BUSINESS PROFILE - Not just pretty things

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Since 2005, Patchell Stainless has built a reputation as a one-stop-shop for high quality, custom-built tankers. It’s the very reason why its customers keep coming back.

A household name in Kiwi trucking circles since 1972, the Patchell Group needs no introduction. Over the years, Patchell has grown to include four individual but interlinked entities (Patchell Industries, Patchell Stainless, Patchell Repairs & Maintenance, and Swinglift). Together, these companies allow the group to meet the needs of its logging, tanker and container transport clients. The Patchell Stainless division was added in 2005 when the group bought Simmons Engineering. “We’re pretty much a custom-build shop, not a production line; we build anything that comes in, to spec,” explains Stainless manager Wayne Gardner. The division currently accounts for about 10% of the 200-odd units Patchell puts on the road annually.

Wine, milk, molasses, oil, juice, DG (in conjunction with Tanker Solutions), water, demountables… all are built to the highest level of quality control with 304L or 316-grade stainless steel. “We have one supplier of stainless steel in Auckland; we don’t buy from all over the place. That means we can keep control and that’s a big advantage to us. If anything is wrong, we can go back to that supplier and figure it out. We have a strict quality regime on how we build – everything’s documented,” Gardner says. Added to this are in-house paint shops, electrical and brake specialists, and finishing bays – complications are reduced, and efficiency increased. The process starts off with finding out what the customer wants to cart and what truck/tractor unit they’ll use, before the CAD boffins at Patchell Industries work out the spec of the build. Patchell Industries then gets to work designing and building the chassis while Patchell Stainless works on the tanks. Chassis and other smaller components such as drawbar assemblies are welded by Patchell Industries’ six plasma welding robots. Stainless has one robot to do the tank seams.

This has reduced a 2.5-hour job (per seam) to just four minutes, at the same time freeing up one of the two people needed to do the job, making less noise and requiring fewer consumables. When it comes to innovation, the aspect that’s changed the most over the years is the tank volumes – but Patchell prefers not to reinvent the wheel, instead playing to its strengths and giving customers what they want. “A lot of our innovation has come from customers, who help us understand what makes the job easier for the driver. When something works, it gets passed onto other designs,” says Glenn Heybourn, sales and marketing manager. “There are people doing tanks with no chassis under them; that’s not something we believe we should do. Others are trying to innovate with less tare weight, but when you cut tare weight, it creates the opportunity for cracking and other problems. We’re lucky that our tankers are based on logging gear trialled and proven in the bush. We’re not the lightest tanker on the road – pretty close – but we also have strength and durability,” Gardner says.