The state of manufacturing

-Doug Green

MattPic_140319 mIn the picture: Matt Carrier, Helix Industries, Christchurch. His company offers services from product design, tool and die making, through to the manufacturing of one-off specialist parts or full production runs on sophisticated CNC machinery. 

In a land of small companies, making big things for domestic and overseas markets, it’s important to get to the heart of the matter. Which is, of course, how well are we all doing? Not just the large companies and the ones who provide much financial impetus to the New Zealand economy. But the little guy in the back of Dargaville or Invercargill, head down over a machine all day coming up with the answers for a client around the corner.

A lot of manufacturers miss out on the big lights, the awards and commendations because they don’t go there or are too busy with their small company to pull out the suit and tie and dash off to Auckland for the awards ceremony. They are not ask how they are going and are too involved in running their enterprise to fill in the application form for (say) best small manufacturer of the year or manufacturer with the best idea.

So this is an inside out situation – the companies we know about are the ones coming forward- or being approached – with the export success story on the latest breakthrough in milk or widgets, or whose R & D endeavours result in a great idea being snapped up by a company overseas. There are just as many other companies out there, making equally as impressive products that don’t scale the heights, or bother with the attention, who don’t apply for a grant from Callaghan Innovation – to go through the hoops – or enter the Exporter of the Year Awards.

They fly below the radar and just get on with it, knowing that what they make for their local market doesn’t necessarily need to be known about, exported or sung about on high. But sometimes, just sometimes, they also like to be asked how they are really doing, how things are.

When manufacturing reports come out – as with the latest, Castalia Report – there is interest for a while on the state of play, the state of manufacturing. And when you realise that there is a lack of inclusivity nationwide – afterall, they undertook case studies of 15 successful, high growth manufacturers, a snap shot of the big picture – then it begs the question of who knows what about whom?

Eleven of the companies are from Auckland with the other four from Hokitika, Hastings, Christchurch and Hamilton.

How about a greater representation of the rest of the companies who play a fair role in employing up to 191,000 tradespeople and staff nationwide?

Again, if the Report didn’t see fit to visit the companies in Dargaville or Dannevirke or Invercargill and concentrated on a select few then what is the state of manufacturing in New Zealand and how can the small success story be recognised?


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