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Strength in Mateenbar

Supplying essential services; so busy despite pandemic.

Pultron Composites is expanding here and overseas, with demand for its non-metallic rebar growing as its sustainability and life-cycle cost savings outweigh that of steel. Meanwhile, Pultron has several other products and plans on the go, as business development sales director Pete Renshaw explains to Mark Peters . . .

To go from strength-to-strength is a well-worn cliche but strength is what Pultron Composites' Mateenbar™ is all about and it is this quality that is driving growth for the Gisborne-based company.

Mateenbar™ is a composite, fibre-reinforced polymer (FRP) pultrusion that is stronger and lighter than steel. Because it is corrosion-resistant, Mateenbar™ can be used to replace steel rebar for concrete reinforcement. Late last year, Mateenbar Ltd was established as a company in its own right and has offshore facilities under development.

The Gisborne-based company is expanding. It manufactures Mateenbar™ for the Oceania region and is developing several other new products.

Eighty percent of its customers are in the United States and Canada markets and Pultron has experienced rapid growth in the past year, says sales director of business development Pete Renshaw.

Expansion in Saudi Arabia and North Carolina in the US is still going strong too, although the Covid-19 pandemic has slowed progress.

Pultron produces Mateenbar™ in Gisborne for the US market while the North Carolina factory is under construction. New Zealand and Australian engineers are also showing an increased interested in using Mateenbar™ on their projects, says Mr Renshaw.

“Even in New Zealand the demand for Mateenbar™ is growing, as the demand on engineers to deliver sustainability and the best life-cycle cost savings is stronger than ever. It was extensively used in Kaikoura in the rebuild of State Highway 1 and the KiwiRail line. That was the biggest ever infrastructure repair job to happen in New Zealand.

“Mateenbar™ is just one example where pultrusion technology is adding value in industries that having traditionally used other materials.

“Issues in USA around designing for sustainability and delivering cost-effective infrastructure are the same as in New Zealand but on a much larger scale. Corrosion can be eliminated by using FRP composite rebar, meaning Mateenbar™ is hitting a real growth phase in North America. This is supported by leading academics and state governments who are looker at smarter and sustainable solutions for future infrastructure projects.

“We've been consistently growing over the past 10-15 years at twice the industry average. It is very much a revolutionary industry and we are doing things nobody else can, which is why our customers in North America want to work with us.”

Pultron has bought a nearby building in Gisborne that will be refurbished to function as a research and devevelopment engineering centre. The building will also be used to build machines for the North Carolina and Saudi plants, as well as for the Gisborne factory, to expand production facilities.

“The factory is expanding to accommodate the existing workload,” says Mr Renshaw.

“Because Pultron is growing, it is seeking more staff and we will continue to employ more people throughout the organisation.”

As part of its growth in New Zealand, Pultron is committed to its staff through providing extensive training opportunities. This encompasses technical training and personal development.

“Pultron is growing, and upskilling the team enhances our ability to deliver to our partners.

“Encouraging growth in our staff and commitment to our values is key to our innovation mindset, to keep us at the top of our game on the world stage”.

Supplying essential services, so busy despite pandemic

The company is also supporting two PhD students at Canterbury University.

“They're testing Mateenbar™ in seismic applications because that's a big deal.

“Engineers have to work with reliable information. They need design codes and proven research to prove it works. This takes a long time to develop but is invaluable in the long term.

“Despite the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, on the whole we have been busy, as much of what we produce is in the essential services category,” says Mr Renshaw.

This has meant that Pultron was able to make products during the lockdown that coastguards, marine police, border security installations, water treatment and sewerage infrastructure organisations rely on.

“One such product was essential parts for snowmobile tracks. Some snowmobiles are used for recreation, but for a percentage of the market they are an essential vehicle like a ute or quadbike on a New Zealand farm.

“We're in a good position here in NZ.

“We have people from overseas looking to work with us because they have heard about New Zealand over Covid-19. If the Government helps get New Zealand through the pandemic, it helps businesses like Pultron and other exporters with a unique proposition.”

While Pultron cannot predict the future, Mr Renshaw does not believe the pandemic has cost Pultron sales in any area of the business.

“We are not naive enough to think it will necessarily continue like that, so we're preparing for the possibility the situation might deteriorate — but at the moment there are no negative signs. We have diversified across industries, which helps reduce risk, and are continually working to make the business as robust as possible.”

CAROLINA STATE OF MIND: The Covid-19 pandemic might have slowed progress with the development of Pultron Composites' North Carolina plant but, like its highly durable, super-strength product Mateenbar™ , the Gisborne-based company's expansion in the US southeastern state will prevail. Picture supplied
LEADING FROM HERE: As vice-chairman of the Fibre Reinforced Polymer Rebar Manufacturers Council, Pultron's business development sales director Pete Renshaw is now a significant representative in the composites industry. Picture by Paul Rickard