West Coast poised to be­come the tech hub of NZ

DEMM Engineering & Manufacturing - - MAINTENANCE MATTERS -

The na­ture of New Zealand man­u­fac­tur­ing and in­dus­try has been evolv­ing since the 1980’s with our tra­di­tional man­u­fac­tur­ing cen­tres and mar­ket fo­cuses. While pop­u­lar opin­ion is that in­dus­try has dis­ap­peared over­seas, the Main­te­nance En­gi­neer­ing So­ci­ety of NZ (MESNZ) has for some time been re­port­ing that it has in fact re­lo­cated to the re­gions with a new fo­cus on niche mar­kets and ne­ces­sity driven lean man­u­fac­tur­ing. While a big driver of change late last cen­tury was the fash­ion­able fo­cus on labour rates, an­other new fac­tor is emerg­ing that may yet re­shape our lo­cal in­dus­try, con­nec­tive tech­nol­ogy. Nowhere is this no more ev­i­dent than at Ver­tigo Tech­nolo­gies in West­port, where a small band of young in­no­va­tors are carving out a whole new mi­cro ma­chine cen­tre in­dus­try. MESNZ took the op­por­tu­nity to take the Kaeser Com­pres­sors Net­work Evening Se­ries to the West Coast and were buoyed by what they dis­cov­ered in a con­verted rail­way shed in the his­toric coal fo­cused town of West­port.

Brett Cot­tle is a 26 year old man with a vi­sion and the at­ti­tude to go places. Com­plet­ing his Unitec cer­tifi­cates in me­chan­i­cal de­sign and elec­tron­ics, Cot­tle, who mod­estly de­nies any qual­i­fi­ca­tion as an en­gi­neer, took to line-haul truck driv­ing dan­ger­ous goods to square off his stu­dent loan, be­fore set­tling on the tiny town of West­port to ful­fil his dreams. Driven by his pas­sion for drones and the need to build in­tri­cate com­po­nents, Cot­tle dis­cov­ered a niche and a knack for desk­top light spec CNC con­trolled ma­chine cen­ters. The kind of ma­chine that is not too big or ex­pen­sive to fit into a healthy man- cave, yet re­tains the tech­nol­ogy and ca­pac­ity to cre­ate so­phis­ti­cated ac­cu­rate and re­peat­able low vol­ume com­po­nen­try. Fast for­ward to 2018 and Ver­tigo have built 167 ma­chines in 15 months and are now pre­par­ing to step up from the lo­cal mar­ket test bed to the global mar­ket.

Tech­nol­ogy is avail­able and em­braced in the re­gion and the low cost of liv­ing re­duces the risk for start up com­pa­nies. With sim­i­lar lo­cal suc­cess in gam­ing tech­nol­ogy in the re­gion, the con­cept of the West Coast be­com­ing the next glob­ally com­pet­i­tive con­nected tech­nol­ogy cen­tre of the coun­try is poised to be­come a re­al­ity, a po­ten­tial that has not es­caped the re­gion, with a Think Tank hosted in Grey­mouth in April.

Cot­tles ap­proach mir­rors that of Kiwi world beater Bill Buck­ley, sur­round­ing him­self with young en­thu­si­as­tic staff, some lo­cal, but oth­ers keen to com­bine the West Coast life style with the op­por­tu­nity to chase dreams. While this friendly bunch punch well above their weight, Cot­tle echoes the con­cerns raised by other dig­i­tal ma­chin­ing and emerg­ing tech­nol­ogy op­er­a­tors; a lack of sup­port and ca­pa­bil­ity from the tech­ni­cal train­ing in­dus­try. With the modern fo­cus on funded unit study based train­ing, the in­dus­try has failed to keep up with in­dus­try de­vel­op­ments and needs to step up to the plate if New Zealand is to grasp its com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage.

The MESNZ Kaeser Com­pres­sors Net­work Evenings are hosted to show­case lo­cal op­er­a­tions and pro­vide net­work­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for en­gi­neers across all re­gions of New Zealand. The evenings of­fer the op­por­tu­nity to take a look at the host oper­a­tion and dis­cuss com­mon is­sues and so­lu­tions in a re­laxed af­ter work en­vi­ron­ment. Open to in­ter­ested mem­bers of the pub­lic, the nights are well pa­tro­n­ised. There is no cost to at­tend and non- MESNZ can at­tend up to two meet­ings. Evenings are con­stantly be­ing planned, with the cur­rent sched­ule show­ing Auck­land, Napier, Christchurch and Master­ton. Read­ers can find the lat­est sched­ule by go­ing to http://www.mesnz.org. nz/ac­tiv­i­ties/net­work- evenings/

MESNZ’s whistlestop visit to the West Coast has un­earthed a fan­tas­tic depth of lo­cal in­dus­try and en­gi­neer­ing and armed with the im­proved lo­cal knowl­edge, the so­ci­ety is vow­ing to re­turn to the re­gion to foster fur­ther de­vel­op­ment and growth of the en­gi­neer­ing net­work.

The Main­te­nance En­gi­neer­ing So­ci­ety is ac­tive across New Zealand, pro­vid­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for main­te­nance en­gi­neers and man­u­fac­tur­ing op­er­a­tions to net­work and share in­no­va­tions and ex­pe­ri­ences; both at a na­tional level at their an­nual na­tional con­fer­ence or at these re­gional events. The 2018 Na­tional Main­te­nance En­gi­neer­ing Con­fer­ence will be held at the En­ergy Events Cen­tre, Ro­torua on Novem­ber 13-15.

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