Prestigious Australasian engineering award a good note to retire on
DAVID PLATTS of PDV Consultants was awarded the prestigious Chemeca Medal at the Chemical Engineering Awards in Queenstown, last month.
The Chemeca Medal is awarded to a prominent New Zealand or Australian chemical engineer who has made an outstanding contribution, through achievement or service, to the practice of chemical engineering.
PDV Consultants is a global expert in food process technologies and systems design with offices in Hamilton and Belfast, Ireland.
Its team of chemical and process engineers have delivered projects for many of the world’s leading food companies including Fonterra, Tatua, the Dairy Goat Cooperative, Danone, Glanbia (Ireland and USA), Dair concepts (USA), First Milk (UK), South West Cheese and others.
The company was founded in by Platts and his wife, Anne in October 1990 and over the past three decades has grown from two people to 25, with 21 staff based at PDV’s Alexandra Street, Hamilton, headquarters and four staff based in Ireland. “We started working out of our home office, just the two of us, and it’s grown exponentially over the years,” says Platts of the Waikato success story that has operated largely under the radar.
“We turn over up to NZD5 million a year and we are a New Zealand-owned business that is highly technically competent and draws in quality people and revenue to the Waikato region and New Zealand,” he says. “I’m really proud of that, because our business benefits the local economy.”
Platts, born and raised in South Yorkshire, England, began working as a technician in the food research industry after leaving school at the age of 15.
In 1972, at the age of 22, he immigrated to New Zealand. Within a week he had two job offers, and started working at the New Zealand Cooperative Dairy Company (NZCDC), the precursor to Fonterra, setting up a quality control system for their Avalon Drive milk powder canning factory. He also worked on drying evaporation end engineering products for the company’s engineering departments.
He met Anne, from Belfast, Ireland, at a social club in Hamilton a few years later. His expertise in chemical and process engineering for the food processing industry took he and his family to the Netherlands in the early 1980s to work for Stork Friesland, now known as Tetra Pak, doing design engineering. He was transferred back to New Zealand, where he was involved in developing the first nutritional infant formula manufacturing plants in New Zealand at Waitoa for NZCDC (Fonterra). When the New Zealand office closed in 1990, Mr Platts was made redundant.
It was the push he needed to start his engineering consulting business, and Platts Drievap Engineering – as it was then known – was launched in October 1990.
It’s the personal attention to detail, and the focus on building strong relationships that has helped in PDV’s success. “A lot of business, especially in the early years, was driven by word-of-mouth,” says Platts. “People would call up and ask if we could come and look at something or help them solve a problem, and it grew from there.”
Mrs Platts, PDV’s business and financial manager, has been a big part of the company’s success over the past three decades. “She’s been the glue that held everything together and her business, IT, financial and administrative skills have been a key reason for our success,” says her husband.
Platts has been a strong supporter of Chemeca events over the past three decades, and was involved in the organisation of the 2012 event in Wellington.
He has served on the committee of ICHemE in New Zealand, including two years as chair. He has actively promoted New Zealand food and dairy industry competencies overseas, championing the engineering design, energy efficiency and food safety capabilities of New Zealand’s processing industries.
“New Zealand engineers are world-leaders in innovation and invention – at looking at problems and generating solutions,” says Platts. “It’s important to keep our numbereight-wire approach to problem solving alive.”
Over his career Platts has given back to his industry by mentoring and providing job opportunities and internships for the next generation of chemical engineers.
He has served as a chair on the industry advisory board for the University of Waikato School of Engineering, and has also provided input into Massey University’s programmes.
He is a fellow of the Institute of Chemical Engineers (IChemE), a global professional engineering institution with more than 40,000 members in more than 120 countries worldwide.
He is also a fellow of the New Zealand Institute of Food Science and Technology (NZIFST), the country’s leading professional association representing those working in the food industry, food research and education or those who apply science and technology to the processing, manufacture and distribution of foods.
The Platts will retire from PDV Consultants at the end of this month.
PDV’s engineering manager for Asia-Pacific, chartered engineer Gerard O’Connor, has been named as the firm’s new MD and Lynn Waters, former financial controller at Livingstone Building has been named PDV’s new business manager.