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Leading Agri-Tech Company Keeps Manufacturing In New Zealand

24 July 2012

Leading Agri-Tech Company Keeps Manufacturing In New Zealand

Lean manufacturing helps Tru-Test Group become first to achieve NZQA certification

Tru-Test Group is bucking the trend towards outsourcing manufacturing to lower-cost economies overseas. The world leader in electric fencing, milk metering and animal weighing and recording, has chosen to keep more than 80 per cent of its production in Auckland.

Reflecting this commitment to the local market, Tru-Test Group has become the first New Zealand company to achieve a New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) Level 2 Certificate in Competitive Manufacturing for its entire production and stores staff.

The NZQA qualification allows factory operators to become actively involved in developing systems that improve productivity and quality.

“When we decided not to go down the manufacturing in China path we knew it meant competing on the international manufacturing stage,” says Tru-Test Group Operations Manager Jason Kiteley. “The only way to do this was with an absolute commitment to minimising waste, maximising efficiency and adopting new ideas.”

Tru-Test Group has been a New Zealand pioneer in implementing ‘lean’ manufacturing techniques using the TRACC system; enhanced staff engagement has had a positive impact on the continuous improvement process.

Efficiency improvements have included reducing machine set-up times for electronics manufacture from 55 minutes to nine minutes and for plastic moulding from 45 minutes to just two minutes.

Mr Kiteley says that although the change has been important in direct financial terms, the biggest long-term benefit for Tru-Test Group is likely to be cultural.

“It’s given our people immense personal growth, allowing them to define how they work and to challenge the status quo for constant improvement,” says Mr Kiteley.

Historically, decisions about how systems would be designed and run had little input from those actually operating them day to day.

“The line operators are the subject matter experts – it’s logical they should be at the heart of innovation,” says Mr Kiteley.

Tru-Test Group has shared its experience with around 20 companies in the past year, many of whom have begun to incorporate similar improvements.

Mr Kiteley says it’s not all one-way traffic. “It’s a valuable means of benchmarking ourselves against others – we’re learning almost as much as them.”

Phil Morton from industry training organisation Competenz says Tru-Test Group has set the bar for engaging and involving staff in constant improvement.

“We’re introducing a number of companies to Tru-Test Group so they can see the level of performance they should be aspiring to,” says Mr Morton.

* * * *

Notes to editors:

1. Tru-Test Group’s decision to manufacture more than 80 per cent of its products in New Zealand reflects a number of competitive advantages locally:

• Simpler distribution logistics given the company’s multiple product lines and 80-plus export destinations

• The relatively short product runs due to offering customers a selection of brands

• The ability to produce exact amounts of product required by the market at any time, minimising inventory over-runs (or shortages)

• Enhanced quality control

• The opportunities for contract manufacturing for other organisations in New Zealand

• The existing local skills and efficiency gain potential from ‘lean’ manufacturing.

2. Manufacturing completed off-shore is for consumption off-shore where freight, duties or service levels make manufacturing and exporting products from New Zealand impractical.

3. The New Zealand Qualifications Framework (NZQF) is a comprehensive list of all quality assured qualifications in New Zealand. NZQA quality assures all National Diplomas, National Degrees and National Certificates. National Certificates recognise skills and knowledge that meet nationally endorsed unit and achievement standards, e.g.

Certificate in Competitive Manufacturing Level 2.

4. TRACC is a global continuous improvement system developed by CCI that integrates every part of an organisation from its people to its processes, projects and systems.

ENDS

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