Engineering success – more than meets the eye?

By Terry Herbert July 12, 2017 Engineering supplies

Our people in engineering supplies are all feeling pretty chipper. It would appear that it’s smooth sailing for manufacturing, in fact the whole economy. A few squalls have appeared on the horizon but everyone we spoke with was definitely upbeat. Terry Herbert reports.

To view a PDF of the complete feature as it appeared in NZ Hardware Journal magazine, click the download button at the bottom of this page.

There’s a lot to be happy about right now.

Only this morning, as I finish my round-up of engineering supplies, a young, ecstatically happy Peter Burling hoisted the America’s Cup aloft, winning the Auld Mug in true Kiwi style.

At the weekend the ABs beat the Lions convincingly and the PM is very happy that media attention has quickly moved on from Tapegate.

Fresh from this year’s New Zealand Agricultural Fieldays, we once again saw a record number of punters walk through the gates with their wallets in tow.

To quote Fieldays Chief Executive Peter Nation: “We’ve had reports from exhibitors stating that sales were strong, in some cases exceeding show targets in their first day of trading.”



Before we get to our players in engineering supplies who by all accounts enjoyed “record” sales at Fieldays, to get the broader picture we spoke with Doug Steel, BNZ’s Senior Economist, who begins by telling us that overall as at the end of Q2 our economy is, “not too shabby.”

It’s our performance in the construction and manufacturing sectors we want to know about. Sounding very un-corporate, Steel says: “I’m calling it ‘Marvellous May’ our PMI (NZ’s Performance of Manufacturing Index) has lifted to a very strong 58.5 in May. That’s its highest level in 16 months.

“Construction will continue to be a strong contributor despite the predicted slowdown in Christchurch. Looking at dairy prices (a brief pause as he consults his tables) Fonterra is definitely up, closing on $6.50/kg, well ahead of their own predictions.

“That’s off the back of strong global demand for milk powder which in turn is leading our exports that rose 8.7% to $4.95 billion – their highest monthly level in more than three years in May.”



NZ Safety Blackwoods’ Hamilton Branch Manager Grant Joyce tells us sales at Fieldays were “Even better than last year and 2016 was, until then, our best year ever on-site.

“Predictably the bulk of our sales were from farmers. We sold right across the board from high ticket items to smaller items. It was a range of hand tools, power tools and welders.

“We’re pretty happy… We’ve had lots of our customers reaching into their wallets. For us the Waikato area is buoyant and we can’t complain.”

Still seeking results from Fieldays, we get through to Marvyn Towers, Chairman of TradeZone group who speaks to me from Croucher & Crowder Engineering’s head office in Hawera, Taranaki.

Did he get to Mystery Creek? “No, not this time. TradeZone at Fieldays was represented by our Hamilton member, Hand Tool House, and from all reports they had a record year.”

He continues in positive mode: “I’m also told that 18 of our TradeZone stores have had record years in terms of overall sales, so everything is looking good.”



Not wishing to rain on either his parade or his Fieldays, I ask Marvyn Towers about the TradeZone members who are no longer with the group. When last we spoke, there were 36 members nationwide and the numbers have fallen.

Not wishing to be drawn into any details Marvyn Tower puts it plainly: “We’ve had a change of direction and we’ve got about 29 members now. We’re busy rebuilding the brand and taking a new and more vibrant direction.

“It’s very exciting, we’re still keeping the TradeZone name, but all I can say for now is watch this space.”

Pressed for more, he adds: “A lot of the new direction is being driven by our General Manager, Steven Hands. He’s coming up with the new ideas to take us in a different direction so we can be more competitive and provide our clients with a better experience. He’s been with us coming up 10 months as GM and we’re all very positive.”

Speaking for himself now, as proprietor of Croucher & Crowder with its four stores, Marvyn Towers shares that all are “increasing in growth”.

“In fact, three of my stores were part of the 18 that achieved record growth for the year. We can’t be unhappy and the future of TradeZone is still very bright.”

Speaking off the record, two TradeZone members who remain firmly in the fold, tell us that TradeZone is still a great business model, the brands are still there supporting them and the size and national coverage gives the co-operative buying power and clout.

Both members also hinted at the major re-brand already mentioned, adding it may mean individual members giving up more of their own identities to be far more strongly branded as TradeZone.

