16 YEARS ON THE JOB, A LIFETIME CONNECTION

16 YEARS ON THE JOB, A LIFETIME CONNECTION

Nick Halliday – leading PTL’s next generation

Nick started working at PTL 16 years ago, but he’s been emersed in the business ever since he can remember. His father, Jim Halliday, started the company over three decades ago, so Nick was there from PTL’s earliest days. 

Chocolate and bar machinery are in Nick’s blood. After exploring other careers and gaining valuable experience in his early adulthood, he returned to be part of PTL’s continuing story. 

“I have a massive amount of respect for what PTL has already done,” says Nick. “I feel privileged to fly the flag and tell the story to our customers.”

An early intro to chocolate 

With a dad working in a chocolate factory, you can bet there were parts of Nick’s childhood that seemed like a dream scenario. With the 80s’ lighter health and safety restrictions, on weekends Nick could roam around the Van Camp chocolate factory where Jim worked. 

“I had full access – you couldn’t do that nowadays. The boss used to tell me, ‘You can take out as many chocolates as you can carry off the end of the production line,’” says Nick. 

It was a challenge accepted – Nick would turn his shirt into a make-shift sack and use the spoils to become extremely popular at school. 

It wasn’t all chocolate theft, though. When Jim started PTL from the family garage, Nick watched his dad’s innovative spirit at work. Nick even earned spending money doing odd jobs around the factory on weekends.

“I was always really impressed and proud of what Dad had created. He left school early but was super practical and could not just make chocolate machinery but also sell it, design it, build it and install it, all from scratch. I thought that was fascinating,” explains Nick. 

Shortly after launching, Jim brought on Mike Nevines, who today leads the company’s technical side.

Exploring the world

But, of course, Nick had to cut his own path. Interested in sport and hospitality, he worked around Europe for a while before completing a degree in business and spending summers working on resorts surrounding the Great Barrier Reef. Another stint in Europe saw him teaching English in Madrid and managing pubs in England.

After a while, Nick noticed his dad’s workload increasing. Finally, Jim popped the question. 

“He said, ‘I have a stack of papers two feet high.’ He just wasn’t getting to it and asked me to come back and help with the business side of things. I agreed to come back for a year to see how it went.” 

He’s been with PTL ever since. 

Returning to the fold 

Nick was immediately excited about the opportunity he saw with PTL – it had been successful without any promotion.

“I thought there was a lot of opportunity to have an influence on the business, and right from day one, Dad put an amazing amount of trust in me.”  

Nick felt his overseas work was a bit aimless at the time, but he now knows how valuable the experience was. 

“It was really good training in sales and customer service. I got the most satisfaction out of making sure even the toughest customers left happy,” says Nick. 

His role in PTL sees him advocating both for the customers to internal teams and for designers to the customers – something his hospitality career set him up for. 

“There’s always a risk that we could be designing something the customers don’t actually want. Being able to fly the flag for both parties means we can avoid that,” he explains. 

The American connection

Within a year of his return to PTL, Nick was accompanying Jim overseas on sales trips. At his first trade expo in Chicago, he met the American woman who would later become his wife. A chance encounter in a bar sparked a whirlwind romance and just weeks after the meeting, she was in New Zealand. 

“It all happened amazingly quickly,” laughs Nick.

But after 12 years of marriage and three sons, that speed can’t have done the couple any harm. They spent six years living in the United States, time Nick used to strengthen PTL’s relationships with its North American clients. 

Now back in New Zealand, the couple still keeps close family and business ties with the US. 

 

The future of PTL 

Nick eventually took over from Jim as PTL’s managing director and hasn’t looked back. He’s actively involved in NCA and PMCA, and a guest lecturer at the annual University of Wisconsin Madison bar course.

But his core focus is on continuing and building on the legacy his dad created – an established, family-owned business. 

“I love turning up at people’s doors, opening up my laptop, showing them what we do, and hearing, ‘Wow!’ and, ‘You’ve really thought about this!’” he says. 

“It’s my job to make decisions that will ensure we’re still just as innovative in thirty more years.” 

A SWEET 30 YEARS IN THE CHOCOLATE BIZ

A SWEET 30 YEARS IN THE CHOCOLATE BIZ

Meet technical director Mike Nevines  

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.  

