Taking the nuts and bolts of heavy steel fabrication and linking it to the subtle art of getting the most out of people is a feat Page Macrae’s new CEO Alan Sutcliffe is rapidly mastering.
Far from being a stranger to one of the Bay’s largest employers, Alan has formally stepped into the role after being acting CEO for 18 months, and having had five years on the company board.
His extensive leadership experience in Operations and Manufacturing from multiple industries meant he was well aware that as much as Page Macrae was a traditional Engineering company, its 65-year history and much loved Apprentice Academy showed it was a company that put its people first.
He takes the helm at a difficult time for manufacturers in New Zealand, when the value and scarcity of talented staff has never been greater, but is committed to building on the reputation the company enjoys as an employer of choice in the region.
“Our purpose statement is ‘Engineering a Better Tomorrow’ that not only reflects what we do well, but it’s also about growing our people and developing products that support sustainable outcomes”
Alan sees Page Macrae’s business lying across his “3 Ps” of People, Products, and Projects.
In People, one focus area for Alan is to build on the company’s Apprentice Academy, believed to be the largest of its type in New Zealand, typically with 20-25 apprentices enrolled in the four-year program.
“The Academy provides us with a home-grown solution to finding the talent required and this year we will be celebrating our 100th qualified Tradesperson. We pride ourselves on their quality, and that they are regarded as the gold standard for industry apprentices.”
He aims to expand the Academy, offering more block courses and advanced units for staff wanting to build special skills over and above their apprentice skills and is a big believer that no-one really ever graduates.
He sees welding in particular as a talent not easily replaced by robots, given Page Macrae’s clients often require bespoke project work. “Our type of projects are difficult to
automate so you need to have highly skilled people with the right abilities for this sort of task.”
He is also proud of the work done to advance the role of young females in a business often male dominated, with four female apprentices in the Academy to date.
In Products, Page Macrae is widely recognised for its robust and highly productive bulk cargo grabs and hoppers used to load and unload ships, and the company is working to
broaden its current offerings with a focus on developing products that focus on the environmental needs of its customers.
“In order to meet our “Better Tomorrow” Purpose, we are responding to the needs for cleaner air quality around port emissions, by developing new dust suppression hoppers that significantly reduce the release of products into the atmosphere and by introducing new electric grabs to replace diesel units to help reduce our customers carbon footprints.”
Also in Products, the company’s reputation for building customised, heavy-duty equipment for handling and processing difficult, often dangerous products continues to flourish around the world. This includes building harvesting heads it manufactures that attach to forestry machines for a Canadian company.
“The fact they continue to buy from a company on the other side of the world, to operate in one of the harshest environments is testimony to the value they place on our build quality. Our welding excellence gives them confidence that their machines will last.”
The final ‘P’, the Projects division, continues to offer varied and exciting challenges to Page Macrae’s design and construction teams.
“We often get asked what is it that we make and the answer is usually ‘everything’. Our speciality is being generalists. Our Project management Office assesses all opportunities through a risk matrix before deciding if we wish to bid for works, whether that is to build a multi-million-dollar steam field for a new geothermal plant or a set of gates.”
Working closely with other regional companies, they have recently completed projects including a significant program of works to undertake a major refit for the Whakatane paper mill, completed a major shutdown at Balance at the Mount another large shutdown project with Oji Fibre at the Tasman mill at Kawerau.
“To do projects of this kind, you need a highly skilled, dedicated team, working long hours in difficult conditions to get the job done safely and on time. It is that sort of commitment you cannot replace.”
In the coming year Alan aims to integrate the main business units of Page Macrae more tightly, sharing single-source data with a new Enterprise Resource Planning system, and better linking the talents of their skilled staff across the entire business entity.
“We have the talent here and it’s a case of sharing those skills around and bringing in more flexibility between the different business units but at the same time recognising that the needs of the Products Team is different to the needs of the Projects team and developing suitable business models for each.”
“Page Macrae has always been a people focused organisation, I want to continue to build on that – we want to help people to grow, and success is defined here by helping them grow to be the best they can be.”