R&D pays off for OEM line firm FirstDart

The Covid-19 pandemic caused many companies to rethink their strategy. Some scaled back, line expert FirstDart pushed forward, placing R&D firmly at the core of its future plans. Now it is looking ahead with confidence, ready to work with even more global partners…

When the pandemic struck, FirstDart was going through the peak of its production season. With production facilities in China, the multiple strict lockdowns at the time interrupted its usual plans and forced a strategic rethink.

But rather than scale things down to handle the uncertainty, it made R&D a cornerstone of its philosophy, future-proofing the business in the process.

Of course, FirstDart has always worked on new product development – since its founding in 1997 – but, in 2020, a multi-disciplinary and multi-geographical R&D task force from its Singapore HQ and Chinese facilities was formed.

Crucially, it was not limited just to the technical team but also included a material science specialist and members of the sales team.

The new team was tasked to achieve resilience, capacity, capability, and compliance.

Key milestones

As a result of this approach, FirstDart developed a number of key areas, or milestones, for its business:

  • Building resilience through flexibility: Modifying its production processes and machines made changes easier and faster, enabling higher customisation levels with lower MOQs. One great example is the launch of its Hybrid Mono line, an extension of its Fluorosilk range, at China Fish 2024.
  • Increasing capacity in key areas: Alongside additional machinery, this involved improving and optimising processes and conducting material studies to increase productivity. The most important capacity increment was in its fly line division. A year into the pandemic, a new production machine with higher automation and an upgraded equipment for sample production were added. Weatherproof measures to enable production every day of the year were also implemented in 2022.
  • Developing capability through new technologies and materials: Arguably the most rewarding and customer-centric of all the tasks, FirstDart incorporated the needs and wants of the market into its product development wish list.

The industry has seen little development in materials since nylon, UHMWPE and PVDF or fluorocarbon. FirstDart’s quest for new materials helped it develop a new line with fishing specific properties based on PET. Customers saw it first at China Fish. Meanwhile, biodegradable options are being prototyped.

It also made significant quality improvements over the last three years in fly lines. FirstDart is not only a supplier of low-cost fly lines, but it is now making inroads into a more specialised and professional level.

  • Ensuring compliance with customers’ requirements and with regulations: Every development has been done with the utmost emphasis on quality control and alignment with policies and regulations in the industry, country and worldwide, such as REACH and California Proposition 65.

The intensive work and investment in R&D of the last three years are the building blocks of what is to come in 2024 and, going forward, FirstDart sees a renewed approach and commitment to be a true OEM solution provider for all fishing line needs.

A positive outlook

This year FirstDart is showcasing tangible testimonies to its hard work, through new and improved products and technologies.

Hybrid Mono is the result of an upgraded coating process giving the customer total flexibility to select the best monofilament for their needs and enhance it with a fluoropolymer coating.

Its premium range of fly lines has been specially made for different applications thanks to customised coatings and in-house core making. Meanwhile, PET materials offer high sensitivity, abrasion resistance and sinking characteristics along with biodegradable options. All of these developments are in the pipeline.

FirstDart’s view is 2024 will be challenging but it remains optimistic. Customers’ trust in it continues, with orders and new products during the pandemic, while the increasing interest in developing solutions with the business is proof that the gamble is paying off.