The Kindest Cut

On many occasions when the Duke of Edinburgh is staying at Windsor Castle he can be found in the park next door going through the paces of his favourite pastime, carriage driving.
At Great Windsor Park he expertly guides his horses and carriage on grass cut finely by Tauranga-built mower. Trimax Mowing Systems, established in 1981 and finalist for the second time in this year’s Bay of Plenty Exporter of the Year Awards, has made large steps in the British market, reaching as high as the Royal family.
Two tractor-mounted Trimax ProCut grass mowers are now operating at Windsor; one within the confines of the castle and the other that also maintains the polo pitches in the park.
During his numerous visits to England over the past 18 months, Trimax managing director Bob Sievwright made special trip to Windsor and spoke to the chief groundsman.
His response brought wide smile to Sievwright’s face.
“Using the mower was voyage of discovery,” the groundsman told him.
Sievwright says: “They first bought it to mow alongside the road edges of the park. It did such good job they began using it for the more prestigious grounds. They never realised rotary cutter could do that work – and it was good at smoothing out the divots.
“The ProCut runs smaller diameter blades that enable more spindles to rotate at higher revs per minute. This increases the blade tip speed, giving cleaner cut and more cuts per yards than many of our competitors,” said Sievwright.

Famous clients
After first entering the British market in 1993, Trimax has accumulated other famous clients such as Formula One motor racing aces Nigel Mansell and Jody Scheckter.
Mansell uses the mower on his golf course in Devon and Scheckter for his large family estate.
The Silverstone racetrack has one mower, the Haydock racecourse near Aintree has three and the Southampton Football Club is trialling one for its new pitch.
For Trimax, making headway in the British market has also been voyage of discovery.
Between 1993-98 the company relied on its distributor, Saxon Industries based in Hungerford, to sell its mowers. But Sievwright became concerned about Saxon’s performance – “they weren’t offering the after-market service that we required”.
“I had determined that whatever I made I would export it. And we became restless knowing we could have done better in Britain, particularly with the customer support. So we took the plunge to establish our own base over there and to replicate what we have done here in New Zealand.”
Trimax now has 80 dealers here.
“We design our marketing campaigns around active demonstrations – we bring the mowers to the customers and once they see the machines running they are normally impressed. We also provide after-market service in parts and technical support.
“Our mowers are at the top end of the market in terms of performance and longevity, and tend to be bit more expensive than most. But we make no apologies for that. We have set about establishing new standards in grass mowing systems,” says Sievwright.
Trimax first operated warehouse in Kent but soon found the location was too far away from most of the market in the north. Driving in the Midlands, Sievwright came across sign, headed down the driveway, and ended up renting 400 square metre building on farming estate in the middle of the Salcey Forest, 10 kilometres south of Northampton.
He shifted the Trimax operation to Salcey Lawn during the middle of last year and set about growing the business.
He rebuilt the distribution network by contracting 22 dealers, with the aim of increasing the number to 35.
He took on four extra staff with three, including the general manager, based at Salcey Lawn. The fourth is the northern area manager, based in Edinburgh, who covers the north of England, Scotland and Ireland.
Targetting the municipal sector, Trimax has now sold 500 mowers in Britain including 300 in the last two years. The Sunderland City Council is using 15 of its mowers and Leicester has taken 20.
“We can slip easily into that sector because they have similar grass species to New Zealand and Australia, and they like to cut low. We have developed mowers to handle heavy dampish conditions.’’
The decision to go alone in Britain has paid off for Trimax. “In our first full year we did more than twice the sales achieved by our distributor and at the start of our second year we are already 30 percent ahead,’’ says Sievwright.
“Now that we have UK base we are getting European inquiries without chasing them and we will spend the next two years looking at the Continental opportunity.’’ Trimax had earlier sold 24 unique front mounted mowers to the famous Italian tractor manufacturer Carraro, and it has also sent four containers or 30 machines year to South Africa since 1998.
Exports now take up 50 percent of Trimax’s total revenue which is nearing $6.5 million.
Britain is the main market with 62 percent of the export sales, eclipsing Australia with 32 percent.
Trimax has been exporting to Australia since 1985 and its mowers have cut 20 to 25 percent market share.
But you won’t find the Trimax name across the Tasman. The mowers are sold under the name of its distributor, Howard Australia, and are coloured distinctive orange rather than the usual bright red.
Trimax builds range of well-designed, multi-spindled rotary and flail mowers to suit the size of the tractors and the job.
To the uninitiated the mowers have the eerie look of spacecraft but they are very efficient in mowing parks and reserves and other areas of grass, vineyards and orchards, and topping pastures for farmers.
One of its most innovative models was the stealth mower which has hydraulic wing units. The wings are lifted up to allow the mower to be legally transported along the streets, but at the workplace the wings are folded out and the mower can cut 12 feet wide, nearly twice the normal width. The stealth therefore cuts the mowing time of large park in half.
Sievwright said: “We find model’s life is five years, so we have an ongoing development programme that involves producing machines with even higher productivity.
“Really, we are mower design company which happens to build and market most of the mowers we develop. We are relentless in our pursuit of fine grasscutting machinery and we react very quickly to customer feedback.
“We have gone that extra mile by running the rotary mowers with more spindles than anyone else to get the better cut,’’ he said.
Trimax’s rotary mowers are market leaders in New Zealand and overall the company has market share of around 60 percent. With an upsurge in the farming sector, the New Zealand sales – like Britain’s – are darting ahead with 50 percent increase over the past two years.
Sievwright, who studied engineering in the United States, is certain the development programme kept the company afloat during the rocky late 1980s following the ’87 sharemarket crash.
“We hung on by our finger nails. We released the rotary ProCut mower in late 1988 and were able to enter the municipal sector. Before then we made only flail-type mowers. We have gone on and sold more than 2500 of the ProCuts. It pulled us out of the mire.’’
After working for nine years as production engineer for General Motors in Lower Hutt, Sievwright joined an old flatmate Maurice Wooster to buy Robertson Engineering in 1974.
Sievwright sold his shareholding in Robertson Engineering in 1981 and travelled north to Tauranga. During his time with Robertson he developed mower blade called the Gamma Flail which was supplied to Southern Engineering in Oropi Road.
Then Southern Engineering was destroyed by fire. “I lost my only customer who was using the blade,” and Sievwright ended up buying the remnants of the business.
Driving down Fraser Street in Tauranga, he spotted Gamman Engineering and knocked on the door, introduced himself and asked if there was any industrial space he could rent. “Half an hour later I

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