FROM CRANES TO CHOCOLATE

FROM CRANES TO CHOCOLATE

How PTL founder Jim Halliday got his start   

PTL’s founder, Jim Halliday, doesn’t have a conventional engineering background, but he offers something a bit more valuable: a lifetime working with machines of all shapes and sizes, in all sorts of industries, all over the world.  

He explains: “If I’d been more academic, maybe I’d have followed traditional guidelines and check, check, check – instead, we drove ahead and just built things.”  

That willingness to try new things – along with his hands-on experience – helped him build PTL, now one of the world’s leading confectionery machinery makers.  

Learning the trade 

Jim was born in 1947 and grew up on a farm in the south west of Scotland. He started his first job almost immediately after leaving school, just before he turned 15. At 16, he started work as an apprentice learning to build large dockside cranes, then installing them.  

After completing his apprenticeship, Jim moved to Manchester in 1968. He hopped between engineering companies, building a whole range of new skills. He was amazed by the precision and accuracy of the work in some companies. Where he had been working with 10,000th of an inch of tolerance, new tooling machines worked to 1,000,000th of an inch – beyond what he had thought was possible.  

But it wasn’t all sunshine – in one place, Jim says, he was threatened with the sack for singing too much!  

“Moving round the companies, I saw lots of different skills, each place was making different things. All sorts of peculiar things! I liked that, but I would get bored and move on,” he explains.  

Along the way, his interest in how things worked and his ability to design new ways of working proved invaluable. After getting married in Manchester, he  moved to Carlisle, close to the Scottish border, and worked in Nestle’s manufacturing plant. It was there – in Carlisle, not the plant – that his second son Nick was born.  

The big move 

After a shift to New Zealand 1982, Jim became chief engineer at VanCamp chocolate – later purchased by Red Tulip – maintaining, then designing and building their manufacturing equipment.  

All these years later, his enthusiasm for that job shines through: “They allowed me to do things my way and get on with it. It was fantastic what they let me do. We designed and built some amazing equipment.”  

When Red Tulip was bought out by Cadbury in 1989, operations shifted to Dunedin and Jim was made redundant in the process – some of Jim’s machinery was still in use when it closed in 2018. Despite being highly skilled, his lack of formal qualifications made it hard to find another job at the same level, and he formed Production Techniques Limited (later shortened to PTL) in 1989.  Jim and his fledgling business jumped from odd job to odd job – designing a live chicken-handling plant, and building machinery to fill lipstick tubes, nail polish bottles and deodorant bottles for Elizabeth Arden. Although every job was a chance to learn new techniques, getting back into the confectionary business was always at the back of his mind.  

A year later, an opportunity came along to work with ex-Red Tulip team members in the US. This job saw Jim design, build and install a large, complex chocolate moulding plant in a factory in Tacoma, Washington state. The machinery was one of the first to not only fill and mould the chocolates but pack them as well. The project solidified Jim’s reputation as a confectionary innovator. 

Building PTL  

After Tacoma, Jim took on more confectionary projects, and the seeds of PTL were planted. At first, he and his team built custom machines for individual businesses, but PTL quickly started producing its own range of confectionery machinery.  

Jim, always the fixer, was constantly on the lookout for better ways to do things. “When I got into confectionery, I wanted to fix what I saw – machines that couldn’t be pulled apart, removing tools, process hygiene,” he says. Hygienic design was always a passion, putting him ahead of competitors at the time.  

From there, the business continued to grow. A big Kiwi snack producer pulled them in to build a new slitter and bar line parts , which then became a major product line. More companies came on board, with higher requirements and expectations. Eventually, PTL started making complete, automated lines that could produce up to 3000 bars per minute for the US market.  

That paved the way for further expansion and growth and now, PTL works with some of the world’s largest multinationals. 

 A reputation for innovation 

Jim’s flexible, pragmatic approach to engineering became the foundation of PTL. He was never embarrassed about his lack of formal training – he thinks of it as an asset.  

“I wasn’t boxed in by traditional thinking. Other people always thought what we did was too risky. We thought it was exciting and interesting to find ways to make things work. There’s no background of academic qualifications – so I just look for good ways of doing, and call in engineers to get the numbers right,” he explains.  

This attitude helped him – and PTL – build a reputation for real innovation in the confectionery market. The team works closely with clients, developing strong relationships and working collaboratively to find solutions that make things easier in specific businesses.  

