7 May 2015

Award winning company engineering for the future

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Four years ago New Zealand’s leading design, engineering and manufacturing business merged its operations and renamed itself as Milmeq.

Ever since, Milmeq has been scooping up national excellence, innovation and business awards, including Supreme Business Excellence winner at the recent Westpac Auckland Business Awards Best of the Best, helping realise the company’s vision to become a world leading contracting supplier to the primary food processing industry.

Chief Executive Officer Mike Lightfoot said the run of awards is recognition of the company’s world-class quality innovation and attributes the ongoing success to his 130 plus staff.

“Our awards are a reflection of the innovative Milmeq team. We have always had the ethos that it is people that make the business, and it’s our people’s solution-focused, can-do approach that leads to this success, my job is just to steer the ship,” he said.

As a contracting supplier to the primary food processing industry, Milmeq delivers specialist capital plant equipment for the production of meat, poultry, dairy, seafood and horticulture. The majority of the Milmeq team are based at their large manufacturing site in Dunedin, while business operations run from offices in Auckland and Brisbane.

“From our senior staff to our new training graduates, our employees have a wide range of disciplines, skills and competencies – but we all share common values and the same goal to develop and design the best solutions for our clients.”

The company’s strong people-focused philosophy dates all the way back to 1952 in Auckland when the company was formed under the name Refrigeration Engineering by William Goodfellow.

At the time there was an increasing need for refrigeration engineering to assist primary produce markets in making their products available around the world. Mr Goodfellow had contemplated entering the refrigeration industry for some time, but held off as he did not have the right person to run such a business. When he heard UK company Lightfoot Refrigeration’s top overseas agent William Engle was immigrating to New Zealand, he met him at the port and eventually gave him the mandate to create a refrigeration business.

Sixty-three years on, the company’s dedicated and innovative people have pioneered a number of new technologies, many of which have become industry standards.

Their early engineering solutions included the design and manufacture of evaporators for blast freezing of meat. Then in the 1970s and 1980s the company led the New Zealand sheep industry’s change from the conventional to the inverted system. Today the more efficient inverted system, where lambs are proceeded upside down rather than being hung, is recognised worldwide for its superior food hygiene, reduced contamination and reductions in hard manual labour.

Going from strength to strength, the company soon offered a range of services from industrial refrigeration and mechanical systems to wholesale for components of commercial refrigeration and air conditioning.

In the 1990s a unique engineering skill set for the design of robust processing systems for sheep and cattle was added and in the mid-1990s the company’s most well-known innovation, large plate freezing technology, was developed in its newly established Brisbane based operation. The plate freezing technology is still used across the international meat and dairy industry to fast freeze cartons, resulting in superior quality and extended shelf life of exported products. More recently, an improved carton retrieval system has been added to achieve energy savings and even faster freezing times.

Milmeq’s chilling and freezing retention tunnels were also the first of their kind and are now a global standard, while its recently developed robotic Milmeq Fully Automated Storage Transfer (MFAST) system is achieving labour savings in materials handling for manufacturing businesses.

Mr Lightfoot has seen many changes over the years and says the company remains well aware of the challenges its clients face in the ever-changing primary food markets.

“Our people engineer for the future. We aim to future proof systems for our clients to provide flexibility and equip them for the constantly changing landscape of food processing.”

He is more confident than ever in his people and believes Milmeq will continue to lead the way in food processing engineering, with a focus on ensuring a robust platform for future generations of processors and consumers.

“Throughout our long history we have had steady growth because we have continued to look outward, diversifying our service offering and expanding our markets, but most of all we have invested in our people and that’s what makes a difference,” Mr Lightfoot said.

Milmeq’s awards

  • 2015: Winner, Excellence in Innovation, New Zealand International Business Awards
  • 2015: Finalist, Excellence in Design, New Zealand International Business Awards
  • 2014: Winner, Supreme Business Excellence, Westpac Auckland Business Awards: Best of the Best
  • 2014: Winner, Excellence in Exporting, Westpac Auckland Business Awards: Best of the Best
  • 2014: Finalist, New Zealand Innovators Awards
  • 2014: Winner, Supreme Business Excellence, Westpac Auckland Business Awards: South
  • 2014: Winner, Excellence in Exporting, Westpac Auckland Business Awards: South
  • 2014: Finalist, Excellence in Innovation, Westpac Auckland Business Awards: South
  • 2011: Winner, Mechanical & Manufacturing, New Zealand Engineering Excellence Awards