Jon Carlson, Marketing Rep Brett McLean, Owner/Manager
Twenty years ago I thought that the sun had set on making stuff in New Zealand. It seemed as if all manufacture was being outsourced to China. Well I’m pleased to report that the trend has been arrested and wound back.
This past Christmas I was able to change the sign for our Christmas tree stands from ‘NZ Designed’ to ‘NZ Designed and Made’. The inventor had reached the conclusion that it was cheaper and a lot less stressful to have them made New Zealand.
The other day I struck up a conversation with a young Canadian called Jon Carlson, not a difficult thing to do as Jon is outward going and fizzing about where he finds himself (here), and what he does (sales rep for an innovative company based in Richmond). The company’s called Opritech and is a supplier of surgical equipment and healthcare building systems. They supply operating tables, trolleys, clean up stations, lighting, disinfection equipment, and are currently developing a modular operating theatre system that will significantly reduce infection risks, reduce construction time and increase the operating theatre efficiency.
Why would Opritech be based here when half the population lives North of Hamilton? Well the behemoth that Auckland has become, makes doing business difficult. Opritech started in Auckland, and was there for over a decade before shifting south in 2005. Time spent sitting in traffic, high property values, and labour shortages all conspired to make the move prudent Opritech is not just an importer and distributor, they have an R&D program developing medical equipment and they use local engineers for fabrication: Surgical devices, patient positioning devices, stainless steel trolleys, cabinets, and a range of sterilisation equipment, are all made right here.
Owner/manager Brett McLean, says he has a fantastic team and the company has survived and grown during a period where government funding of health has been severely reduced. It seems to be a special characteristic of people from provincial districts such as Nelson – to have the desire not just to survive, but to succeed, to see an opportunity and realise it; be it a new or improved product, a change in operations or a need a customer has. Whereas large population centres seem to have their own momentum, but ‘go ahead’ spirit possibly gets a little lost.
Everything about the outward appearance of Opritech leads you to believe it is a much larger business. The quality of their catalogue and website are such that you would think that you are dealing with a corporate, rather than an SME (small to medium sized enterprise).
Low cost countries may have driven New Zealand from making high volume consumer products, but New Zealand engineers and manufacturers have carved out a niche supplying specialist equipment. Except for our Christmas tree stands these products are not seen in our homes and are not well known. They go unnoticed, but make a few enquires and you will find that there are hundreds of small businesses companies throughout the country that are making remarkable things.