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Local engineering firm has global appeal

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Kate de Lautour

A Hastings-based engineering firm is attracting the attention of national and global manufacturers including the design team behind Alan Gibbs’ amphibious ATV, the Quadski, currently being manufactured in the US.

We-Can Precision Engineering produce mechanical spare parts, predominately for the food industry and in recent years, the team have become well known for their success refurbishing pumps.

While around fifty per cent of the company’s work comes from Hawke’s Bay clients, managing director Rickie Pike says the necessary growth trajectory for We-Can is based on increasing the client base outside Hawke’s Bay, including on-going projects with Fonterra.

“Our lead times are quicker, we are competitive on price, we customize to suit the client’s specific needs and using the pump example, we are often refurbishing pumps to perform as new, for half the cost of a new pump.”

We-Can are making clutch parts for the world’s first high speed amphibious ATV, the Quadski, because existing suppliers in Chicago can’t make the parts fast enough.

“Obviously their supply chain in the States allows them to make parts a lot cheaper than we can produce them, but we can make them faster.”

The company boasts a wide variety of specialist machines and a design team producing 3D CAD examples for clients, simulating exactly how the parts will work.

Finding the labour in Hawke’s Bay, to fill the highly skilled positions, is always tough says Pike.

“Hawke’s Bay needs to be marketed as a great place to live, and that would be a good start.”

The company has 20 staff, with a recently appointed business development manager tasked with finding more work outside Hawke’s Bay.

If given a wish list, Pike says he’d love to see more food companies relocating here and, he says, projects like the proposed Ruataniwha dam and, or, an oil industry would help engineering firms like We-Can to grow.

“You look at Taranaki – there is a huge demand for engineering companies to support the oil industry there and those companies are expanding.”

Over the past 12 months the company has been involved in the Business Hawke’s Bay, High Performance Work Initiative, (HPWI).

“HPWI has helped us put processes and measurements in place to focus on growth.”