, and thereby extend its reach beyond New Zealand’s comparatively small market.
“From a long-term planning perspective, I felt it was important to have a footprint at least in Australia, and probably abroad,” Richard says. “The inherent volatility of a small market makes the potential for expansion particularly valuable, as it allows for greater resilience and diversification.”
The integration of Studio Logistic and Fuzzy LogX into Argon & Co has created a unique synergy that complements Argon’s property consultation services, forging a distinctively powerful offering in the market, according to both Sean and Richard.
“Together, we can offer a highly differentiated service,” Sean says. “This service spans from network review to potential warehouse downsizing, stock optimisation, and even considering a shift to third-party logistics in different locations. It’s a harmonious blend of what Argon, Studio Logistic, and Fuzzy LogX individually brought to the table.”
Richard echoes this sentiment, remarking on the importance of the end-to-end capabilities the new team offers: “The offering around the end-to-end ability – to bring all those lenses into one project team – was a key part of why we used to collaborate as separate entities, and why bringing them under one name made sense. The merger hasn’t diluted our team’s commitment to tailored solutions – rather, it has heightened our ability to cater to each client’s unique needs.”
And Argon & Co maintains – just as Fuzzy LogX and Studio Logistic always did – a firm commitment to independence and solution agnosticism. “When we joined, we were clear that we retain independence around solutions,” Richard says. “So, whether that is independent automation or independent property, it is still all about what is genuinely best for the company and best for the project.”
Sean agrees fully, saying simply, “It is the heart of our values and our value proposition at Argon & Co.”
For Richard and Sean, the Australian and New Zealand landscapes offer unique challenges for intralogistics solutions.
“The big one is the pace and size of the change needed to keep up with what organisations are being asked to respond to,” Richard notes.
Today’s consumers expect quicker deliveries, transitioning from a tolerance of days to mere hours. This shift in expectations places significant pressure on industries, demanding adept, informed decisions underpinned by a reliable business case. “It requires the ability to work through the various solutions and predict how they will perform,” Richard explains, a feat Argon & Co’s intralogistics service is well-positioned to achieve.
Sean points to other challenges, particularly resource scarcity in the form of labour and physical spaces. “A few years ago, when you mentioned supply chain transformation, there was a bit of lethargy,” Sean says.
Now, the situation has changed.
“Low unemployment has switched the lens from labour productivity to labour scarcity. Together with historically low industrial vacancy rates, these issues pose significant obstacles to the success of logistics businesses.”
But Sean sees these challenges as drivers of change and opportunity for Argon & Co.
“There’s a culture more attuned to large-scale transformation, and all of that is driving the pace for change that positions us very well. While the challenges are substantial, they provide Argon & Co with a unique opportunity to apply our expertise and create transformational intralogistics – and broader supply chain – solutions.
“It’s a new chapter for Argon & Co in what has been a long story of transformation; transformation of ourselves the better to achieve game-changing transformations for our clients.”
To learn more about Argon & Co, click here.