Engineering firm expands, focuses on automation

United Machinist owners Alex and Sarah Ramsay outside their expanded engineering site in Dunedin. Photo: Christine O'Connor
United Machinist owners Alex and Sarah Ramsay outside their expanded engineering site in Dunedin. Photo: Christine O'Connor
Dunedin high-tech engineering firm United Machinists has expanded its city footprint, investing an additional $3 million into new factory and engineering capacity.

The expansion, which includes the purchase of the existing 900sqm SAECOWilson building and an additional 280sqm land parcel next door on Thomas Burns St, will cater for additional automated machinery and skilled staff.

United Machinists commercial director Sarah Ramsay said the additional investment had been driven by growth in its key high-tech and export market, for which it produced precision components for a range clients.

These ranged from the production of prosthetic hand components for Christchurch export company Tasko, to one-off assemblies for gyro stabilised camera systems for Shotover Camera Systems out of Queenstown.

Managing director Alex Ramsay said the new machine floor space would include an environment and temperature controlled manufacturing area.

‘‘Our aim is also to move from componentry to full assembly,’’ he said.

Ms Ramsay said the company, which employed a team of 21 skilled manufacturing staff, had rapidly outgrown floor space for its specialist, largely automated machines.

‘‘We are reaching the level now where we can literally go away for a few days and come back and the machine would have produced 500 units,’’ she said.

She said a lot of the focus had also been on improved workflow and quality assurance.

‘‘For us, innovation starts with automation in the workshop, management system, which allows us to dramatically improve efficiencies.’’

Ms Ramsay said innovation went to the heart of the company’s recent involvement in the new Southland and Otago Regional Engineering Collective (Sorec) of which she is a director.

‘‘It’s about wearing a more corporate hat, ensuring our skilled engineers are able to access government grants and focus our efforts on growth markets.’’

To that end, the company was also working closely with Callaghan Innovation and was sponsoring its first innovation student, Rovin DCruz.

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