Pres­ti­gious Aus­tralasian en­gi­neer­ing award a good note to re­tire on

DEMM Engineering & Manufacturing - - NEWS -

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.

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