Maurice Wooster, Managing Director of Robertson Engineering, grew up in mid Canterbury knowing that farmers had to be innovative. “If they couldn’t buy something they needed, they simply made it themselves from whatever they had available”.
Maurice’s experience as a fencing contractor combined with his study of production engineering and a four year cadetship with General Motors (GM) in Upper Hutt during the 1960’s, have no doubt played a major part in his success.
He remembers “I was shocked to find out just before I started at GM that as an engineer I’d need to wear an office suit and not a pair of overalls as I’d imagined!”. Working part-time for the founder of Robertson Engineering led Maurice to become a partner in the business and ultimately its owner. The business once designed and manufactured equipment for abattoirs but evolved to produce blades for farmers and orchardists.
Maurice’s own need for a fencing system on his Upper Hutt property, timed with a market opportunity, saw Robertson Engineering become a designer and manufacturer of high quality, innovative fencing tools and equipment – branded as Strainrite. Its vast range of fencing products is still developed in the field with farmers, for farmers.
“It’s about being innovative and understanding our customers’ needs” Maurice explains. “Reducing the time it takes to put something together or improving the shape of a tool’s handle – all these things really matter to farmers and fencing contractors who use them every day”. He confesses that he gets a lot of satisfaction from making something better.
The business’s automated production of its Strainrite fence strainers gives it a competitive advantage – a similar product made in China involves 17 people. Fence strainers once came in three parts – Strainrite’s are supplied as one.
Robertson Engineering invests heavily in R & D with five of its 43 staff dedicated to the cause. “We specialise in producing new products to solve old problems”.
The innovative business has full control of the design and production process in-house from drawing and design to tooling and machining. One of its subsidiaries Voisey Tooling allows it to carry out its own tooling. As technology has evolved, the business has also invested in sophisticated CNC machinery.
Its high quality, New Zealand-made harvester blades and fencing equipment are sold throughout New Zealand and exported across Australia, Europe, the UK and US.
Maurice points out that his businesses are connected to the land in one way or another. Robertson Engineering is also known for its subsidiaries Runrite Abattoir and Cutrite Harvester Blades. Maurice’s passion for helicopters has seen him establish Rimutaka Heli Services.
He insists that one many advantages of being based in Upper Hutt is its central location. “It’s far easier to sell something to Invercargill from Upper Hutt than it is from Auckland. We have easy access to transport via sea, rail, road and air. I can live in a semi-rural area and be at work in six minutes. It doesn’t get much better than that”.