Business profile: Jackson Enterprises

Business profile: Jackson Enterprises Business profile: Jackson Enterprises
Business profile: Jackson Enterprises Business profile: Jackson Enterprises
Business profile: Jackson Enterprises Business profile: Jackson Enterprises
Business profile: Jackson Enterprises Business profile: Jackson Enterprises
Business profile: Jackson Enterprises Business profile: Jackson Enterprises

DOW wen to Pahiatua to have a look at Jackson Enterprises who have a solid reputation for building some of the best trailers

Travellers passing through New Zealand’s rural towns might assume nothing much happens there. Pahiatua, the town with the Harvard aeroplane at its entrance that’s part of a children’s playground, could be one such place. However, if you were to take a look through the doors of Jackson Enterprises, the assumption would be blown away.

Work is being carried out at a cracking pace, the music’s up loud competing to be heard over the din of machinery, and at each workstation, there’s something different taking shape.

Jackson Enterprises is spread over four separate buildings, all on the same site. Following the boss, Trevor Jackson, on a tour through the workplace is like being in the wake of a whirlwind: you have to run pretty quickly to keep up.

Trevor is a born and bred Pahiatua lad and a diesel mechanic by trade. After doing his apprenticeship in the town with DP Ryan and Sons and later with Eric Gleeson and Sons, he went to work in the open cast mines at Rotowaro near Huntly. Here he worked on heavy earthmoving equipment such as motor scrappers and diggers.

After that, he came back to Pahiatua and started his own business. It’s located on the same site it is today, but it’s grown substantially since then. "My cousin Allan and I started doing buildings and general engineering. We then went on to build decks for trucks. In the early days, we were mainly resurrecting others people’s old gear so they could get it on the road and do more with it."

When the opportunity arose to build a tip truck, Trevor—who since he was a boy has always enjoyed building stuff, or as he puts it, "always trying to wreck something to make it go better,"—keenly took it on.

"Stringfellow Contracting in Eketahuna gave us the opportunity to build a tipping steel bath tub, and then David Pope Contracting gave us our first livestock deck. That was in 1997, and it’s grown progressively from there."

Now, Jacksons make a wide range of trailers: livestock, curtainsiders, B trains, quads, and specialist trailers such as Hiabs and fifth wheelers.

"We do a lot of specialist stuff and that’s where we’ve stood out from the rest. We do what the customer requires, right down to their colours, shapes, and sizes or anything they want. We bend the rules to make it possible. I think that’s key to our success: we are always prepared for a challenge, so consequently we’ve produced a whole range of different things.

"We are only one of a couple of manufacturers now building car transporters. We can’t build enough of them. We can’t build enough of the alloy trailers with their lighter tare weights either."

A funny thing he recalls is the piece of advice given to him by the Stan Sayer, owner of a Masterton carrying business (which he obviously chose to ignore). He said, "Jacko, never start building trailers because there’s no money to be made in them."

 "Yep, now they’re our biggest thing and we have a staff of 48," Trevor says.

He puts a huge part of the success of the business down to having a highly skilled team that includes engineers, mechanics, painters, fabricators, welders, and administration staff.

"The business has grown because I’ve surrounded myself with excellent people.

No business this size can survive without that. A reliable team is very important to make the whole thing go. Besides, you can’t be everywhere at once. There are four different workshops, with a foreman in each one of them, and there’s always an issue to be sorted."

Additionally, having a loyal and strong customer base has ensured the strength of Jacksons and enabled it to ride out any storm that has come its way.

The recession, which hit in 2008 and lasted for a painfully long time, affected Jackson Enterprises. "Over that time, we were just about closing the doors. We went from a staff of 34 to 18. It was touch and go. But in the end, things like this make a better person of you, especially when you look at where we are now. It’s really picked up in the past three years, thankfully."

And it wasn’t only the recession that made it difficult, he says. "The government couldn’t make up its mind what it was going to do about the Land Transport Act. People were holding off. They didn’t know what to put on the road, so it was a double whammy." Customers have a lot of different trailer requests but one of the most challenging was to build was a 200-tonne transporter for the Stockton Mine in the South Island.

At six metres wide and 30m long, it weighed 35 tonnes and only just squeezed over the town bridge.

Another challenge was to make a curtainsider with curtains that rolled up and down from roof height rather than the usual end to end, giving the driver less buckles to secure and a quicker turnaround. 

When asked what some of his biggest changes in trailer types over the years he’s been in the business, Trevor replies, "In the rural transport side, which we follow pretty closely, once upon a time, you’d build a stock truck to do a single operation. But now many owners want to make their trucks more versatile, so they can do multiple operations such as having a demountable tipping deck and being able to fit a mono stock crate."

With business coming in at a rate that keeps everyone constantly on the go, there’s no need for a salesperson; "I’m it," Trevor says.

The future of Jackson Enterprises is looking rosy, thanks to his vision, energy, and the ‘can-do’ attitude that never ceases. He says whenever he’s in one of the workshops and they’re a man down, he’s only too happy to pitch in and help.

Any changes Jackson Enterprises plans to make in the near future will be internal ones, he says.

"I’m doing a huge upgrade on our sandblasting machine to improve productivity, and there are other couple of pieces of equipment arriving from overseas too. Skilled labour is very hard to find but machinery turns up for work every day.

"I admit, I generally annoy the heck out of my staff to try and find out how we can do things easier. So the biggest challenge for 2017 is finding simpler ways of doing stuff." 

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