Metal Concepts engineers visions to reality


Metal Concepts is primarily a sheetmetal fabrication company that typically works only on larger, high-profile projects, mostly in the construction industry. In many instances, it engages with architects during the early stages of project planning.

Metal Concepts was formed to provide full-service metal fabrication to architects. The idea of servicing this particular niche market came to company directors Tony Savage and Steve Preece in 2006.

Before that, Mr Savage had been working for more than 20 years with Hunter-Douglas, a large global company based in Holland that does architectural products – commercial but very much on the decorative end of the market – and Mr Preece was running his own metal fabrication business.

“One thing with architects is that they are very creative. You need to be very flexible to understand their ideas and deliver them in finished form. To do that effectively in metal, you need to have full fabrication capability. So Steve and I came together to set up Metal Concepts,” Mr Savage says.

“They say timing is everything. About three days before the Global Financial Crisis, we put this vision together with this big grandiose dream and then the world took a dive. We wanted to deliver something particular to the market at that time but the market was contracting. It has been very challenging,” Mr Savage says.

Through the recession, Metal Concepts has grown, learnt a lot of things on the way, and refined what it should be doing. “We realised that our value is to shift away from traditional metal fabrication,” Mr Savage says.

Aesthetics and performance

Metal Concepts’ list of projects gives a flavour of what it does. It includes Aotea Square Redevelopment, The Cloud at Auckland Marina Events Centre, Britomart Train Station, Air New Zealand Check-In Terminal, Mt Eden Prison, ANZ Building Refurbishment, Auckland Airport Pier B and Eden Park – projects that have ‘aesthetics and performance’ written all over them.

“We do work that matters. And by that it means it matters from an aesthetics point of view or performance point of view. Because if you do work that doesn’t matter, then you can go anywhere to anyone because it doesn’t matter,” Mr Savage says.

“The common theme among all the projects is that they are all made of metal other than structural steel, and typically there is a very strong design element. What we like to say to architects is give us the time to share your vision and we’d work out a way to execute it properly.”

For the Aotea Square redevelopment, the architect had a vision of a very, very large aluminium fin that was curved and had to look perfect by the time it was curved.

“We were approached to look at the project after the architect received feedback that it was impossible to do it without deforming the aluminium section,” Mr Savage says. “We worked out how it could be done and we solved it.”

Metal Concepts recently completed the ANZ Building redevelopment project, where again after the architect sharing the vision for a special foyer ceiling – all concealed and invisible support – it designed and developed a system for that.

At the Marina Event Centre, it fabricated a custom stainless steel cladding on the outside of the building, including stainless steel handrails and balustrades.

Metal Concepts has a growing relationship with the Department of Corrections. It is doing a lot of work in prisons – in particular furniture work inside the cells.

“The thing with prison furniture is that on a daily basis, the workmanship is tested by the inmates, really trying hard to find weaknesses in the construction. What they are looking for is either creating a weapon or tool for escape out of the furniture,” Mr Savage says. “It is so critical that design and execution of the design is perfect every single time.”

Metal Concepts models everything 3-dimensionally using SolidWorks. It has software that does finite material analysis to test loadings on designs.

“We are able to design smartly so we put in smart technology to execute the design – that is why we bought the robotic welder last year,” Mr Savage says.

Going robotic

The OTC Daihen robotic welder installed at Metal Concepts was supplied by Carbines Engineering Ltd. It is one of the few brands in the world that carry fully integrated robots and welders.

“The robot gives us confidence that every single piece we fabricate is perfect. It gives us total control of the output. It’s all digital so we can control everything. We know that every time a piece comes off, it’s perfect. We’ve got no rework. Our post-welding processes are either eliminated or greatly reduced.”

Metal Concepts has a present complement of 30 at its site at Captain Springs Rd in Onehunga, Auckland, up from the 10 or 11 workers when it started in their factory at Pukemiro St in the same suburb in 2007.

“What we have been doing here was to learn to walk with our robot, and it has proven really, really valuable. Now we are looking ahead to see how we can run. We want to be able to go to customers and say if you go with us, we will use this tool and you will get perfect output. You can go to sleep at night knowing that every single weld is perfect.”

Mr Savage is driving Metal Concepts into becoming a global supplier. He is in early conversations to ‘export’ its capability, initially to Australia. “My ultimate vision is that one day I can be in a trade show, say in America, with a range of products that clearly demonstrate that we are a New Zealand company selling to the world,” he says.