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Engineering change through changing times

By Michelle Nicol

12 November 2020

Investment in technology and skills is key to survival in the ever-changing world of business. We spoke to family-owned engineering company F.V. Evans & Sons about how it has adapted to changing markets throughout its history and how always looking in new directions will help ensure future success.
Engineering change through changing times

There’s an unmistakable note of pride as General Manager, Peter Evans spoke of his company’s history. This family-owned design and build engineering company, based in Upper Hutt, New Zealand, was started by his grandfather, father, and uncle after the Second World War. Over the years, the business has gone from blacksmithing to mechanical engineering, making jigs for vehicle manufacturers, to today, manufacturing specialised equipment for the expanding recycling industry.

Using a skilled workforce, some of whom have over 20 years’ experience, F.V. Evans & Sons take on projects large and small and have built foot bridges, locomotive inspection platforms, logging equipment, radial saws and more, which are used around the world.

Technology for changing times

Peter explains how the company has always looked to the future and invested in technology to meet the changing demands of the engineering industry. “We were one of the first to have computerised machines in our workshop, way back in the 80s. It seemed like a lot of money at the time, but we did it and we haven’t looked back. When economic policies meant that we needed to look beyond vehicle jigs to other work, we got into the business of making industrial shredders. Now we do a lot of CAD work for our drawings, so technology is always changing.”

With New Zealand’s relatively low labour and material costs, companies across the world turn to F.V. Evans & Sons for engineering skills and expertise at a competitive price. You’ll find one of their shredders working in a flower farm in Kenya where it helps recycle old rose stems, bushes and roots into compost for the next generation in the plant’s lifecycle. They are currently working on a huge wash down tank for New Zealand’s rail company which will clean locomotives and recycle the water used.

Software for a modern business

Managing high-quality engineering projects in today’s technology-focused economy has also meant investing in business software. F.V. Evans & Sons uses TidyWork to keep track of engineering projects and links it to Xero for invoicing.

“It helps us keep an eye on materials and labour costs, mark-up and things like that and then we invoice through Xero, so that’s a really good feature, that saves a lot of double handling.”

Peter explains: “It can take 6 weeks to build one of our Eva-Shred shredders. They’re made to order, with every one slightly different, with different cutters, hoppers, stands, blades and so on, so we don’t hold lots of stock. TidyWork is our project management tool. We use it mainly for billing and time management. It helps us keep an eye on materials and labour costs, mark-up and things like that and then we invoice through Xero, so that’s a really good feature, that saves a lot of double handling.”

From lockdown to pick up

Peter says Coronavirus has made international business more challenging: “Covid-19 has made freight more difficult. It’s a lot more expensive now to send our shredders overseas, the cost has effectively doubled in the last 6 months and we’ve had to airfreight some projects. We’ve also had delays in getting supplies of raw materials too.”

When the New Zealand government imposed a country-wide lockdown to tackle Covid-19, F.V. Evans & Sons was shut down for 4 weeks. Peter smiles wryly as he says: “We’re a mechanical engineering company, we can’t work from home! It was hard then, but after that, things started picking up. We had a short sharp shock and then were able to get back into it.

The benefit of cloud-based software

Although most of F.V. Evans & Sons’ engineering work is based in their workshop, they do benefit from using cloud-based software to manage projects and billing. Peter explains: “Before we started using TidyWork and Xero, we used a software program to help us keep track of costs, but that soon got old, so we wanted something more modern and user friendly. With a cloud-based system, you always have access to the latest version. And it’s handy to have a quick look at what’s going on if you’re travelling overseas.”

Peter also points to TidyWork’s flexibility and local New Zealand based support as a factor in choosing it as the software that helps him manage his engineering business. “There’s not many decent software programs out there that serve our market,” he says, “so Tidy’s quite unique. We got a couple of extra reports to get the information we needed, in the form we needed. We’re just happy because it’s easy to use, and it gives us the information we want, but it’s great to have local support if you need it. They’re very quick to get back to you.”

Always looking in new directions

Peter continues to be optimistic about the future and says his business plans haven’t changed. F.V. Evans & Sons regularly add to their pool of skills and experience by taking on apprentices to learn mechanical engineering and they will have one more starting next year.

As a family-owned engineering business for more than 60 years, F.V. Evans & Sons has gone from making machines that help make things, to creating machines that break things down to help ensure a greener future. As Peter explains, shredding is often the first stage in recycling and reducing waste that goes into landfill. Their Eva-Shred shredders eat through anything from tyres to computer waste, offering added security to the destruction of hard drives, cell phones and confidential data.

With engineers currently working on a new machine that will shred and sterilise medical waste, F.V. Evans & Sons continues to look in new directions. By investing in innovative products, and training people in engineering skills, this is one company that ensures it is well equipped for the future, whatever challenges the world faces.

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Author

Michelle Nicol

Michelle is a copywriter, trainer and brand storyteller who helps businesses tell their story through words that attract attention. A former BBC journalist, she loves nosing out
a great story and sharing her writing expertise through training and workshops.