Taking challenging projects in their stride, Dalton Electrical teams specialise in industrial electrical servicing, installation, automation, industrial electronics and routine maintenance
Building a three tonne machine to soak test newly manufactured appliances was just another interesting technical challenge for Dalton Electrical, but when manager Bruce Dalton was called onto the stage to accept an excellence award from his peers in Ecanz, he realised just how far his company’s skills had grown from its industrial contracting base. Winning the NHP Industrial Automation Award for 2010 capped off a solid year in the growth of Dalton Electrical Company Ltd and confi rmed that the automation and electrical skills the company provides offer excellent value to its industrial clients and projects. While a confi dentiality agreement protects the identity of the client and the design of the portable soak tester, the new device on wheels sits within a fl oor space of four square metres and is testing up to 80 units at a time – each plugged in and monitored individually.
“The satisfaction is not just about delivering a machine from concept to completion,” says Dalton, “It’s knowing everything works as planned and every wire is in its right place.”
Start right to finish right
The NHP sponsored Industrial Automation Award presented to Bruce Dalton (right) by NHP’s Rod Edwards recognised Dalton Electrical’s winning project excellence
Making sure wires go in the right places starts with the training Dalton Electrical invests in its staff – particularly with apprentices – and it shows. For the second year in a row a Dalton Electrical apprentice took out the industrial apprentice of the year award in the annual Ecanz Challenge. As the top industrial electrical apprentice in New Zealand Daniel Berry is now confirmed as New Zealand’s representative in the World Skills event to be held in London this year. Dalton says the secret to bringing trainees on is not so much in structured training but in a sequence of workshop tasks the company sets trainees and giving them projects that extend them. “Having the right people to guide apprentices in a good team culture makes all the difference. Key guys in our team have been with us for well over ten years and one, Richard Cotton, has made an extraordinary contribution to our success and what we have achieved with automation. He joined the company when my father was running it and we’ve all learnt from Richard’s vast knowledge.” Dalton, an NZCE qualified electrician, also serves on the Ecanz training committee, the MIT industry advisory committee and had a significant role in forming the new Level 5 qualification through the ETITO.
The success of apprentice Challenge winners Cole Jackson 2009 and Daniel Berry 2010 highlight the commitment to quality training
While designing and building projects are core services offered by Dalton Electrical, the company’s strength lies in the ongoing maintenance support it provides industrial companies in the Auckland region from its Otahuhu base. “We have 36 service vehicles on the road so we are big enough to supply reliable service 24/7. But we are not too big to lose personal contact so clients are well looked after.” Wickliffe Ltd is one of many companies to benefit from this service strength. Engineering manager Iain Butler says as a large printing company Wickliffe operates many types of machines and a lot of them have been in service for a good number of years.
“When these machines are no longer supported by the overseas manufacturer we either have to replace them or keep them going and this is where Daltons have been very good. By sorting out an alternate solution such as a retrofit servo drive we have been able to get a lot more use out of equipment.” Dalton Electrical maintains an electrician on site at Wickliffe to take care of preventative maintenance and breakdowns, and to assist with the installation of new machinery. “We used to employ our own electrician but having one of Dalton’s permanently on site means backup is just a phone call away. We’re always shifting machinery around the plant and cannot risk downtime as this can cost thousands of dollars an hour,” says Butler. “Daltons make sure this doesn’t happen. The guys are good at all aspects of their work and there has never been a problem they haven’t been able to solve.” With industrial electronics, automation, installation, hazardous area and preventative maintenance personnel, Dalton Electrical covers all areas of industrial work and also builds its own panels. The company employs two automation programmers and has several staff with NZCE or higher diplomas and another five are now extending their skills on the new Level 5 course. It is this higher level of skill that really counts when the rubber hits the road, says Paul Hood of Goodyear Dunlop. “We are in a very tough and competitive market retreading truck tyres and there is plenty of opportunity to go cheaper than Daltons. But they aren’t the dearest and they do a damn good job. They get in and get it done. What it takes other contractors to do in three hours Daltons can do in one.” Dalton Electrical has been there for Goodyear Dunlop since 1972, working many late nights to keep machines going and has also rebuilt machinery for other branches in New Zealand and Australia.
