Q&M magazine talks to Ian Rodger about his long career in the extraction industry, and his fortuitous involvement in our greatest contribution to global aggregates – the Barmac crusher.
Ian Rodger got his start in the aggregate extraction and production industry as manager of the aggregate production plant of Ashby Brothers Christchurch through his rugby connections.
“I had no previous involvement in aggregate production, nor any type of extraction or construction industry,” recalls Ian.
“I was selected for the job through John Ashby who was the President of the Rugby Club where I was the senior coach at the time.
“John knew of my engineering background (which was similar to his own) and needed someone with an understanding of plant maintenance. He also needed someone to manage the staff and he saw through my coaching role that I had that ability.
“I must admit, the maintenance of extraction equipment such as draglines and production plant equipment such as crushers and screens was a new challenge for me. So, I was very grateful that John agreed that we needed to set up our own maintenance team and workshop.”
The road to engineering
Ian’s engineering background began when he left school to become an apprentice fitter, turner and machinist so he could eventually become a marine engineer in the Merchant Navy. After he “got tired of sailing around the world” and got married, his engineering qualifications got him a job at Southland Frozen Meat in Mataura Southland looking after steam production and refrigeration equipment.
Seeking a management role, he moved to Feltex Carpet in Riccarton, Christchurch that used steam for production and required a Marine Certified Engineer for maintenance. It was from here that Ian took up his rugby friend’s offer at Ashby Bros where he became involved in the early Barmac crushers that were invented in New Zealand and became a worldwide brand.
“The Barmac’s incredible ability to produce perfect shaped aggregate and sand was the reason why John Ashby approved the purchase of one. I managed its installation, operation and maintenance.
“Through this involvement I met Bill Burall and Paul Tidmarsh, the founding owner of Tidco, which manufactured the machine in Matamata and sold them locally and internationally.
“Bill was employed by Paul to sell Barmacs and he was an ex quarry manager. He must have liked my enthusiasm for the machine as he offered me a job as his assistant, which I accepted.
“When I look back, I do wonder how I made the decision to move from production manager with a very good sound company after some 16 years of experience to become a salesman involved with this relatively new invention.
“But, I’m so glad I did and I have to thank my wife Val (many partners of members of the IOQ will remember Val) who was so supportive when I made that decision.
“Unfortunately, my new boss Bill Burell become very ill and passed away almost a year after my employment with Tidco. Paul Tidmarsh then offered me Bill’s role as Sale Manager for the world, as long as I moved from Christchurch to Matamata.”
Ian’s experience at Ashby Bros gave him the tools and confidence to select countries and appoint international dealers to sell Barmac crushers.
“I also was very grateful to have inherited a very functional sales set up in the USA, Australia and South Africa, and Paul’s instruction was to support those established dealerships and explore the South America and Asia market, and without forgetting the local market.
“It was an exciting and challenging time in my career thanks to the success of the Barmac, and a “boss” who was very focused on producing a very well-engineered, functional crusher.”
Changes for Tidco
A Kiwi organisation that could support Barmacs from Invercargill to Iceland, or Auckland to Alaska through an expanded international dealership network, eventually attracted interest from the long-established companies who manufactured well-known brands of aggregate equipment.
This included the Swedish-based company Svedala (trading as Allis Minerals Systems) that, through an arduous negotiation process, bought Tidco from Paul Tidmarsh.
“At that time I was very grateful that I was able to carry on with my role based in Matamata with the new title of Barmac Product Manager. Most importantly, the Svedala Board recognised they had purchased a very efficient local factory with very qualified and experienced staff, and gave us all the opportunity to continue with our existing organisation, and with the option of using the Svedala worldwide network of sales and support offices.”
Ian remained the Barmac Product Manager until 2003 when he took up the role of management of a new local Svedala Branch set up to support the sale and service of all of the Svedala aggregate production equipment in New Zealand.
“I really enjoyed this role change. No more flying around the world four times a year. It was time for me to hand it over and spend more time at home with my very supportive wife and family.
“In this domestic role I was very much involved with the planning and managing of the building of the Winstone’s Hurunui and Stevenson’s Drury aggregate production plant – a great experience that also involved Rocktec from Matamata in the final circuit and structural design.”
Ian’s new role also got him involved with the electric motor division of the New Zealand branch, which had been appointed a distributor of WEG electric motors in 1987.
“At that time the local suppliers could not provide the motors we required for the Barmac, and our Canadian Barmac Dealer recommended the Brazilian brand WEG, which had recently been introduced to the Canadian market. I actually was sent to Brazil to review the manufacturing setup re quality and supply efficiency.”
Another buy-out and redundancy
When Finland-based Metso bought out its Swedish rival Svedala in September 2001 (for over US$1 billion) there was no change for Ian, apart from details on his business card.
However, in 2007 the Metso Board decided to close down all of its overseas branches that didn’t meet a certain US dollar turnover and replace them with a local dealer/distributor. Mimico was appointed the New Zealand distributor and Ian was made technically redundant.
“Although this was a bit of a shock for me and members of the team, as we were a profitable branch, we were very grateful that the Metso management gave us 12 months to transfer the business to Mimico and support us finding new employment.
“Obviously, Mimico needed to employ some of us to take over continuity of sales and service while others found work with companies in Matamata, including Rocktec.
“However, I think the ‘management’ had forgotten that their New Zealand branch was different than all of the others around the world as we had the WEG distributorship.
“I formed a partnership with Kevin Thomas who had managed the electric motor division since 2005 and we were successful in negotiating the purchase of the WEG distributorship. We negotiated a very sensible agreement and took over the staff and the leases of the office and warehouse from Metso.
“As division manager Kevin had succeeded in growing the business from almost zero to being one of the leading brands in New Zealand. And, we then enjoyed nine years of partnership that saw our company TR Industries (TRind) growing WEG business.
Under a shareholders agreement, when Ian turned 70 he was to sell his shares to Kevin so he could retire. However, Kevin he was also thinking of retiring and suggested Ian’s two sons become involved in managing the business which is what happened.
“In 2014 the VI Family Trust became the proud owners of TRind and my sons Brett and Gregg have successfully taken over the management of the companies TR Industries and TRind Service.
“I’m now semi-retired from TRind and my sons give me enough projects to keep me out of their hair as they manage the day to day operations. But, you will see me at the next AQA/IOQ conference – that’s my perk.”
Ian first became involved with the IOQ when working for Ashby Bros around 1980, and is still a contributing Associate Member and has presented technical papers at conferences and was a Jim McDonald Memorial presenter in 2004.
“As Sales manager of Barmac product I also presented at the IOQ in Hong Kong and Singapore and supported staff members doing the same.
“The IOQ is a great organisation to be involved in and it’s great to observe the organisation assisting its members in the management of their aggregate production operations.
“I would also like to take this opportunity in Q&M magazine to give credit to Jim McDonald and Brian Bartley for inventing and commercialising (by way of design and patents) their famous Barmac.
“And thanks to Paul Tidmarsh for having the courage to set up a factory and then an organisation that enabled us to take the Barmac to the world.
“And would I do it again? Yes!”