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CLIENT NEWS: Hamilton businessman wins prestigious Australasian engineering award

On Tuesday 2 October, Hamilton businessman David Platts of PDV Consultants was awarded the prestigious Chemeca Medal at the Chemical Engineering Awards in Queenstown.

The Chemeca Medal is awarded to a prominent New Zealand or Australian chemical engineer who has made an outstanding contribution, through achievement or service, to the practice of chemical engineering.

Mr Platts received the award at a dinner during the 47th annual Chemeca conference, in front of an audience of industrial chemists, chemical and process engineers and academic professionals.

“It is very humbling and a great honour to receive this award,” said Mr Platts, who has been working in the industry for more than 50 years. “I’m really chuffed.

Last week [Friday 28 September] Mr Platts, 67, announced his retirement from PDV Consulting, the international engineering firm founded 28 years ago with wife Anne Platts.

“The Chemeca Medal is an award for the business, and for Anne and everyone who has contributed over the years,” says Mr Platts. “It comes at a really special time for us, as it is 28 years ago this week that Anne and I started our business. At the end of November, we’ll be retiring and this is a wonderful note to finish on.”

PDV Consultants is a global expert in food process technologies and systems design with offices in Hamilton, New Zealand and Belfast, Ireland.

Their team of chemical and process engineers have delivered projects for many of the world’s leading food companies including Fonterra, Tatua, the Dairy Goat Cooperative, Danone, Glanbia (Ireland and USA), Dairconcepts (USA), First Milk (UK), South West Cheese  and others.

The company was founded in October 1990 and over the past three decades has grown from two people to 25, with 21 staff based at PDV’s Alexandra Street, Hamilton headquarters and four staff based in Ireland. “We started working out of our home office, just the two of us, and it’s grown exponentially over the years,” says Mr Platts.

It’s a Waikato success story, and one that has operated largely under the radar.

“We turnover up to $5 million a year and we are a New Zealand-owned business that is highly technically competent and draws in quality people and revenue to the Waikato region and New Zealand,” says Mr Platts. “I’m really proud of that, because our business benefits the local economy.”

Mr Platts, who was born and raised in South Yorkshire, England, began working as a technician in the food research industry after leaving school at the age of 15.

In 1972, at the age of 22, he immigrated to New Zealand. Within a week he had two job offers, and started working at the New Zealand Cooperative Dairy Company (NZCDC), the precursor to Fonterra, setting up a quality control system for their Avalon Drive milk powder canning factory. He also worked on drying evaporation end engineering products for the company’s engineering departments.

He met Anne, a fellow expat from Belfast, Ireland, at a social club in Hamilton a few years later. They married and had three children: Nuala, Gemma and Jonathan.

His expertise in chemical and process engineering for the food processing industry took Mr Platts and his family to the Netherlands in the early 1980s to work for Stork Friesland, now known as Tetra Pak, doing design engineering. He was transferred back to New Zealand, where he was involved in developing the first nutritional infant formula manufacturing plants in New Zealand at Waitoa for NZCDC (Fonterra). When the New Zealand office closed in 1990, Mr Platts was made redundant.

It was the push he needed to start his engineering consulting business, and Platts Drievap Engineering – as it was then known – was launched in October 1990.

It’s the personal attention to detail, and the focus on building strong relationships that has helped in PDV’s success. “A lot of business, especially in the early years, was driven by word-of-mouth,” says Mr Platts. “People would call up and ask if we could come and look at something or help them solve a problem, and it grew from there.”  

Mrs Platts, PDV’s business and financial manager, has been a big part of the company’s success over the past three decades. “She’s been the glue that held everything together and her business, IT, financial and administrative skills have been a key reason for our success,” says Mr Platts.

Mr Platts has been a strong supporter of Chemeca events over the past three decades, and was involved in the organisation of the 2012 event in Wellington.

He has served on the committee of ICHemE in New Zealand, including two years as chair. He has actively promoted New Zealand food and dairy industry competencies overseas, championing the engineering design, energy efficiency and food safety capabilities of New Zealand’s processing industries.

“New Zealand engineers are world-leaders in innovation and invention – at looking at problems and generating solutions,” says Mr Platts. “It’s important to keep our number-eight-wire approach to problem solving alive.”

Over his career Mr Platts has given back to his industry by mentoring and providing job opportunities and internships for the next generation of chemical engineers.

He has served as a chair on the industry advisory board for the University of Waikato School of Engineering, and has also provided input into Massey University’s programmes.

Mr Platts is a fellow of the Institute of Chemical Engineers (IChemE), a global professional engineering institution with more than 40,000 members in more than 120 countries worldwide.

He is a fellow of the New Zealand Institute of Food Science and Technology (NZIFST), the country’s leading professional association representing those working in the food industry, food research and education or those who apply science and technology to the processing, manufacture and distribution of foods.

Mr and Mrs Platts will retire from PDV Consultants on November 30 this year.

PDV’s engineering manager for Asia-Pacific, chartered engineer Gerard O’Connor, has been named as the firm’s new MD and Lynn Waters, former financial controller at Livingstone Building has been named PDV’s new business manager.

For more information on PDV Consultants visit pdvconsultants.com