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‘‘When New Zealand farmers install equipment they expect to be able to just press a button and not have a technician come to visit too often. That has become the mantra of our design philosophy – we engineer the complexity out.
‘‘All our products are designed and built here. We have been able to build a strong presence in New Zealand and use that to leapfrog into international markets.’’
The company has four New Zealand manufacturing divisions, all in the Waikato, hiring 130 staff. It also has a wholly owned subsidiary in the United States, set up four years ago.
Seventy-five per cent of the company’s overall business is designing and building rotary milking platforms, which farmers put their milking machinery on. The company also makes milking machine components including pulsators and clusters.
One of its divisions in Hamilton is Stainless Innovations, providing stainless steel for the company’s products.
‘‘By owning our own manufacturing process, quality is absolutely paramount.
‘‘We also have our own rotary platform fabrication company in Matamata. We recently installed robotic welding systems to get consistency and precision.’’
Rotary platforms are becoming the milking platform of choice, as herd sizes in this country grow, with the average herd size now more than 400 cows.
One of the company’s latest innovations is a rotary platform made from nine layers of laminated material including Kevlar – a lightweight but durable material used in bulletproof vests, yachts and Formula 1 racing cars. Kevlarwas about five times as strong as concrete but about five times lighter, Mr Bell said.
‘‘An average-size composite Kevlar rotary platform is about 22 tonnes lighter than a concrete platform.
‘‘This means you can install a Kevlar rotary platform in areas where there are geotechnical issues, such as soft soils. And we can now export a complete rotary platform around the world.’’
A young Waikato man, Josh Janmaat, came up with the idea of using Kevlar and approached Waikato Milking Systems with the idea. They liked it so much, they hired him, bought his company and built a manufacturing space for him to exercise his creativity.
Mr Bell said a key to running a successful business ‘‘is having the right people and the right talent, and giving them the environment to thrive’’.
The company’s rotary platform innovations have driven international opportunities, particularly in China. A deal has just been signed with one of the biggest dairy companies in China – Mengniu. The deal is worth about $5 million for the Waikato company, and came from a visit by an 18-strong trade delegation from China.
‘‘New Zealand has a reputation as one of the best dairy producers in the world so we’re able to trade off that NZ Inc reputation. Dairy companies overseas wanting to invest in new technologies look first to New Zealand.’
Mr Bell said Waikato Milking Systems platforms suited the intensive Chinese dairy systems.
‘‘They are milking cows 24 hours a day with shifts of milkers and with cows typically milked three times a day. The equipment has to be very high performance with short servicing intervals, which is what we provide.’’
Waikato Milking Systems has partnered with an Israeli company, Afimilk, in the Mengniu deal. Afimilk will provide computerised herd management systems.
Mr Bell is Waikato-born and bred. He studied management diploma at Waikato University and has an MBA.