A ranking in the top 5 per cent of the world tells only part of the story of Nautech, a successful Auckland company delivering high-quality electronic solutions around the world.
Nautech was the brainchild of Andrew Turner. He started with cell phones, car alarms and stereos, before moving into manufacturing emergency vehicle equipment, emergency vehicle installation and contract electronic design and manufacturing. Now, the company focuses on delivering specialist electronic products to international markets.
“It’s all down to Andrew’s genius. He invested in the right technology and got it right every time. He was always at the edge of what was happening and stayed ahead of the pack,” says CEO Laurie Kubiak (right).
That approach has served the company well, putting them in that top ranking among international advanced manufacturers. “Nautech has invested in technology – everything from advanced manufacturing equipment to systems integration, automation to robotics. For example, in 2021, we upgraded our automated optical inspection machines to the latest machines that deliver a 3D view of the product, inspecting every component and solder joint whilst reducing the need for human intervention.”
Nautech also runs traceability software that it developed itself. “It’s the same as tracing your food products from farm to table. At every step, we know who did what and when but more importantly which batch of components were used on which product. The traceability gives us so much more control, particularly when it comes to quality. We can inspect every product throughout the production process rather than at the end.
“It’s initiatives like that that put us ahead of the rest of the field,” says Kubiak.
Nautech works across the product process, from design and development through to manufacturing and testing. They deliver rapid prototyping, and production runs ranging from very low volumes to many thousands of units. Their specialist equipment allows them to place components as small as 0.6 x 0.3 mm very accurately. That’s the size of a grain of salt.
Around 96 per cent of their output is exported, mainly to the US, but also to Europe and Australia. The focus on relatively low volumes of high mix and specialist products means Nautech does more than 260 individual production runs per month.
“We get to do lots of different things for different clients. We’re not mass market; we specialise in sectors such as automative, marine, aeronautical and aerospace industries: sectors which need reliable quality products.”
While Kubiak is confident of the future of the company, the supply chain problems of the last two years have been very challenging.
“The biggest impact was on lead times on components – they’ve blown out. Where we used to wait 12 to 16 weeks, at it's worst in 2022 it was well over 52 weeks.”
That wait has caused a flow-on effect. “We’ve been forced into buying on the secondary market where prices are higher. We’ve more than tripled our stock holding to ensure we’ve got the parts we need. That means we’ve had to fund those purchases earlier and hold them for much longer than in the past. We’ve extended our stores capability and added two additional intelligent storage machines that and automate pick-and-return of parts.”
Orders in 2022 were more than 40 per cent higher than 2021, but Kubiak says that growth is organic rather than post-COVID catch-up. Nautech has recently made an acquisition which will ensure this growth continues and accelerates in 2023 and the company has increased capacity and automation to meet demand.