Hi Tech Strategy Embraced

A Southland business is embracing innovative new technology in a project it says is "really important" for the region. And it is warning other Southland businesses to do the same or die.

Slinkskins Ltd has just switched to a new woodchip boiler, the latest of several updates designed to make its factory more efficient.

The tanning company, based in Thornbury, prepares skins for international fashion houses.

Managing director Jonny Hazlett said the boiler would cut energy costs at the factory by several thousand dollars a year.

Replacing an LPG-fuelled system, the 540-kilowatt boiler burned waste woodchips to heat water used in the drying and tanning rooms.

The system was completely automated and could be operated remotely through the internet, he said.

"We're really excited about it. We need this to remain competitive. This whole project is really important for Southland."

The growth of the dairy industry in the region during the past 15 years had a significant impact on the business, which dealt primarily with lambskins, Hazlett said.

There were fewer lambskins available because of the growth in dairy, so the company had to do what was needed to remain competitive and financially viable.

Slinkskins also worked with lightweight calfskins and would look to do more in the future to embrace the Southland dairy industry, he said.

He believed it was important for Southland businesses to look at more efficient practices to remain globally competitive.

"Things are difficult out there. You do have to adapt - get more efficient - or go and do something else."

The company had also upgraded its IT system, another necessity for a modern business, and some factory machinery to stay on top, he said. The new woodchip boiler, which went live last week, was built by Spark Energy.

Spark Energy managing director Eduard Ebbinge said the boiler was not only more cost-effective, but was also better for the environment than traditional energy solutions such as diesel.

It also relied on a local fuel supply chain, fostering employment in the region, he said.

It ran on the waste of renewable wood grown in Southland and Otago, and only 0.2 per cent of the dry weight fed into the boiler would end up as ash, he said.

Venture Southland enterprise and strategic projects group manager Steve Canny said proactivity was the key for Southland businesses.

The region had a tremendous future but businesses would have to change the way they worked to remain globally competitive, he said.

With a high domestic dollar value and rising energy costs, businesses needed to look for investments with higher efficiency and lower emissions, he said.

- The Southland Times