Robotic colleagues no threat to jobs

STEELY RESOLVE: Shape Technology managing director Hans Schuitman says companies can build productivity through technology and create real wealth.
STEELY RESOLVE: Shape Technology managing director Hans Schuitman says companies can build productivity through technology and create real wealth.

His company boosts productivity through a focus on technology, and in particular, robotics.

But Shape Technology managing director Hans Schuitman says people, and his employees, have nothing to fear from colleagues that are cast rather than hired.

In his own business the introduction of robotics has increased productivity by 80 per cent in the past 12 months, and rather than replacing his human employees, this rise – thanks to robots – has led to a 15 per cent increase in his 90-strong work force.

Shape Technology is a flag-ship company for the Schuitman Group. It designs and manufactures technology components and products for the electronic industry, and has a range of technology-based products such as touch screen kiosks that are marketed globally.

It's come a long way from its humble beginnings 14 years ago, but Schuitman is giving nothing away when it comes to turnover, only remarking that its going very well.

"It could be a $100 million business, if we employed a full-time prototype maker," he says.

He has plans to install a further four robots in the next few months and has spent about $4m on plant in the past two months to ensure he keeps Shape's growth ticking along.

Others could also stand to profit from his company's innovations, he says, building productivity through technology and creating real wealth, and not just for bosses like him.

But it's not about the money, Schuitman says. He is passionate about productivity and producing wealth for all – and making New Zealand just a little better, he says.

All this from an immigrant kid with poor English who at 14 decided to pit his wits against the "school of life".

"I've always enjoyed doing things differently," he explains, "only dead fish swim with the tide".

Why did you become an entrepreneur?

To me, an entrepreneur is someone who makes a difference and reshapes our world to make it better for all and who creates and provides real wealth for others.

One does not become an entrepreneur; you are simply made that way from birth.

What have been the biggest obstacles in running your company?

Starting from scratch with no capital and having an untamed passion to make a difference but with initially no clarity on direction.

Name one thing that you've learnt while in business and from who?

Direct your focus on outcome and manage the obstacles, after all there is no limit as to what we can do and achieve – just don't waiver. My mentors are Sir Robertson Stewart and Sir Angus Tait.

What are your business and personal goals?

Business – to make New Zealand a better and sounder place through my efforts and visions. Personal – never to lose touch with reality.

Do you have any tips for budding entrepreneurs?

Put your efforts into real things, not speculative objectives; ensure that your dream is do-able; always pay your debts; take others along on your journey but never stop dreaming; and never let the small boy or girl within you die.

The Press