July 11, 2022
Mike Nevines joined PTL and did ‘a bit of everything’ way back in 1992. 30 years later, he’s still here – now leading our innovative design team as our technical director.
Like founder Jim Halliday, Mike is a big believer in hands-on experience over theory. His background as a fitter and turner gave him a strong grasp on the technical side of things, which has served him well in his various roles at PTL. He’s able to see the practical issues along with the design possibilities – and he still heads over to the shop floor to chat about the equipment before it’s changed.
“My role is scoping and determining the customer needs. My knowledge comes from 30 years of sites, knowing what’s been done. People like to talk to people who know the process,” he explains.
“I’m talking to everyone from the owner or top engineer to the sanitation people – all the people involved. We think our clients should have fast and easy access to our technical people.”
A mechanical background
Mike had just completed his mechanical apprenticeship when he first met Jim. At that time, PTL was in its infancy, and Jim was building all kinds of machinery for different clients. When Mike was promoted to production manager, Jim would get him to make specialized components. The pair hit it off, thanks to a shared love of machinery – and a common background.
“I was born in England, so I understand his sense of humor – and his Scottish accent,” laughs Mike.
Soon after, Mike headed off for a long-overdue OE. He and his then-girlfriend spent two years in London and then traveled around Africa in an overland truck on the way home.
Back in New Zealand, a chance encounter with Jim led him back to PTL. At the time, the business was still fairly new, with some clients and a small team – just Jim, an electrician, and “a couple of guys in the workshop”. Mike came on board as engineering manager but became a sort of everyman. He would take equipment from design all the way to the build.
Right from the start, PTL was all about smart details and ease of use. This focus came from the way the wider business operated – as a small family company with limited staff and no extra time, it needed to work as efficiently as possible.
“We designed the week around what needed to happen quickly and easily and kept developing. So that’s what was entrenched in our design,” explains Mike.
Challenge, innovation, growth
Mike grew with the business, taking on new challenges and different roles as PTL got bigger. Although he went off on his own for a few years, he stayed connected to PTL throughout, going from employee to supplier and then back again.
While the business grew, taking on big multinational clients and major industry names, the quick, flexible small-business spirit remained. As Mike puts it: “A decision can be made by having a chat with a couple of people.”
The focus was always innovation – coming up with new ways to do things that nobody else did. Machinery could be taken apart and cleaned and came with built-in cranes for different widths of bars and depositors with removeable heads. Some of those PTL innovations are now the industry standard.
Mike’s role as technical director now sees him training PTL staff, meeting with new clients, visiting factories to oversee start-ups and coming up with the best possible solutions for process problems. He’s still a mechanic at heart, so that part of the job is still satisfying.
Family and the future
Of course, Mike’s life isn’t all chocolate enrobing and mechanical issues. The girlfriend he took on his OE is now his wife of 27 years. One son is a civil engineer and the other is finishing a building apprenticeship this year.
“My proudest moments, those two,” says Mike.
His hobbies are suitably technical as well: home DIY, building fences for friends and restoring a classic 1968 Mercury Cougar.
“My wife would say that it’s just because I like buying the tools.”
He jokes that his design background means he couldn’t just do a standard restoration – instead, he’s put in an electronic fuel system, and even 3D printed some of the dashboard and upholstery components.
It all ties back to his passion for design improvement. Even after three decades with PTL, he’s still finding new ways to do things and new technologies to make them happen.
“I enjoy thinking about systems and how I can improve them. The problem is: I can’t stop! And technology is changing so much, you have to think about how to incorporate new stuff,” he says.
With the tradition of continual innovation still going on strong at PTL, Mike is excited about the future of the company. Nick Halliday, the son of founder Jim, has been leading the company for a few years now – you can read his story here, soon.
“I’m so pleased that the second generation of PTL is going to be just as friendly and open to deal with as we’ve always been. We’re in a good space,” he says.
Want to learn more? Read Jim’s story here
Want to talk technical specs or innovative ideas? Chat with the PTL team now.