Company expands on marine heritage
Originally founded to repair and maintain coastal cement ships and various other local and foreign vessels, its owners quickly realised that the complementary staff skill sets could bridge other heavy industries that used the same kinds of plant and machinery typically seen on ships.
Operations Manager and company director, Gareth Sleeman says there was also an element of risk management involved in the strategy.
“To maintain the skill sets, keep training people and keep employing people, the original founders had to broaden their horizons. They could’ve kept working on ships but it would’ve been a dying trade. So they branched out, servicing and repairing boilers, presses, silos, heavy transport equipment, bulk storage units and product delivery systems.”
Wood & Thompson Engineering is now owned and operated by Willie Pellet, Gareth and his brother Paul.
With 37 years experience, Willie is one of the original founders of the business. Joining the business upon completion of his apprenticeship, he still dons the overalls on a daily basis.
Gareth has worked in all strands of the industry and having worked extensively in New Zealand and abroad brings a wealth of practical experience to the business especially in respect to structural steel, heavy plate and sheet metal.
Employing a total team of 16, the ﬁrm’s skill sets include machinists, welder fabricators, pressure vessel welders, marine ﬁtters and skilled labourers. “Collectively we have a lot of experience,” says Gareth.
“All our guys have a plethora of knowledge and experience. My brother has been involved in the structural steel industry for 15 years, having served his apprenticeship with East Coast Steelwork.”
While Wood & Thompson Engineering has branched out, it remains one of three companies left in Christchurch specialising in marine work. “We do a lot of one-off bespoke work,” explains Gareth.
“So you go onto a ship and ﬁnd a part that cannot be bought anymore, they don’t make them and the skills to fabricate those parts have all but gone now – but the ship owners need the vessel working by the weekend. That is where we come in and excel; we have the people and skills to manufacture those one-off bespoke parts in a way that they will work.”
Recently, Wood & Thompson took another major step in its journey by purchasing land and commissioning speciﬁcally designed and built premises with a fully operational machining workshop, ﬁtting breakdown area and steel fabrication workshop.
The new workshop and yard has provided the opportunity to accept larger contracts than the company was previously able to do.
The operation now includes a 5-tonne gantry crane, covered fabrication welding area of over 500sqm, specifically, designed machine shop and over 1000sqm of storage yard.
“As a result, along with our existing services we’re now able to offer a mobile line boring service, pressure vessel welding and with my brother Paul coming on board we also offer structural steel fabrication and installation.”
True to its roots, the company has a long-standing relationship with Lafarge Holcim Australasia as the preferred engineering company for repairs and maintenance for their land and sea cement delivery systems.
When Lafarge Holcim bought a new vessel in Singapore Wood & Thomson carried out immediate repairs for the trip to New Zealand, then spent the best part of a year undertaking major work in the engine and cargo rooms before the vessel was commissioned last year.
“We do such a broad range of work – like we do everything,” says Gareth. “We have the right people for the job and solve our customers problems.”
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