Make it and automate it
The award winning appliance tester developed by Dalton Electrical simultaneously tests the performance of 80 appliances
With 46 staff Dalton Electrical has the resource to bring any number of people into a project and make a strong contribution toward design improvement and error detection. Large multi-national General Mills has gone through several corporate changes over the years and Dalton Electrical has provided solid support to the company for the last ten. When the plant moved to East Tamaki Dalton was called in to design and build the automation for a new sauce line. General Mills engineer Bill Fitzgerald says they had inherited a manual system designed in the 70’s and wanted to improve its performance. Safety was also a problem with nothing built in. Dalton Electrical designed a category 3 solution into the plant and now safety is delivered by PLC control. Fitzgerald says Dalton Electrical has a particular way of working that generates a lot of confidence in what they are doing. “We told them what we wanted and they came up with options and would explain the advantages and drawbacks of each. And if they got stuck along the way they would tell us straight up and go and find a solution. There’s nothing hidden. “We thought automating the sauce line would be a lot simpler than it was and we were glad Daltons were there to work through the issues and get it right for us. There is probably twice as much code in the program as we originally thought, but we are now making excellent sauce with all the right ingredients being delivered to the pots in the right volumes regardless of any mechanical issue or what our staff might do.”
Commissioning saves a bundle
Having good electrical and automation skills goes a long way to solving most problems for industries but where a company like Dalton Electrical can make a real contribution is where it is called on to do something quite extraordinary after having built up a fund of knowledge over many years of servicing a particular site. Dalton says manufacturers can gain so much more if they engage them to take care of their ongoing electrical maintenance. “We learn their systems and processes and develop a comprehensive understanding of their plant and what they are trying to do with it. Then when a special project comes along, we can achieve so much more and get the job done quicker.” And this is what happened at Downer’s asphalt plant when it relocated to a new site in Penrose. Production at the former site was being run by Downer’s current manager, Peter Metcalfe, an experienced materials and plant engineer. He was handed the job of running the relocation project which involved dismantling the ASTEC plant and working with ASTEC engineers from Australia who were engaged to oversee the rebuild and commission the rather complex piece of kit. Unfortunately for Downer, ASTEC picked up a couple of new plant sales they had to commission and advised Downer at the last minute they couldn’t take care of their relocation. With the plant already dismantled and the business stalled, Downer decided to go it alone. Metcalfe says he had built up a fair bit of knowledge having run the plant for a couple of years, and with TP Engineering driving the mechanical side and Dalton Electrical driving the electrical side, they forged ahead with the installation and planned the commissioning together. “It was quite an undertaking but I wasn’t only interested in getting the plant up and running again. There were some improvements I wanted to make that would boost its performance and help the business run smoother with a higher output.” Having already spent several years taking care of the old site, Dalton Electrical was able to make an immediate contribution to redesigning some of the systems. “The operating system was quite complex in how it controlled the process, but Daltons took it in their stride,” says Metcalfe. “They didn’t just take care of the controls and the wiring around the plant and into the control room, they also helped resolve some of the mechanical issues. They worked with the combustion engineer and were able to improve the burner controls and increase throughput by about 30 to 40 tonnes per hour.” Commissioning the relocated and improved plant was completed well over a month ahead of schedule and was hugely under budget from not having to meet the costs of the plant manufacturers who were to carry out the commissioning. Metcalfe rates Dalton Electrical’s performance and puts them among the top, a view apparently shared by the Ecanz Excellence Award judges. Bruce Dalton says winning awards is a welcome recognition of the company’s progress but the real reward comes from work well done. “We challenge our staff all the time and expect them to perform at a high level. Challenging projects enable them to progress and we back their initiative with additional training in new technologies to make sure our clients stay one step ahead.”