By Doug Green
We all have followed the story of how Hillside Engineering in Dunedin, a division of Kiwi Rail, were not considered skilled enough to renovate and build rolling stock in New Zealand, to see manufacturing sent overseas to China.
Recently rail workers from Lower Hutt presented a partition because their jobs are at threat. 12,000 people signed that partition a testimony to the concern being shown to putting people on the scrap heap. 40 workers in Dunedin were made redundant recently.
KiwiRail sure does have a way of upsetting people!
You don’t have to be Einstein to know that manufacturing in this country is heavily competed against by overseas companies, particularly from Asia. We all get the picture; components, parts and expertise are much cheaper in China.
I was at a trade fair in Melbourne and overheard a conversation between a German industrial motor representative and an Australian importer. The Australian importer had recently cancelled his orders from the German company and could buy five times as many motors from China than he could from Germany, for the same price.
His explanation to the German was that if “anything goes wrong with one of the motors I still have four motors left.”
I hope we’re not working like this with the rolling stock coming in from Asia. Why run the risk when the work can be done here?
If the initial argument was that there wasn’t the expertise to do the job then bring some on board. Even if they had to cross ‘the ditch’ or be brought in from Asia at least the work would stay in New Zealand.
But let’s not worry about all this.
It’s only part of the big picture for manufacturing in New Zealand. If Kiwi Rail says this is the way it is going to be then who can argue? The stakeholder does not want to see a reduction on the profit line even if people are made redundant to keep it that way.
You will never hear of a shareholder in a company taking a reduction in their annual return as against keeping workers from the scrapheap. Is this Fletcher’s problem?
And if you think that’s a bit harsh then keep an eye on Kiwi Rail as it continues to refine its people to fit the budget. Our rail system has been all over the place. Remember Richard Prebble? Remember the buyers from Victoria, Australia who bought it for the price of a Victorian country-line and then sold it back to government?
Instead of developing programmes to make railway more essential – think freight, think the Gisborne Line Ð KiwiRail seems to be static. Sure there is significant development going on in suburban Auckland. But is that all? Is that enough?
By the way, Hillside Engineering’s ambitions go like this: To be the Leader in our Heavy Engineering Markets.
Progress towards this vision will be through:
* Proudly providing value added products and services.
* Building strong relationships with our customers and suppliers.
* Ensuring our people are qualified, competent and adaptable.
* Building and maintaining our organisational knowledge and capacity.
* Reviewing performance for continuous improvement.
Important factors for our Customers’ buying decisions:
* High level of quality.
* Experience and background knowledge of the staff.
* Price competitiveness
* Staff competency
* Capacity of facilities and plant.