Saturday, 26 September 2020

WHITIANGA WEATHER

Local business’s new CNC machines to help train more apprentices in the art of engineering

A chance encounter in Hamilton almost a year ago is now Whitianga’s gain.

When Derrick and Vicki Turner sold their successful engineering business in Johannesburg, South Africa, a move to the Land of the Long White Cloud was firmly on their radar. “We have family in New Zealand and were looking forward to a change of scenery,” says Derrick. “I jumped on a plane to determine what opportunities were available. Driving from Auckland to Wellington, I stayed at a motel in Hamilton. As it turned out, the owner of the motel was also one of the owners of Mercury Bay Engineering in Whitianga. We started talking and she said they were looking for someone to take on the management of the business. I agreed to come have a look and as I drove into town, it was love at first sight. An absolutely beautiful place.”

“Looking at the business, what I saw was a dedication to delivering a very high standard of work and a commitment to apprenticeship training. I did not hesitate to sign on the bottom line. I went back to South Africa to fetch Vicki and our 18-year-old son, Raven, and here we are. It’s now seven months since Vicki and I have taken over the management of the business and despite this being the most disruptive year imaginable, we couldn’t be happier.”

With a background in CAD design and CAM manufacturing of custom-made components and equipment, it wasn’t long before Derrick and Vicki decided to introduce CNC machinery into the business. “In South Africa, an important part of our operation was the manufacture of bottle inspection equipment,” says Derrick. “Its equipment we custom designed and supplied to large South African companies as well as for the export market. CNC machines can pretty much machine anything from steel, aluminium, stainless steel, brass and engineering plastics.”

“We thought about acquiring two CNC machines from Haas, a mill and a lathe for Mercury Bay Engineering as they would be a valuable addition to the business’s existing manufacturing and welding facility. Basically, what it boils down to is if someone needs custom made parts for almost anything from airplanes to boats, hotrods to bikes, handrails or balustrades and they want to have it made locally in Whitianga, we would be able to design and produce it for them.”

“We ordered two machines from the USA just before the COVID-19 Alert Level 4 lockdown and while they were on the high seas, the agency through which we worked in Auckland went into liquidation. Unfortunately, that caused a whole heap of legal wrangling to have the machines released to us, but that is all behind us now. The machines have been installed and are fully operational. We would like to think that we can now offer clients a one-stop shop when it comes to engineering solutions.”

Former Mercury Bay Area School student, Cody Golaboski, has recently finished his apprenticeship through the business as a general and mechanical engineer, and another former MBAS student, Austin Brear, will finish his apprenticeship in the next few months. “The transfer of skills is a major priority for us,” says Derrick. “Going forward, we would like to take on more apprentices to train in the art of engineering. We also look forward to working on projects with the technology students at the local school. Along with our CNC machines, we also have a training simulator which makes it easier to teach how to program and operate the machines using G and M codes without the fear of making a costly mistake on the machine itself. That provides a wonderful opportunity for the students to embrace highly sophisticated technology and hopefully motivate them to consider what can become a satisfying and creative career.”

Pictured: Mercury Bay Engineering manager, Derrick Turner (on the left), recently qualified engineer, Cody Golaboski (centre) and apprentice engineer, Austin Brear, at one of the business’s two new CNC machines.

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The Mercury Bay Informer is a highly popular community newspaper, based in Whitianga. The paper is distributed throughout the Coromandel Peninsula, coast to coast from Thames to north of Colville.