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kate de Lautour

Ten local businesses are currently involved in the Department of Labour funded, year-long High Performance Work Initative (HPWI), partnered with Business Hawke’s Bay and the Hastings District Council’s economic development team.

High performance work is a general approach to improving workplaces, involving high levels of employee engagement and enhanced workplace practices to raise productivity. The aim of unlocking value in medium size businesses and growing jobs is achieving results, with a number of businesses reporting an estimated six figure gain, from the relatively simple changes being made in the workplace.


Over the coming weeks we will profile businesses involved in the HPWI and find out how they are benefitting from the programme.

Kate de Lautour talked to DSK Engineering managing director Shane Kerrisk.

DSK Engineering is one of the region’s largest engineering firms, employing over 50 FTEs and working with companies including ENZA, McCain Foods and Panpac Forest products.

 Recently DSK were given the job of decommissioning the Watties bottled sauce plant in Australia and installing it in the Hastings plant. Interestingly, some of the plant was removed from Hastings by DSK in the 90’s and has now effectively been brought “home” to Hawke’s Bay.

As a result of the HPWI, DSK, have already employed one new full time employee.

Why did you decide to join the HPWI?

We knew we had issues within our business but were too busy racing from one thing to the next and never taking the time to look at the root cause of the issues.

What changes have you put in place so far?

The first step was to look at the workshop and office areas and go through a process of identifying what was and wasn’t required. We eliminated a lot of clutter and found we had a lot more room than we thought.

We looked at the flow within the workshop. We moved equipment around so that there was less double handling allowing the materials to move logically from one operation to the next.

We set up designated work areas for the guys which they are responsible for keeping tidy.  

We have set up a system for monitoring the financial success of individual jobs. We know that a job  will be successful if it is well planned including having the materials pre-ordered  and a proper hand over with all the information, including the quoted hours, given to everyone involved. As such, we are in the process of refining a system for the way work is processed through the business. We are really only in the early stages of the programme but can already see some positive results.


What has been the response from staff?

Everyone has been involved with the programme and the response overall has been extremely positive. It is easy for them to see the benefits of having a tidier, more organised work space and also receiving clear instruction. There is nothing more frustrating than having to rework because you didn’t get all the information, or having to jump from one job to the next while you wait for materials to arrive.

Basically the guys want to do the best job they can and the HPWI gives them the tools to do so.

Have you ever done anything like this before?

Over the years we have looked at other initiatives but they were more high level business focused programmes. They were not so successful, I believe, because they didn’t involve the whole team. It’s much easier to get results when everyone is on the same page.   

What are the key challenges for the engineering sector currently?

We had a great year last year with all of our main clients freeing up capital for large projects. We are not back to where we were pre GFC but we are definitely heading in the right direction. Now that we have work again the key challenge we face is finding and retaining good people. I know this is not an engineering specific problem but I think we are probably more susceptible than most to the “brain drain”. There are a lot of very large projects happening across the ditch and our engineers are sought after. This is another reason we need to look at programmes that can offer our team more job satisfaction.  

Would you recommend this programme to other companies?

Yes I would.


Any company wishing to register their interest for the 2013 HPWI programme should message [email protected]