McCann-do

'We do not use conventional methods'.

'We do not use conventional methods'.

‘OUTSIDE THE SQUARE': Robbie McCann says he’s always looking out for new things.

MCCANN'ICS Waikanae Holdings (Gis) Ltd has grown a lot since founder Robbie McCann was a lone operator fixing tractors and farm machines at Manutuke in the early 1980s.

These days McCann employs a team of 58, has trained numerous apprentices and has expanded the business to include construction (notably earthquake strengthening following the 2007 Gisborne earthquake), engineering, fabrication and machining, manufacturing, sheet metal fabrication, design and drafting, mobile plant equipment and hydraulics.

The earthquake strengthening side of the business is an interesting one. McCann’ics have developed their own specialised methods that do not affect the aesthetics of a building — placing strengthening beams and bracing inside walls instead of through window spaces.

“We have certainly grown over the last 20- odd years,” says McCann.

A team of five engineers now design strengthening elements for McCann’ics, specialising in historic buildings.

“We are the most outside-the-square thinking company for strengthening — we do not use conventional methods.”

One recent creative solution has been to convert an elevator shaft that needed replacing on a recent project, to serve a dual purpose as central earthquake reinforcement too.

The team have just accepted their first out-of-town job in Wellington, scheduled to start this month.

“We will do all of the fabrication here, then take a team to Wellington, as well as hire local people there. We have done a lot of buildings on Gisborne’s main street — the Albert building, Cotton On, Factory, Hallenstein Brothers, New Zealand Post, AMI, Co-Op Bank, Kiwibank and Grant Bros. We have a high ratio of earthquake-strengthened buildings here in Gisborne — a lot have been done now.”

New things

McCann says he is always looking out for new things.

“We do fibre packaging to the United States and the Philippines for example. We are always ready to get involved with what is new and always looking for the latest thing and the latest equipment, like the purchase of the CNC Press Break this year.

“We also have a CNC Machining Centre which can mass-produce a range of products including hydraulic fittings, or even car tow balls.”

The CNC can manufacture a tow ball in just 40 seconds.

“We can sell them cheaper than anyone else. A lot of the time if we do not have a part, we can just make it.”

The business is also the region’s only Polaris franchisee as of last Christmas.

“There was no one here doing servicing so we contacted them and said we were interested.”

Last month alone McCann’ics sold 15 Polaris vehicles.

The new may be “in” but it is certainly not a case of “out with the old”. As with any trade- based business, training apprentices is a tried and true tradition, something McCann’ics is no stranger to. McCann says there are some issues when it comes to trade industry apprenticeships and there have been hiccups over the years.

“There is no national standard for apprentices. Every company that employs apprentices has a different standard. It is not right — we need a national exam.

“We have spent a long time advocating for a national exam as it would allow all tradesmen to be on an equal footing.”

Lack of national standard

McCann says the lack of an acknowledged national standard is affecting business nationally and locally.

“It is causing companies like ourselves to bring immigrants in, because local people are not trained properly and when we hire them, they are not up to par.”

Under current trades, an apprentice’s work has to be signed off by a foreman, so the standard of the work regarded as passable is up to a myriad of individuals.

“We had one foreman a long time ago who took a dozen beers from an apprentice and signed him off. He no longer works here.”

Another trend that can happen with trades in small towns is apprentices leaving for greener — or rather larger — pastures in bigger centres, as soon as they are qualified.

Trades are not typically free for apprentices, with the cost of block courses and training generally covered by the apprentice.

McCann’ics however covers the cost of gaining a trade for their apprentices under a two-year contract policy, whereby apprentices must stay and work for two years once qualified. If they wish to leave before the two-year mark they must pay back the cost owing of their trade, which is usually around $14,000 in fees.

“We do not train apprentices to work for someone else — we train them to work for us. We see it as an incentive for them to stay. We pay for everything so they have no debt and we write the cost off if they stay for two years. That way we get the benefit of their skills for that time.”

McCann’ics has witnessed the changing landscape of the city since the turn of the century, experiencing both the rewards and the fallouts.

After moving from Manutuke to town in 1990, the business acquired contracts for Watties and the meatworks. This forced a cut-down to just 14 staff in 1997 when those businesses closed or moved out of town.

“That was really, really hard,” says McCann.

But much like the properties they repair and strengthen, they rebuilt — and if their track record over the past 26 years is anything to go by, McCann’ics will be around for many years to come.

