Engineering automation for the future

Engineering automation: Four years ago, a design, engineering and manufacturing business merged its operations and renamed itself as Milmeq.

Engineering automation: Four years ago, a design, engineering and manufacturing business merged its operations and renamed itself as Milmeq.

Four years ago, a design, engineering and manufacturing business merged its operations and renamed itself as Milmeq.

SINCE, the company has been scooping up national excellence, innovation and business awards; including Supreme Business Excellence winner at the recent Westpac Business Awards Best of the Best.

The company’s vision is to become a world leading contracting supplier to the primary food processing industry.

Chief executive officer Mike Lightfoot, tells NZ Engineering News that the run of awards is recognition of the company’s world-class quality innovation and attributes the ongoing success to his 130 plus staff.

“Our awards are a reflection of the innovative Milmeq team. We have always had the ethos that it is people that make the business, and it’s our people’s solution-focused, can-do approach that leads to this success, my job is just to steer the ship,” he says.

As a contracting supplier to the primary food processing industry, Milmeq delivers specialist capital plant equipment for the production of meat, poultry, dairy, seafood and horticulture. The majority of the Milmeq team is based at its large manufacturing site in Dunedin, while business operations run from offices in Auckland and Brisbane.

“From our senior staff to our new training graduates, our employees have a wide range of disciplines, skills and competencies – but we all share common values and the same goal to develop and design the best solutions for our clients,” says Mr Lightfoot.

This people-focused philosophy dates back to 1952 in Auckland when it was formed under the name Refrigeration Engineering by William Goodfellow.

Sixty-three years on, the company’s dedicated and innovative people have pioneered a number of new technologies, many of which have become industry standards. Its early engineering solutions included the design and manufacture of evaporators for blast freezing of meat. Then in the 1970s and 1980s the company led the New Zealand sheep industry’s change from the conventional to the inverted system.

Today, the more efficient inverted system, where lambs are proceeded upside down rather than being hung, is recognised worldwide for its superior food hygiene, reduced contamination and reductions in hard manual labour.

The company soon offered a range of services from industrial refrigeration and mechanical systems to wholesale for components of commercial refrigeration and air conditioning.

In the 1990s, a unique engineering skill-set for the design of robust processing systems for sheep and cattle was added and in the mid-1990s the company’s most well-known innovation, large plate freezing technology, was developed in its newly established Brisbane based operation.

The plate freezing technology is still used across the international meat and dairy industry to fast freeze cartons, resulting in superior quality and extended shelf life of exported products. More recently, an improved carton retrieval system has been added to achieve energy savings and even faster freezing times.

Milmeq’s chilling and freezing retention tunnels were also the first of their kind and are now a global standard, while its recently-developed robotic Milmeq Fully Automated Storage Transfer (MFAST) system is achieving labour savings in materials handling for manufacturing businesses.

Mr Lightfoot has seen many changes over the years and says the company remains well aware of the challenges its clients face in the ever-changing primary food markets.

“Our people engineer for the future. We aim to future proof systems for our clients to provide flexibility and equip them for the constantly changing
landscape of food processing.”

He is more confident than ever in his people and believes Milmeq will continue to lead the way in food processing engineering, with a focus on ensuring a robust platform for future generations of processors and consumers.