Gary Wight of Auckland Sheet Metals makes no bones about it: the purchase of a new Swift-Cut plasma cutting table from Machinery House has increased business efficiencies by 30%. In fact, Wight wonders what they ever did without the machine affectionately known in the workshop the ‘Englishman’.

“It doesn’t get sick, never stops working and every cut is a classy finish,” says Wight.

The company has been at its current premises for close to 10 years, with most of that in partnership. However, according to Wight the real business evolution has occurred in the past two years when he “went it alone”, with the dissolving of a partnership that had two owners wanting to pull the business in different directions.

“It meant I could invest in machinery,” he says. “The last two years we’ve been Auckland Sheet Metals – in sole charge – and I’ve bought new presses, welders, the plasma, vehicles that have made life easier. And the result has been more progress in the last little bit than the whole time of being in business prior to that.”

Indeed, since the change the company has been struggling to keep up with demand.

“I’ve made it a focus to buy machinery that keeps the work going while we aren’t.”

The ‘Englishman’ (the nickname derived from its country of origin) does exactly that. Wight explains that the plasma machine can be cutting and making parts while his workshop engineers crack on with the welding.

“It’s actually given us more man power,” he says. “To make those parts the old-fashioned way, with less accuracy, would take hours longer and this machine never stops.”

Wight adds that the machine was only just installed before the EMEX 2016 exhibition, held in Auckland in May. Nonetheless, despite it being early days he estimates that the Swift-Cut improves the jobs they are using it for by as much as 30%.

“I wouldn’t be without it now,” he says, explaining that before to the installation they would have to outsource work, and also rely on other businesses being efficient and delivering to timeframes. “We can continually change things, tweak things, make things better, and if there are ever any problems we just pick up the phone to Machinery House. It’s allowed us in great part to control our own destiny.

“We actually end up making a little bit more money on the side because you become almost a merchant of materials, putting mark-up on the material we are buying in as well as making money on cutting the product. The local businesses that use our services have responded so well… the new plasma has such a clean finish, we’ve got people asking us for more laser cut plates, thinking we are laser cutting it.”

Business has grown through word of mouth, and the quality of the jobs that the company undertakes has meant that Auckland Sheet Metals doesn’t even need a website. The team already has enough on their plate. Ten staff do a large range of work: stainless steel to structural steel at former All Black John Kirwan’s house. Structural steel is a growth area for the business, thanks to legislation with regard to steel in housing and earthquake regulations.

The company’s premises house a four-metre guillotine (up to 8mm thick), a 135-ton, 4m press brake (also purchased from Machinery House), bandsaws, Mig and Tig welders, rollers and all the general equipment you’d expect of a good engineering workshop. However, the plasma cutter has quickly taken pride of place.

“For our size business it’s a perfect fit,” says Wight. “It’s not top of the market in terms of price and/or function, but it’s pretty bloody good and also easy for the staff to handle.”

Another staff member is kept busy fulltime draughting and quoting jobs so “we have a bit of a one-stop shop when it comes to that and our customers are dealing with one person through the process”.

“Most of the guys are trained and qualified sheet metal workers, which is pretty hard to say nowadays and that’s a feather in our cap,” says Wight.

Wight loves the engineering industry, having started work with Morris Sheet Metals in Onehunga as a 15-year-old sweeping the floor. Today, armed with the Englishman and a highly efficient staff and workshop, Auckland’s current housing crisis will do nothing but add to an increasing workload that already has him eyeing larger premises. Whether it be residential, commercial, maintenance, structural or repairs, with Auckland Sheet Metals, Wight, his team and the Englishman are a cut above the rest.