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Trekking the Tron

Posted: 03 November 2016
After touring China, Callaghan Innovation technology networks manager Jesse Keith hits the road again with business innovation adviser Nathan Stantiall, taking their Manufacturing Trek to exotic Hamilton.

The Hamilton manufacturing trek participants


Producing physical product is hard work and staying connected to the necessary supply-chain is a constant struggle when you have a business to run, so with this in mind the Callaghan Innovation Manufacturing Trek hit the road once again, this time visiting the manufacturing mecca of Hamilton. 

After a hugely successful pilot programme where the Manufacturing Treks visited contract manufactures in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Southern China as decided we needed to go check out the supply chain of the ‘Tron’. With the bus loaded with customers, designers and engineers we hosted another day on the road.

The bus is loaded up - time to hit the road
The bus is loaded up - time to hit the road


It’s not just the visits that provide value, but also the conversations had during the bus trip. One of the trekkers, Oliver McDermott from Blender Design, told us these Treks are “a great opportunity to talk with other product creators and those involved in product development, to share knowledge and experiences between each other.

The context in which the discussions happen on the bus between factories influences the focus and depth of the discussions and gets people sharing more openly with each other.” 

Nathan re-iterates from previous trips “there is amazing and unique manufacturing capability in this country and you will not appreciate this by trawling the internet. You have to personally meet the owners or factory managers, recognise their points of difference and understand why they are chosen over cheaper offshore option. Hamilton is no different, in fact what we are seeing is a trend of leveraging on a Dairy and Agriculture focus to a wider and smarter competitive manufacturing offering”  

The Trek stops at Gloster Engineering
The Trek stops at Gloster Engineering

 

The day kicked off with Gloster Engineering who specialise in precision CNC turning and milling. Gloster have the capability to produce part quantities of 1-50,000 from an array of materials; brass, stainless steel, aluminium and many engineering plastics.

Their high-quality components are assembled into everything from drench guns to road painting systems for local and global distribution.

Millennium Plastics was up next and the group learnt about Millennium’s ability to support the AgriTech & MedTech industries with high-quality injection moulded parts for nearly 17 years.

Millennium have grown to factory bursting 23 injection moulding machines many of which are combined with robotics and automation systems that radically increase productivity. Millennium are well known for their ability to work with lesser known engineering polymers and have invested in a silicon moulding capability allowing them to produce high-quality parts for the likes of F&P Healthcare.

Millennium pride themselves with doing the hard stuff and are always up for a challenge.

 

A huge shout out must be given to our Waikato Callaghan Innovation Regional Business Partners Novell & Craig who supported the trek arranging visits and providing connectivity that only comes from local experience.

A trip to Hamilton wouldn’t have been complete without a visit to Waikato Innovation Park. This is a booming technology park containing like-minded, technology savvy tenants pushing the boundaries on R&D and maximising that investment by commercialising their products into global markets.

The next stop was ‘Tech Gym’ hosted by the engineering school at Wintech. Based on the TechShop makerspace model from North America the TechGym utilises the incredible investment in kit made by Wintech for their students and on a monthly subscription basis opens the workshops to the public.

Next stop: TCS
Next stop: TCS

 

Much of the activity is local members learning about production process for personal projects, but TechGym is growing as the enabler for young Waikato start-ups whom cannot yet afford the investment in manufacturing/prototyping kit of their own. 

Last but certainly not least was a visit to TCS (technology concepts solutions). TCS have a track record of solving the tricky things and have in the past supplied launch pad technology solutions to NASA an example of little old NZ’s ability to ‘crank it’ on the global stage! TCS specialise in electronics hardware and software solutions for the likes of Fonterra.

TCS has also creating their own IP and technical solutions that answer the increasing need for energy efficient home environment systems. ATA Touch is a system that manages and controls your homes lighting, air flow and water needs through a highly intuitive and customisable interface. 

Even though I personally come from a design and manufacturing background I’m consistently surprised and encouraged by the high-quality level of manufacturing capability we uncover on each of the NZ treks as well as the willingness of our contract manufactures to be involved early to help their customers succeed.

Stay tuned for future Manufacturing Treks and increased collaborative ‘bus value’. 

Companies on the Bus were; BoxFish Research, Methven, Blender Design, BEP Marine, MW Design, Locus Research, LIC Automation, KiWee Innovation

 

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