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Wellington factory exporting to China

  • October 15th, 2008

 While the wind outside was spreading debris down the streets last week , National’s Rongotai candidate Chris Finlayson and I were in a Miramar magician’s cave, a factory haven of order. This year its 37 factory staff will make  over 450,000 sophisticated switches for industrial circuits, mostly on automated machines in-house designed and  built . 

The machines nod, whirl and swing like military ballet dancers stamping and cutting placing components into products, then automatically testing them.

The factory is part of Kraus and Naimer’s worldwide business. For the New Zealand company the NZ market is only around 15% of revenue.   Much of the rest comes from sales in Asia. An 11 person NZ technical sales team grows sales here in dairy, forestry, IT power supplies and new eco friendly power generation. 

I was keen to find out how a factory survives in Wellington making such sophisticated export products, how they build automated equipment for assembly lines, and how they export to China, in the face of the general opinion that Chinese factories crush all competition.

Kraus and Naimer are not "secretive" but they rarely speak to the media. Bruce Robb the manager for this area of the world is a long-time friend, so the visit was a rare chance to hear how Wellington factory workers can remain competitive with the Asian workers who are displacing so many workers elsewhere. 

The  Miramar factory is very alert to competition.  The main issue with their Chinese exports is not price, but counterfeiting, including of packaging labeled “made in New Zealand”. China no longer has a major advantage in raw materials cost. High technology here means that China’s very cheap labour is not a complete killer.

It seems that there is no magic technology or protection. Indeed they rarely patent stuff they develop now.

Instead they simply rely on constant improvement in every aspect of their business. They do not carry stock. Switches are manufactured to order, often overnight,  and despatched precisely on time for a remarkable 96% of orders.

The staff know what they and everyone else is doing. They are cross-trained with an average term of service of 17 years. 

The trick is just to get better all the time at everything that can be improved, and being focused on what customers need.




Sounds brilliant.

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