2015: a year with potential for food industry engineers

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The outlook for engineering in the food industry is stable and healthy, and key players consider the sector to be a growth industry. Three companies gave New Zealand Engineering News their opinions on the matter. Jenny Pretorius reports.

Hastings-based Oil Imports, Auckland-based Pumps and Machinery, and Auckland head office-based Wedderburn are all positive about 2015.

Reuben Thickpenny, managing director of Oil Imports is optimistic about the remaining nine months of the year. Oil Imports has been the authorised distributor for Total Lubricants in New Zealand since 1999, when Total Lubricants first entered the New Zealand market. In 2004 it entered the food manufacturing market.

It has a complete food-grade range of greases and oils and caters to the entire international food manufacturing market. Total has invested heavily in technology for food manufacturing and continuously develops new products alongside machinery manufacturers. It has most OEMs’ approvals for food manufacturing technology and a reputation for best-practice advice to customers.

“The past few years we’ve seen reshuffling of food manufacturing in the market, consolidation of activity, and specialisation by country, which we hope have now settled. We can also see efficiencies and growth in the market. We’re seeing more investment from China through acquisition as well as investment in new lines and products,” Mr Thickpenny comments.

While the crude oil price affects the company to an small extent, the real issue is the Asian market and the demand for base oils. “If China is busy, this increases the demand for base oil and the price increases. The other big part is the US dollar, however this affects us both ways.

“With manufacturing, if the New Zealand dollar is weaker, production increases along with profits of our customers and therefore so does volume of product. If the US dollar is stronger our cost drops so will production of our customers. There are no recognised lubricant manufacturers in New Zealand so we do not have an advantage over a competitor if the US dollar goes either way. In a way we are better off having the dollar lower so our customer can benefit and grow their business.”

Mr Thickpenny says food grade oil and grease technology has come a long way in recent years. These products can now offer better performance than traditional oil and greases with longer drains, increased life expectancy, and reduced cost. This means businesses can use the now cost effective products and no longer need to put their businesses at risk by using inferior products.

“We’re working hard for manufacturers to realise this and we want to create strong partnerships. However I would like to see the use of food grade lubricants in all the food manufacturers. It has concerned me to see many not following guidelines and putting their business at risk.

“We’re here to help the customer and in 2015 that’s what we will be focusing on. We are commited to growing our presense in the food manufacturing market, and with our clear advice and solutions, we can reduce their down time, improve stock management, decrease stock levels, increase up time of the plant, reduce contamination risk and waste, and increase efficiency,” he comments.

Pump and Machinery has been distributing imported pumps and flow meters in New Zealand since 1970. It also services and repair these equipments, do build up of plants, and commission pumps, electric motors, and gear boxes. It delivers these services to all industry sectors including the food processing sector, counting some of the biggest names in milk, chicken, soft and alcoholic beverages, and confectionary producers in the country in its customer base.

Co-owner and managing director of Pumps and Machinery, Frank Mace, says the state of engineering in the food industry is strong and stable. His company is seeing consistent growth and he is looking forward to a good 2015. “New Zealand is a strong exporter of food and demand for our country’s products remains high. This means demand for Pumps and Machinery’s products and services remain high, too. I’m pleased with and positive about the outlook for the sector this year and in fact for many years to come,” he says.

Vernon Herbert, managing director of Wedderburn, sees potential in the industrial market in 2015. “I would not say it will be a ‘rock star’ year but we’re hoping for maybe an average to better than average year,” he says.

Wedderburn is predominantly focused on the retail weighing industry. However it has now diversified into industrial markets selling larger platform scales, crane scales, counting scales, recipe traceability systems, labelling systems, and other customised systems. Fuelled by its confidence in the sector, the company  will be working on a new retail system and a few smaller industrial systems this year. “If consumers confidence is up and the country is in a positive state it always helps boost the economy. I feel positive about 2015, I wish for stability in the market and consumer confidence. If we can achieve this I think it will benefit all businesses in New Zealand. I wish for all businesses to be successful, even our competitors. Competition is good, it keeps us all honest and focused to do our best for our customers,” he says.

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