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'Zero defects' a winning mantra for firm

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Kate de Lautour

Building an international reputation as an engineering company that can develop ‘zero defect’ solutions to industry-wide issues is a satisfying place to be for the founder of Taradale Production Engineers (TPE), Arthur Duncan. As the business celebrates 40 years, exciting new technology is adding value for customers around the world.

For engineer Daryl Remnant, remaining competitive with China is all about manufacturing quality product with zero defects.  The TPE director joined the business fifteen years ago, following a stint in Taranaki working in oil and dairy and gaining experience in CNC (computer numerical controls) technology.

The biggest market for TPE is the US, despite the global recession which has seen some international firms switch to manufactured product from China.

Darryl says there have been firms who have chosen a cheaper option in China, but most have returned, recognising the benefits of high quality product, particularly for, what China would perceive as, smaller runs.

“What the USA and China consider to be small bespoke production runs, are still reasonable size runs - it’s become a niche for us.”

The ‘zero defects’ mantra comes down to a state of mind and Arthur Duncan explains that it was a concept first introduced by the Japanese automotive industry and is recognised in the US as a performance goal.

“We have the culture here that can focus on the precise detail.”

Arthur says New Zealand has a name internationally for solving problems, particularly in the medical field but also in practical applications including tapware and drinking fountains.

In the US, a manufacturer has sought the skills of TPE, because of a recurring problem with leaking taps that they had been unable to solve.

“New Zealand has a reputation for being very inventive and solving problems.”

Impressing the customers has also come down to strong communications and the benefits of having two engineers doing the cold calling.

It’s all about talking, Arthur says and over the years, making connections with people has brought about valuable contracts.

“ A previous partner travelled on a train to Palmerston North and sat next to a man who ran the pig research unit at Massey and the unit were having a problem getting water to pigs; we solved the problem so that was the start of a relationship that remains today.”

These days Darryl is building networks through the business growth organisation, the Icehouse.

“I’m from a trades background so it’s really helped me develop more business skills as well as chewing the fat with peers from the action group.”

Since joining the Icehouse Owner Operator Programme eight months ago, Darryl has welcomed the chance to develop a better work, life, balance and his improved lifestyle is producing better results for TPE.

Darryl has gained greater clarity around his role in the business and is spending more time assessing clients’ growth plans while actively looking for new market opportunities.

Reflecting the growth of TPE, significant investment is being made into new technology.

 A new CNC mill has recently been introduced to the fleet of high tech machines, while a CMM (coordinate measuring machine) will be the first of its kind in Hawke’s Bay when it arrives. The CMM measures in microns and takes the human element out of measuring.

“It will give customers added confidence that the parts they are getting are absolutely right,” Darryl says.

Industries including medical, aerospace, agriculture and automotive will all benefit from the technology.

“We’ve been making the tools that do bone surgery and that is a very controlled industry where everything must be documented and traceable,” Arthur adds.

A succession plan is in place at TPE with Darryl poised to take over in coming years, freeing up time for Arthur to build cannons and vintage water pump windmills, spend time with family and travel.

“I’ve enjoyed the journey and a lot has changed, in as far as the machines we own, but the goal has stayed the same – to be the best production engineers in New Zealand.”