Das ist gut!

Roger Martin*, from Martin Roofing, recalls a memorable trip to this year’s Dach+Holz Trade Fair Exhibition in Stuttgart, Germany.

Firstly, a massive thanks to Stef from the Fribesco team for her meticulous planning, and to Martin Beskid from Fribesco, Nelson, for his skill as a tour guide. Martin’s knowledge of the industry and of the region we visited made the tour a great success. He, along with Dave Strudwick and Richie McNeilly from About Roofing Wanaka, Matt (Dingo) from Slick Roofing, Sydney, and myself from Napier made up the rest of the group.  Our first flight got us into San Francisco for a few hours, where we met up with a friend of Martin’s and got a quick tour of the San Fran area, finishing with a top seafood meal and a few ales before jumping on our second flight to Zurich.   Naturally, Martin gave us a relaxing first day in Zurich (yeah right). After an introduction to some of his family, friends and in-laws, who picked us up at the airport, we were off to an ice hockey game, Lions vs Davos, and of course with Kiwi support the correct team won. Although we were only four Kiwis among 25-30,000 others, I believe we made the difference between a win and a lose – a great experience and very social after the match.  The next day was a rest day and we did a  bit of sightseeing before heading off the exhibition the following day. We were supposed to travel around in a van, but due to our number, Martin arranged a Cadillac SUV, which was just the right size thanks to Dave who was our official vehicle stacker.  The first day at the exhibition was like being a kid in a candy store for me – acres of plant 
machinery and tools, from small hand tools to a combination folder with a slitter, which had a multi-coil stacker behind it that allowed you to dial in any coil required and it took it to the slitter. You then dialled-in the information into the slitter, which not only slit as required, but printed out a barcode that was then read by the folder, and folded automatically. This included tapered cuts and tapered flashings. I almost ordered one, but it was about 700,000 Euros ($1.25m) more than I wanted to pay! It certainly wasn’t hard to fill up three full days at the exhibition, but other than the advances in design of plant and equipment, I can say that we are not far behind overseas with what we achieve in NZ – it’s just the scale in other countries that is hard to comprehend.  The rest of our trip was taken up traveling around Germany, Switzerland and Austria, taking in the sights and visiting a large number of factories that had products at the exhibition.  The reception and openness we received from the companies was incredible – it was like no one had visited their factories before and they couldn’t do enough for us, from showing us everything they do, including financial information, and then taking us out and entertaining us all night. Two things stood out for me during our tour of manufacturing plants. The first was apparent lack of health and safety requirements:
 •  No induction prior to going into manufacturing areas

•  No sign in procedures

•  No Hi-Vis

•  No designated areas for pedestrians within the factories

On asking how many hours were lost for injuries and accidents, they could not recall the last time a staff member was injured from a workforce of 65. Most of the staff were sole operators on their workstations, so they were responsible for their own wellbeing. The second was their training of apprentices and the involvement of schools during the training. During their first year of training, pupils spend one day per week with the company and four days at school studying courses that assist their apprenticeship. The second year is three days with the company and two at school. The third year is full time with the company. For the first three years apprentices work in a training room with about six others in different stages of their apprenticeship, along with a training manager, and they do not go into the main workshop although they are making components for the company. It’s only during the fourth and final year they enter the workshop. I appreciate this would not work for the roof-fixing industry, but I believe the assistance of schools is required in pointing people towards the trades. I believe schools should reinstate woodworking and metal working courses, and to introduce students to modern apprenticeships. There is a partnership between the Hastings Boys High School and a large local engineering company doing things very similar to the European model and I am following this up with the company and  the school. We had a few fun deviations during the trip. One was a tour around Munich on Lime Scooters, during a break in the weather. These scooters allowed us to cover a large area around the city in a short time, with only one small mishap when Dingo lost control after it started raining again. No majors, more a dent in his pride than anything else. 
The second was overnight stay in an ice hotel, several thousand feet up a mountain, sleeping on a block of ice covered in deerskins. An experience everyone should have… once. The lounge, dining room and bar were carved out of ice, and our rooms were igloos, about four-metres in diameter. We arrived in white-out conditions, with almost zero visibility, and woke up to a perfect day, where we could see what looked like every mountain in a 200km radius.  There were many more items worthy of mention, but they will have to wait for another time. Again, thanks to the fellow team members, Martin and Stefanie for the experience and who made the tour such a success. If you ever plan another tour, let me know, I will be one of the first to enlist.  

*Roger Martin is a RANZ Life Member – see RANZ Historical Register and Honours Book.