These days, PTL maintains that crucial balance between theory and practice, with a strong team made up of highly-qualified engineers and trade engineers with hands-on experience. His son, Nick now heads up the business, backed by the engineering excellence of Mike Nevines, who’s been with PTL almost since day one.  Read Mike’s story here

Although Jim has now taken a step back, his approach remains throughout the business. 

Jim puts it like this: “Ideas flow through the factory – it didn’t have to be my idea. But, me not being harnessed by rigid guidelines, that passed down to the engineers. Our mantra has always been: why can’t we?”  

Want to know more about PTL’s innovative approach? Talk to the team now.  

GROW YOUR SKUs, NOT YOUR FACTORY FOOTPRINT

GROW YOUR SKUs, NOT YOUR FACTORY FOOTPRINT

When you’re in the manufacturing game, growing your business means expanding your output – and traditionally that meant taking over more and more real estate. For clients with facilities in historic buildings or those otherwise restricted in size, there simply isn’t more space to be had. For others, taking on huge fixed costs wipes out any profit to be made from new SKUs or longer runs. The answer, then, is to do more with the space you have – and that’s how we designed the V20 melter. It is incredibly compact, and takes up less than half the space occupied by traditional melt tanks. It’s also portable and self-contained – wheel it over to any line, plug it in, and let the chocolate flow.

Here’s how that can maximize your production and profit along with your use of space.

Future-proof your production

Melt tanks are part of the old guard of production: you build a line intended to create the same few products for years. But the world has changed, and manufacturers need ongoing SKU proliferation and product innovation to stay relevant. There’s no telling what your plant will need to be making in ten or even two years. With your melting function delivered by the more compact V20, you can future-proof your production – wheel it over and plug it in wherever you need it.

Reclaim space

Replacing traditional melt tanks with a portable, compact V20 melter lets you reclaim valuable floor space. With more space to play with, you have the freedom to add more and more complex SKUs, establish washdown areas for greater efficiency or add additional process equipment

Add SKUs without taking up more space

To produce milk, dark and flavored chocolate with traditional melt tanks, manufacturers would need multiple tanks feeding into multiple lines. And then, if they wanted to introduce white chocolate, that would require another tank or a laborious changeover process. The V20 melter’s flexibility amplifies its already compact size: you can replace multiple large melt tanks with a single, much smaller machine while facilitating easier, faster SKU proliferation. Wheel it over to a new line, tuck it into whatever small space is available, plug and play. When that SKU finishes, rinse and repeat with a new line.

Essentially, you’re taking up a fraction of the floor space for a potentially never-ending number of SKUs 

THE NEW

PTL MELTER V20

V20 for mobile top

THE OLD

TRADITIONAL MELT TANK SETUP

MELTER COMPARISION MOBILE

THE NEW

THE OLD

PTL MELTER V20

TRADITIONAL MELT TANK SET UP

Melter comparison

Easy loading for better health and safety

Keeping your people safe is a legal responsibility. It’s also smart business practice and a huge part of improving staff retention – particularly important in this era of intense staff shortages. Traditional melt tanks come with higher loading heights. Boxes of chocolate have to be lifted over the head while standing on a platform (which takes up yet more floor space, of course). Even with the best health and safety training, that loading comes with risk – the action of lifting heavy loads over the head can injure necks and backs, and risks head injury by falling chocolate. And that’s not even factoring for the risk of a fall from a platform. The V20 is loaded at waist height – no platforms or heavy loads lifted over the head.

Minimize downtime

It seems obvious, but melt tanks are too big to fit in your washdown area. They need to be cleaned in place and remain out of commission for the duration. The V20 and all its components are small enough to be wheeled over to your washdown area and easily cleaned and dried. The line can begin production again a lot faster.

V
The V20 is self-contained, with power, air, and water, making it plug and play

TruFoods and the V20

That was what TruFood Manufacturing found when it replaced melt tanks with a V20 melter. The small footprint and portability of the unit meant it could be installed even when space was tight, without crowding other equipment or areas.

Mike Berko, TruFoods project engineer, says this equates to ease of use, minimal downtime, and flexibility.

“As a co-manufacturer, we need to be flexible enough to meet a variety of customers’ requirements,” he explains. “The melter allows us to do just that.” 

Read more about how the V20 melter revolutionized TruFood’s production.

SWITCH UP PRODUCTION ON A DIME

SWITCH UP PRODUCTION ON A DIME

Adding flexibility to bar and chocolate manufacturing with PTL’s V20 melter

Pumpkin-spiced bars for fall, peppermint swirls for the holidays – if there’s one thing bar and chocolate manufacturers can count on, it’s change. The bar they’re producing this week is unlikely to be the one on the line next week – or even the next shift.

