NZ Truck & Driver News

 
Lowes grows

Lowes grows

NZ Truck & Driver News

 November 2020   

Increasing demand that has seen Christchurch dangerous goods tanker manufacturer Lowes Industries rapidly expanding – eventually spreading into five separate, adjoining buildings – has now seen it move into a new, purposebuilt home.

With double the factory floor space of its restrictive, inefficient old Woolston setup, the new 2200-square-metre factory – on a 6500 sq. m. site at Hillsborough – is intended to futureproof the business for foreseeable expansion.

The 65-year-old company, which makes the claim that it is “the top DG tanker manufacturer in New Zealand,” had been planning the expansion project for 10 years, managing director John Metcalf says.

Lowes did manage to stave off the move for some years by implementing a lean-manufacturing programme, which Metcalf says “paid huge dividends in improving productivity and throughput – allowing us to continue to grow in our existing properties.

“But, inevitably, it came time when the only way upwards was to look outwards. There is now plenty of room to grow into,” he confirms.

...

Subscribers: Please LOGIN to read the full article.
Increasing demand that has seen Christchurch dangerous goods tanker manufacturer Lowes Industries rapidly expanding – eventually spreading into five separate, adjoining buildings – has now seen it move into a new, purposebuilt home.
With double the factory floor space of its restrictive, inefficient old Woolston setup, the new 2200-square-metre factory – on a 6500 sq. m. site at Hillsborough – is intended to futureproof the business for foreseeable expansion.
The 65-year-old company, which makes the claim that it is “the top DG tanker manufacturer in New Zealand,” had been planning the expansion project for 10 years, managing director John Metcalf says.
Lowes did manage to stave off the move for some years by implementing a lean-manufacturing programme, which Metcalf says “paid huge dividends in improving productivity and throughput – allowing us to continue to grow in our existing properties.
“But, inevitably, it came time when the only way upwards was to look outwards. There is now plenty of room to grow into,” he confirms.
The factory floor accommodates 18 truck bays, two of them comprising a dedicated and certified DG tanker servicing area, in which loaded tankers can be worked on safely.
The yard space is five or six times bigger than the combined exterior room of the former Lowes facilities – now with two covered DG-certified wash bays included. The new building also has a two-storey admin facility.
“But of greater importance to us is that it is one consolidated, built-for-purpose work area – where everything can be planned and carried out without constantly having to move between different smaller workshops,” says Metcalf. 
“We also have two gantry cranes which run the full length of the building, whereas previously we had crawl beams over each work bay and had to make do with hoists at each bay. 
“It was very labour-intensive in the old facility and we are expecting to see a considerable lift in productivity in the new premises.”
To gear up for the larger premises, Lowes had been hiring more staff for about 18 months prior to the shift, giving itself “enough time to upskill them.” In that time it took on 14 new workshop personnel and an additional design engineer, boosting staff strength to 38.
The expansion is already delivering the opportunity to explore new products, Metcalf says: It is building two milktankers for assessment by Fonterra.
“This is a first for us and is only really possible because of the additional space we now enjoy. We also have a number of other projects we’re working on…”
The Hillsborough site is a “perfect” location – close to the Mobil fuel terminal, the Liquigas LPG terminal, a container storage terminal and many of Lowes’ customers’ bases.
Metcalf says that in addition to being the South Island’s only DG road tanker builder, Lowes is a service agent for Palfinger and Hiab truck cranes and for Hammar and Patchell sideloaders, “as well as tail-lifts, hook-lifts and other similar equipment.”
He says that over the 13 years he has owned Lowes, “we have gone through the GFC, earthquakes and now COVID, which individually have each had a significant impact on us.
“Despite this we have always come back strong and have grown at a very healthy pace. We turned over $1.3million a year when we bought the business and had it not been for COVID we would have been looking at finishing up with around $9m in 2020. We are still aiming to hit $10m either in 2021 or the year after.” 
COVID-19 cut its 2020 tanker builds back from the 22 projected to around 15 (10 trailers, five rigids).  

Search Articles

NZ Truck & Driver Magazine
Read Now