A tour of Metalform was an eye-opening experience for Dannevirke Chamber of Commerce members last week because of the company's diverse range of products and increasing size of the operation.
The tour was part of the After Five Events the chamber arranges to allow members to see what's happening within local businesses.
In thanking Metalform for the opportunity to inspect the plant and to witness the changes taking place, Chamber of Commerce chairman Bryce Galloway said Metalform started with one employee making metal display stands.
"The company has come a long way since that time and has injected a lot of money into the community."
Galloway congratulated the company on its forthcoming milestone of marking 60 years in business in April.
"Well done on that achievement and may you continue with your efficiencies and your path of progress."
Managing director Campbell Easton credited his grandfather and company founder Bryce Easton for having a real focus on professional development.
"His philosophy was not to follow what others were doing but to be innovative. So we focus on design-led thinking and are a design-led business."
A project under development is a machine that is an extension of the Tow and Collect which can be towed around a paddock and picks up manure.
Easton says the company is working on a rough prototype for a machine that will rove around a paddock remotely and can recognise horse manure, thistle and grass.
"This will scoop up the manure and once the catcher is full will empty the contents. It will also have a cutting head so it can mow the grass if needed.
"We're not here to compete head-on with everyone else to produce the same thing. We are about innovation."
The machine will have an app that will allow it to self-map a paddock.
"If the machine sees something it doesn't expect it will stop."
Easton said the cost of technology was coming down and therefore opening up more opportunities.
"Where once the technology would have cost $20,000 it could now be $1500 and this is changing what companies like us can produce."
Metalform has invested heavily in expanding its business. Part of that was to buy the neighbouring CP Wool premises and install a powdercoating plant made in Turkey.
A team of five workers came out to New Zealand to install the plant and get it up and running. It is hoped this will happen by Christmas.
"Powdercoating our products was proving to be the biggest bottleneck we faced and that's why we have invested in this."
Covid has had an effect on the business.
"There is about $1 million of product we can't shift because we are waiting for some small component to complete the job. The supply chain really is broken."
The production of 150,000 face shields helped to keep the plant going and was a boost for staff morale, he said.
"We came up with an idea and the staff made it happen."
Easton said Metalform was always looking for good people to join the team.
The staff numbered about 90, however Easton said they were actively recruiting more. As part of that the company is conducting free welding courses for young people.