We said goodbye to Expressions in Upper Hutt, and then Ashley took our SLG group to find out all about fire engines. Unbeknown to most of our group, these are manufactured at Fraser Engineering in Lower Hutt.
Fire Engine for NZ Fire Service
General Manager Martin Simpson took time out of his busy day to show our group around the factory, and explain the process to us. We donned our High Viz jackets and off we went. It all starts in the offices, where clever IT people draw up the plans for the hundreds if not thousands of components, and 3D modelling takes place. Over we went to the factory to see the sheet metal cut into the various shapes required. The mighty Turrent Punch was put through it’s paces as it speedily punched out metal pieces.
The factory was filled with workers and machines going about their business, churning out all sorts of pieces of metal, such as the huge laser cutter making short work of dealing with sheets of 4mm steel. Metal components are put through the powder coating process, if specified. A short walk across the road took us to where all these pieces are assembled to make those huge red fire engines. Not just red, we were told, they are made with white or yellow paint jobs too.
The plant already manufactures about 90 per cent of the New Zealand Fire Service fleet as well as trucks for Australia, Pacific Islands, Fiji, Cook Islands, New Guinea and Asia. About 150 fire engines are designed and manufactured [excluding the truck deck] each year and the business was aiming to up production to about 200 in the next 12 months. The Australian Rural Fire trucks have special safety features to protect the crew from the dangers of flash-overs which can happen in the huge bush fires which often burn out of control.
It was a very interesting factory tour and we appreciated the chance to learn a little about the manufacturing process. As it happens, two of our group could claim a connection with the New Zealand Fire Service. One had been a volunteer fireman years ago, and Robin was a Contracts Manager buying Fire Service protective clothing and uniforms in an earlier life.