Visionary firm gains robot funding
A Southland engineering and electrical company has received a record amount of government funding for a global research and development smelter project.
EIS received $650,000 of funding from Callaghan Innovation (former Ministry of Science and Innovation) for a $2m project which would see robots remove aluminium from carbon blocks after the smelting process.
Venture Southland staff worked with EIS to prepare the project to get the grant.
Venture Southland enterprise services manager Alistair Adam said large grants were given to businesses to give them more capability to work on projects they would not normally undertake.
EIS chief executive Dean Addie said the government completed a diligence study and saw what the business was trying to achieve.
The company had until June next year to deliver and market the product for the smelting industry. The finished products could be sold for $1.5 million each, he said. And if the project was successful EIS could be exporting to smelters throughout the world.
"As far as I am aware, it is the largest investment ever in Southland for an R&D project."
EIS had contracted scientists with specialist skills to create the visionary robotic technology.
EIS operations manager Johnny Mauchline said the business got the funding because its project was export-based, which was a focus for the government.
Part of the EIS business strategy was focusing and investing in gaps in the market, he said.
"We are not over extending ourselves; we are nurturing our expertise to investigate and find those gaps and fill them."
EIS won a trio of awards at the inaugural Southland Business Excellence Awards this month: business of the year with more than 15 full-time staff, the safety award and supreme business of the year.
Addie was proud of the health and safety record at the business - almost 12 years without a lost time incident - and it was for this reason he entered the awards.
EIS staff shared this success with other businesses, mentoring and teaching them about safety.
About 17 years ago, the business started with an electrician working out of a van but seven years ago the business model changed.
EIS now had a governance model and structure and always looked at growing and improving and changing to stay innovative, Addie said.
Staff at EIS were continually learning and embracing change since one of the most important aspects of the business was understanding how to be flexible, he said.
"We understand you will make mistakes along the way and we learn from these."
EIS was a dynamic organisation and recruited to ensure it had strengths and capabilities in particular areas such as specialist fields and project management.
The business had achieved 20 per cent growth year on year, since the financial crisis.
Yet profit was not a factor in EIS success at the awards ceremony, he said.
Like most businesses it was just surviving. He believed the staff at EIS separated it from other businesses in the same sector.
"If you look after people first, profits will follow."
The company works with industrial operations and provides support for project management, design, compliance, process control and consultancy:
Crushing plant at NZAS $425,000
Tank installation at Marstel Terminals, South Port, $100,000
New boiler at Fonterra, Edendale $670,000
New pasteuriser and evaporator at Blue River Dairy $140,000
New rendering plant at Blue Sky Meats $750,000
Baghouse upgrade at Open Country Dairy, Awarua $250,000
Portable MCC switchboard project for a company in Perth
Robotic Cart in Canada Projects for Solid Energy briquette plant
Major upgrades to the Fonterra's Stirling plant in Clutha
Stub heater project for New Zealand Aluminium Smelters
- © Fairfax NZ News