Employers and Manufacturers Association (EMA) Northern - Hunter Filling Systems

Hunter Filling Systems

19 Sep 2020
Engineering company never says ‘never’

Custom machinery manufacturer Hunter Filling Systems celebrates two major milestones next month.


It moves into its first purpose-built premises and celebrates 50 years in business.


Managing director Niall Fuller co-owns the company with engineering manager Neil McConnell.

They have 15 staff including three apprentices at various stages of training.


Hunter Filling Systems is doing well in export as well as domestic sales, with each market segment usually contributing about equally to the business; but lately export orders have been higher, and mostly from the USA, Australia and South East Asia.


For example, for one Mexican client Hunter is making a two by six-double-head filling machine that will fill and seal double-pocket snack packs with chili flavoured toffee mix in one pocket and a gum ball in the other.


Hunter Filling Systems has filling machines on the floor in various stages of completion to containerise products as diverse as a liqueur, an Indian fruit drink, an alcoholic mix, agricultural fertilizer, household chemicals, meat pie fillings, honey, marinades and an automotive panel filler (bog).


Mr Fuller says the increased export work is a result of attending trade shows and also picking up leads from big multi nationals. Hunter customers have included Wrigley, Mars, 3M, Golden State Foods, Fonterra, Heinz-Watties and Cerebos.


“These companies choose us because we have been in the industry for 50 years, exporting for 30 to 40 years; and due to our perseverance and the local knowledge of our representation [in those markets] we get our foot in the door compared with the competition.


“Also we tailor make machines. The Mexican company came to us because American companies told them ‘take or leave our standard machine’, and we could tailor make for them.


“There is more risk on our part but we have been around, and know what we can and can’t do. We design and build the machine but sometimes a machine might be a variation on others we have made.”


Hunter Filling Systems also recently made a machine to fill ice cube trays with a brine shrimp to be sold as frozen fish food for consumers’ tropical fish tanks – a job that other companies wouldn’t touch because it was too hard.


“We get the curly ones, but they can be financially rewarding. And we like to think outside the square and never say ‘never’. It keeps us interested and excited,” Fuller says.


Hunter Filling Systems is also a compelling environment for apprentices, he believes, with its variety of engineering disciplines including welding, fitting and turning. When the newest apprentice has done one year, a new apprentice is taken on.


During the GFC slowdown the company built up stock levels of partially built machines to enable it to deliver orders quickly when conditions picked up and to retain staff. No redundancies were necessary.


Mr Fuller says it helps a lot to be out and seen at trade shows. “You really have to travel to get business. You can’t do it all by phone; you have to be shaking hands and looking people in the eye to give them confidence to go with your company.”


It has all paid off.


Mr Fuller says next month’s move into new premises will be the company’s third and all have been within a radius of 1km.


“Te Rapa [here] is handy to everything. We need the space and we need something purpose built to suit the flow of work,” he says.


The building will be 1.5 times bigger than present and is designed with room to grow.


Planning the building meant taking into account new eco-friendly features, the efficiency of lighting and heating systems and communications technology.


For the first time Hunter Filling Systems will have high speed fibre, which will enhance video conferencing with international agents and being able to show products.



Thanks from EMA


Hunter Filling Systems has been a member of EMA since starting up and Niall Fuller has generously offered support to business in the region as a member of the EMA Waikato executive committee for eight years.


He says EMA has helped his business grow, through networking opportunities at breakfasts and after fives where he has met other business owners and talked about ‘how they did it’ and their products; gained leads and jobs. And he values EMA’s help with staff issues and advocating for the interests of small to medium enterprises and international trade. 

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