Metal Art manufactures success through Covid

The Lower Hutt manufacturer teamed up with their partner company Powder Coating Services to provide a local solution for an increased demand in hand sanitiser stands

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The manufacturing sector is likely to have a big impact on post-Covid economies and co-owned Lower Hutt companies Metal Art and Powder Coating Services are constantly looking at ways to offer more New Zealand made products to the market.

The family-owned Metal Art manufacturing company has been around for 30 years, passed onto owner Carl Longstaff from his father George. Powder Coating Services was created two years later and the businesses have been growing alongside each other ever since.

It's likely most New Zealanders have come across a Metal Art/Powder Coating Services product in their day-to-day life. They specialise in interior and exterior furniture, but also make products including council rubbish bins, stylised metal frameworks used for plant walls in corporate offices, Lotto bins for discarded tickets or recycled plastic benches and signage in many local council areas across New Zealand, all from their Seaview workshop.

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WellingtonNZ are really easy to work with.

Carl Longstaff

Funding to secure future work

Working with a WellingtonNZ business advisor, Metal Art and Powder Coating Services both qualified for Covid-19 Business Advisory Funding as well as the Tourism Transitions Funding. Because many of their contracts rely on local councils around the country, some work was pared back because of councils tightening their budgets due to a lack of visitor revenue, among other funding sources.

They’ve decided to use it across multiple areas of the businesses, to get the best advice to move forward and grow successfully, looking at HR assistance, upgrading their IT security and system management and financial planning advice.

“As we expanded our HR practices we haven’t kept up with that growth, so we want to make sure that's a good process for our employees,” Carl says.

“With financial planning advice, there are likely to be holes caused by Covid where there is less work coming through from the construction sector and councils, and we want to be prepared for that.”

The benefit of being Wellington-made

Earlier in 2020, Carl caught wind that Initial Hygiene Wellington was looking at a six-month delay on its hand sanitiser stands from its former supplier in the UK. After a few discussions, they worked out that Metal Art could do the work better, cheaper, and quicker.

“These units were going into hospitals and government buildings which means they’re going to have hundreds of people using them a day. They can’t be rickety.”

They’ve now sold over 2000 units. Metal Art and Powder Coating Services also worked together to mix an antimicrobial coating which means that the stands kill off germs on their surface within 15 minutes.

“You’ve got to diversify as much as you can to serve demand,” Carl says.

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Wellington’s manufacturing securing jobs for the future   

The family-owned business has been run out of Lower Hutt for 30 years and has many long serving staff members. Carl says there are a number who have been there between 15 and 25 years. They currently employ 16 staff but have also made room to take on apprentices through the Youth Inspire and Gateway programmes.

This year, Carl says they also have their first ever intern in the front office.

“Usually we get kids coming through here wanting to learn engineering, but we now have a young person who wants to look at the marketing side of the business, which is great.”

Powder Coating Services began with just two staff, one full-time and one part-time. They now employ 16.

Their steady growth over the decades is about diversifying their product, Carl says.

“Wellington is well-placed as a manufacturing region – as the bigger companies have gone away, smaller ones have popped up in their place and these smaller companies have either a niche market or they’re diverse in their core business.”

Pre-Covid, they had a three-year expansion plan to bring in more automated systems through Powder Coating Services Ltd which is still in the pipeline but will need to be reviewed because of the potential slowdown in construction project timelines, he says.

Wellington is well-placed as a manufacturing region

Carl Longstaff

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