Phillips and Smith Limited (PSL) is a privately owned fourth generation New Zealand company. The business was started in New Zealand in 1913 however the history of the firm goes back many years prior, to northern London, where on leasehold land from the Marquis of Northampton they manufactured equipment for the brewing industry. For many years the business flourished until the drift of industry north to Birmingham and elsewhere overwhelmed many small companies. A member of the Phillips family decided to travel out to Australia and New Zealand to investigate the possibility of establishing a business in the colonies. Conditions appeared favourable, so in the early part of last century the family migrated and settled in Auckland.
Land was purchased in Freemans Bay and a two storey building erected on the site. In 1930 more land was acquired to accommodate an expanding machine shop and foundry. The foundry was managed by Mr Phillips’ new partner Mr Smith. Mr Smith unfortunately had to relinquish the partnership due to failing health, but the name carries on to this day.
The Company concentrated on manufacturing equipment for the rapidly growing dairy industry in New Zealand and supplied most of the dairy companies in the country with pumps, valves and ancillary equipment until war was declared. The war saw the Company switch over to gun mountings, grenade parts, and valves for the large number of ships being built in Auckland at the time, and other military equipment as required by the Eastern Command. During this period the Company operated 24 hours a day 6 days a week, in common with most other companies during this period. It was also at this time that Phillips and Smith Ltd made its first firefighting couplings for shipping. When conditions returned to normal, production of dairy fittings resumed. The foundry had now become expert at casting exotic material, phosphor-bronze, nickel-alloy bronze, aluminium bronze, and the ubiquitous gun metal.
During the 1950’s the dairy industry began its move to stainless steel, and the investment required for the Company to follow was beyond its means. At about that time Phillips and Smith was approached by a Wellington based importer of fire fighting hardware to manufacture fire hose couplings. Drawing on its war time experience the Company took up the challenge and began to produce couplings and standpipes all made from gunmetal. The firefighting equipment rapidly overtook the dairy fittings and the Company began to work alongside the independent regional fire brigades and expanded the range of equipment they could manufacture.
The establishment of the New Zealand Fire Service following the Ballantyne’s fire in Christchurch saw a
standardisation of equipment and purchasing, and by the 1970’s it was decided to relocate from the now cramped premises in Freemans Bay to a purpose built factory in West Auckland. Aluminium had by then become the material of choice for firemen and the foundry became skilled in producing high quality heat treated castings, one third the weight of gunmetal with equivalent strength. The Company invested heavily in new plant and tooling to supply the Fire Service and designed many new fittings that have become standard equipment both in New Zealand and overseas.
Following a natural progression the Company began sourcing ancillary firefighting products from overseas to complement the fittings it made. Supply chains were established from Germany, USA, Australia, Sweden, China, Japan, UK, and many other countries.
As Phillips and Smith entered the new millennium it began to look at off shore markets for its products, a sister company was established in Australia to service that market and Company reps travelled world-wide to sell fittings and attend trade shows to bring back fresh ideas, a tradition that continues today. The Company has markets in many overseas countries, South Africa, Hong Kong, Singapore, Pacific Islands, Malaysia, UAE , Nigeria, Brunei, Australia, and in a gratifying reversal, many exports have been shipped to the UK.
Despite two major building extensions lack of warehouse space was beginning to become a major issue, and the difficult decision to sell the foundry had to be made. Phillips and Smith had close relationships with a number of dedicated foundries in New Zealand and the foundry plant was sold to a local supplier of castings. The move cleared the way to import, store, and market a very large range of firefighting equipment. The factory continues to machine locally sourced castings into the finished product which can be supplied direct or assembled and fitted to ancillary imported equipment, for example coupled hose.
Over the years Philips and Smith have received many awards and certifications, including,
Without knowledgeable and enthusiastic people a company will not survive long term. PSL have 7 people in the 20 year plus category and many more in the 10 year plus. Our people are the Company; the pool of manufacturing and marketing knowledge has enabled the Company to maintain and advance its role in the industry.
Innovation also has a vital part in most businesses; PSL has a long history of product development and new design. The latest has been attaching hose to instantaneous couplings using the internal ferrule method, this has been quickly adopted throughout the country as it gives particular benefits in water volume for a given hose size.
Now in its second century, PSL’s business model of good people and good value remains unchanged and will ensure it will be around for many years to come.