Business profile: Edridge Contractors

By: The Ed


Business profile: Edridge Contractors Business profile: Edridge Contractors
Business profile: Edridge Contractors Malcolm (left) and Mike Business profile: Edridge Contractors
Business profile: Edridge Contractors Business profile: Edridge Contractors
Business profile: Edridge Contractors Business profile: Edridge Contractors

Caterpillar gear has many passionate followers and none more so than Mike and Malcolm Edridge. The Ed caught up with them on a recent trip to the Nelson-Marlborough region.

If you happen to frequent the Nelson-Marlborough region then chances that you would have seen Mike Edridge Contractors Ltd (also known as Edridge Contractors) equipment at some stage during your travels are very high. The company has a heavy focus on Caterpillar equipment and feature the American manufacturer’s construction gear all the way up to a formidable Cat D8R and two D8T dozers.

I did hear though that there was so much more than the Cat yellow livery of this progressive business, which is why I made the trek to see if I could pick up some information that was worth sharing with our DOW readers.

Situated approximately midway between Blenheim and Nelson is the popular DOC holiday spot of Pelorus Bridge. Tucked a little further up a nearby side road is the property and head office of Mike Edridge Contracting Ltd.

It’s not unusual to find rural contractors hidden away in sleepy hollows and often the isolation and land availability provides an excuse to store all manner of dilapidated equipment and do away with the public image. That is definitely not the case in this instance though; it being clearly evident that these people mean business, with pristine presentation playing a big part in conveying a professional company image to visitors.

Historically the business had been operated by Mike Edridge as a small contracting operation which he started in 1987 as an owner/operator. Previous to that he had been a construction manager with Blenheim-based Zachariassen & Lowe which were subsequently purchased by Fulton Hogan. Mike’s business continued to develop and by the late 1990s, Mike Edridge Contracting Ltd had four staff employed on general contracting work which included forestry roading.

With Marlborough regional forestry harvesting coming on-stream and that type of work being carried out by many small contractors, the forest owner moved to a regional supplier model and Mike Edridge Contracting Ltd was awarded the contract in the early 2000s to carry out the consolidated workload.

Ask a contractor to pinpoint the time when business stepped up to the next level and they will always cite a particular job that enabled them to move beyond the small-time contractor. This was the situation in this case as the business expanded over time to cope with the additional work. It was also at this point that Mike’s son Malcolm joined the company and is the one now tasked with managing the business, which currently employs around 35 staff.

Around 75 percent of the business these days is forestry roading with the balance being civil construction such as subdivision work, drainage, earth dam construction and quarrying. The business’s contracting work is predominately in Marlborough and crushing is split between the Nelson-Marlborough regions.

Edridge Contracting’s Kaituna quarry is the location of a second depot for operations, providing a base for a forestry manager and civil construction manager to work from.

Eldridge2

"A lot of our people report directly to there for work, so it enables our managers to easily deal with them on a day-to-day basis," says Malcolm.

One of the benefits of the relative isolation is a stable workforce, with some staff reaching their 20 year milestone; but the downside can be the amount of travelling between job sites. As the forests have been harvested, the work is also moving and it will be a number of years before the replanted crops will see Edridge machinery returning to closer slopes.

As mentioned previously, Caterpillar equipment is the mainstay of the fleet, although some other brands have been inherited from the purchase of a mobile crushing business that was picked up a year ago and along with the quarrying, operates as Edridge Crushing and Screening.

Another reason for the brand allegiance could come from Malcolm’s long-term employment with Caterpillar distributors Gough Gough and Hamer, prior to taking up the family business reins.

"We like quality gear," Malcolm says in somewhat of a slight understatement.

With the remote locations regularly encountered, it could be fair to say that equipment reliability pays a large part in ensuring the Edridge Contracting customers are getting maximum return on their investment and work can be scheduled safe in the knowledge that deadlines will be met, so I understand their commitment to the Cat brand.

Our discussion continues to revolve around a number of things before settling on the topic of health and safety. Here the Edridge duo show the same focus that I’ve noticed during our time together and it’s obvious that this is another subject they pay particular attention to.

"The forestry people are very health- and safety-conscious so we’ve been able to dovetail our processes in alongside them," says Malcolm.

"It would be mind-boggling for someone new to step into it now though," he admits.

With the recent changes to the Health and Safety Act, and as one would expect, Edridge prepared well beforehand by refreshing its quarry staff to ensure they were right up to date on procedures.

"Our people were already qualified, but it never hurts to refresh things," says Mike.

"A lot of people make the mistake that they can buy a health and safety system, put it in their folder and everything will be fine. It doesn’t work like that."

"It’s a journey not a destination," he says in what is probably the best line I’ve heard about health and safety in a long time.

Whatever way I look at things, it is not hard to be impressed by the culture, capability and insights of the Edridge father and son team. Malcolm mentioned a little earlier that they like quality gear. I seem to think that they know quality input will accordingly provide quality results in return. When a business operates at the top of its game, you can understand their requirements for everything else to be of the same high standard.

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