MCCANN'ICS Waikanae Holdings (Gis) Ltd has grown a lot since founder Robbie McCann was a lone operator fixing tractors and farm machines at Manutuke in the early 1980s.

These days McCann employs a team of 58, has trained numerous apprentices and has expanded the business to include construction (notably earthquake strengthening following the 2007 Gisborne earthquake), engineering, fabrication and machining, manufacturing, sheet metal fabrication, design and drafting, mobile plant equipment and hydraulics.

The earthquake strengthening side of the business is an interesting one. McCann’ics have developed their own specialised methods that do not affect the aesthetics of a building — placing strengthening beams and bracing inside walls instead of through window spaces.

“We have certainly grown over the last 20- odd years,” says McCann.

A team of five engineers now design strengthening elements for McCann’ics, specialising in historic buildings.

“We are the most outside-the-square thinking company for strengthening — we do not use conventional methods.”

One recent creative solution has been to convert an elevator shaft that needed replacing on a recent project, to serve a dual purpose as central earthquake reinforcement too.

The team have just accepted their first out-of-town job in Wellington, scheduled to start this month.

“We will do all of the fabrication here, then take a team to Wellington, as well as hire local people there. We have done a lot of buildings on Gisborne’s main street — the Albert building, Cotton On, Factory, Hallenstein Brothers, New Zealand Post, AMI, Co-Op Bank, Kiwibank and Grant Bros. We have a high ratio of earthquake-strengthened buildings here in Gisborne — a lot have been done now.”

New things

McCann says he is always looking out for new things.

“We do fibre packaging to the United States and the Philippines for example. We are always ready to get involved with what is new and always looking for the latest thing and the latest equipment, like the purchase of the CNC Press Break this year.

“We also have a CNC Machining Centre which can mass-produce a range of products including hydraulic fittings, or even car tow balls.”

The CNC can manufacture a tow ball in just 40 seconds.

“We can sell them cheaper than anyone else. A lot of the time if we do not have a part, we can just make it.”

The business is also the region’s only Polaris franchisee as of last Christmas.

“There was no one here doing servicing so we contacted them and said we were interested.”

Last month alone McCann’ics sold 15 Polaris vehicles.

The new may be “in” but it is certainly not a case of “out with the old”. As with any trade- based business, training apprentices is a tried and true tradition, something McCann’ics is no stranger to. McCann says there are some issues when it comes to trade industry apprenticeships and there have been hiccups over the years.

“There is no national standard for apprentices. Every company that employs apprentices has a different standard. It is not right — we need a national exam.

“We have spent a long time advocating for a national exam as it would allow all tradesmen to be on an equal footing.”

Lack of national standard

McCann says the lack of an acknowledged national standard is affecting business nationally and locally.

“It is causing companies like ourselves to bring immigrants in, because local people are not trained properly and when we hire them, they are not up to par.”

Under current trades, an apprentice’s work has to be signed off by a foreman, so the standard of the work regarded as passable is up to a myriad of individuals.

“We had one foreman a long time ago who took a dozen beers from an apprentice and signed him off. He no longer works here.”

Another trend that can happen with trades in small towns is apprentices leaving for greener — or rather larger — pastures in bigger centres, as soon as they are qualified.

Trades are not typically free for apprentices, with the cost of block courses and training generally covered by the apprentice.

McCann’ics however covers the cost of gaining a trade for their apprentices under a two-year contract policy, whereby apprentices must stay and work for two years once qualified. If they wish to leave before the two-year mark they must pay back the cost owing of their trade, which is usually around $14,000 in fees.

“We do not train apprentices to work for someone else — we train them to work for us. We see it as an incentive for them to stay. We pay for everything so they have no debt and we write the cost off if they stay for two years. That way we get the benefit of their skills for that time.”

McCann’ics has witnessed the changing landscape of the city since the turn of the century, experiencing both the rewards and the fallouts.

After moving from Manutuke to town in 1990, the business acquired contracts for Watties and the meatworks. This forced a cut-down to just 14 staff in 1997 when those businesses closed or moved out of town.

“That was really, really hard,” says McCann.

But much like the properties they repair and strengthen, they rebuilt — and if their track record over the past 26 years is anything to go by, McCann’ics will be around for many years to come.

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mark styler - 7 months ago
Good on ya Robbie, I loved my time working for you. It is true you trained up many people and gave many immigrants a start. Such a varied skill base. What many people don't realise is the amount of special-purpose machinary you guys have designed and exported worldwide.

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