As Chairman Towers put it: “Watch this space!”



One “vendor” who was there on site at Fieldays to support his resellers was ISL Industrial. ISL’s Stephen Cole tells us: “We were there with TradeZone and the boys were busy selling. I haven’t seen the figures yet but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we reached a new sales record.

“The growth has been good. Over the last 10 years we’ve enjoyed consistent growth. We’ve just gone from strength to strength. We have 40 roughly brands but for us the hand tools are king. Our end customers are the trade professionals, that’s construction, engineering and automotive. TradeZone, Blackwoods and Repco, they all perform well for us.

“TradeZone covers two markets for us, farmers obviously and they reach into those rural engineers as well. We have the range of brands that appeal to those different markets and customers. That diversity is our strength I guess.”



When I get to speak with Phil Hawkins from Starrett NZ, I quickly gain the impression that this man is a plain speaker. He says matter-of-factly: “We’ve had good growth, in fact excellent growth. We’re very strong across all the speciality areas and I expect even more positive growth and I’m giving you my honest answer.”

“Predominantly, we’re a precision measuring tool company. We still sell an awful lot of saws. We’re one of the top five blades globally in hand saws. We have the full spectrum: porcelain, metal, titanium, timber, specialty cutting – we’re in it from go to whoa. We offer a complete range in band saws too.”

Starrett supplies specialist professionals or trade users and its customer base is spread across “engineers” to use an all-encompassing term.

“They’re all specialists but all different, like mechanical, electrical, rural, hydraulics – they all have their niche,” says Phil Hawkins. “TradeZone, JA Russell, Seacowilson, Waitemata Hydraulics, those are some of our customers.”

Hawkins goes on to explain that Starrett doesn’t have the scale to compete with the “big boxes” and remains content to leave it others: “I’m even more confident about the next 12 months than the previous 12 months. Next year will be significantly better than this year and this year was a very good year.”



Manufacturing is definitely growing and, with the incredible victory of the America’s Cup against bigger countries, all with deeper pockets, the world will be focused on New Zealand’s manufacturing and engineering prowess like never before.

All the engineering suppliers we spoke with reported growth, most reporting record growth. The specialist skills of their end users with their “can-do” Kiwi attitude will pay dividends we can’t even fully gauge yet.

“Watch this space!”

A hole-in-one every time

The popular EUROBOOR magnetic drilling machines and cutters is made in Holland but imported exclusively by Sheffield NZ. The machines perform exceptionally well in demanding conditions and, when partnered with EUROBOOR cutters, they will produce a fast, tidy and accurate hole every time. With 15 models in their range to drill from 12mm to 200mm holes there is a machine for every application.

EUROBOOR’s Annular Cutters, both HSS and TCT, offer an extensive range of sizes and cutting depth, unique teeth geometry, optimum chip clearance, exact sizing, and longer lifespan make them suitable for all industries from small scale fabrication, to large scale construction. Also in the range are bevelling machines, grinders, lifting tools and cutting lubricants.


Resistance is futile

New from Apex Tools is the new Gearwrench 3-piece range of 1/4”, 3/8” and 1/2” Drive Full Polish Locking Flex Handle Ratchets. These 84-tooth ratchets with locking Flex Head come complete with a 9-Locked and an Unlocked Position for adjustable access angles. Perfect for those tight and hard to access places the Teardrop Low Profile Head and Flush Mounted On/Off switch will get you in and out of the toughest spaces.



Don’t guess when working at heights

Squids Power Tool Tethering Kit takes the guesswork out of tethering power tools when working at height with this new tethering system. All you need is supplied in the one kit with full instructions on use. The power tool trap securely wraps around the battery portion with a D-ring connection point to attach the shock absorbing tool lanyard with carabineer on one end and loop on the other end. Suitable for power tools up to 2.7kg (with battery). Kits are also available for general hand tool tethering using different types of connection points.


Power when and where you need it

The GT Power generator range from Euroquip has recently been upgraded and all models provide the reliability you expect from an industrial quality generator but also makes them number one in operability, economy and durability. GT Power chose the exclusive PowerDyne engine to provide you with day long performance and reliability. PowerDyne engines are specifically engineered for professional power equipment, and are mounted on large anti-vibe isolation mounts for smooth and reliable power, every time.

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