That has always been a problem and one which has only intensified with tightened allergen cleaning regulations and the rising demand for SKUs.

Traditionally, manufacturers have solved that problem with waste – they waste space and power maintaining more than one melt tank, waste product on crossovers or waste time and productivity on laborious cleaning processes. Where there’s waste, there’s an opportunity for innovation – and that was the starting point for our most recent melter design, the V20.

Unique washdown design for incredibly fast changeovers

Every element of the V20 has been designed to make it faster, simpler and more cost-effective to produce more SKUs. Core to that is its grid melter, which eliminates the need for melt tanks. In their place are components that are easily removed or accessed and contact surfaces are 3A polished as standard.

Simply clean it in place or wheel it to a wash area, then drain the small quantity of excess chocolate and hose it down. The separated components are easy to clean quickly and dry thoroughly.

 

Deliver non-core products

The business value of seasonal variants and special runs cannot be understated – 25% of total revenue and profits across all industries comes from the launch of new products. Capturing a piece of that profit comes down to efficiency. Any waste in the production process can make a project unprofitable, even if it garners impressive sales. For co-manufacturers, this is even more critical – minimising waste and increasing efficiency delivers better profit margins and a competitive edge. The V20 is perfectly positioned to deliver this, allowing fast, efficient changeovers that minimise waste of all kinds.

Future-proof production

Who knows what the next flavour rage will be? Your facility needs to be ready to jump on the next cookies-and-cream fad or pivot to the next keto craze if it’s going to stay relevant to consumers. The V20’s flexibility gives you far more options – wheel it over to different areas then plug and play with entirely new

sets of equipment, unlocking agility in your plant. That’s particularly important for co-manufacturers, who need to be ready to say ‘yes’ to any request that comes in the door.

Manage allergens without separate tanks

Arguably, tightened allergen regulations are a good thing – more people can feel confident to safely enjoy your bars or chocolate. But you can’t deny they create more headaches at the production end. In a traditional setup, that means SKUs with peanuts or other highly allergenic ingredients would require separate melt tanks, taking up more space, more power and more product waste. Regulations also make smaller runs entirely uneconomical. With the V20’s easy washdown design, you can remove all those barriers. Melt chocolate on demand, then dismantle and hose down.

Reduce downtime

The V20 keeps your facility up and running for longer – you won’t have to stop the line for a day to clean components or wait overnight for a new kettle of chocolate to melt. With the V20, it’s instant – you get molten chocolate soon as you need it.

 

Stay ahead of the game

As markets and consumer demands shift at an ever-faster rate, manufacturers need plants that are agile enough to keep up. That means looking carefully at all aspects – including how they melt chocolate. The V20 melter has been designed to build flexibility and efficiency into that part of the manufacturing process. It’s based on decades of collected experience working directly with manufacturers to keep them one step ahead of the market.

Want to see the V20 in action and learn how it can fit into your production line? Book a demo now.

PUTTING POWER BEHIND PRODUCT

PUTTING POWER BEHIND PRODUCT

PTL’s V20 melter for bar and chocolate manufacturing  

For decades, the PTL team has been refining our machinery, not just from an engineering perspective but with an on-the-ground understanding of what could make facilities materially more efficient and productive. At every iteration, we ask, ‘How can our machinery support our clients’ never-ending quest for SKU proliferation? What more could we do to boost speed and efficiency to keep pace with demand, improve profit and better manage labour shortages?’ 

The answer is our recent melter, the V20. To create its revolutionary design, we drew on discussions with clients of all sizes and added months of R&D to our decades-long history of innovation and improvement.  

Here’s how it’s designed to meet some of the most pressing challenges facing today’s bar and chocolate manufacturers.  

Instant melts 

Traditional melting often uses a series of melt tanks feeding into other equipment. Melting is slow, requiring a lot of energy and priming time. That means you’re adding costs and waiting a long time before you can start production using the chocolate.  

The V20 offers innovative, instant-melt functionality. Rather than heating tank – or a series of them –the V20 uses a grid melter, embedded with priority technology, a melt grid agitator to super-charge melt rates. This technology means priming time is a fraction of what you may be used to. In short, you get melted chocolate when you need it. 

Chocolate on demand   

The grid melter also delivers benefits to manufacturers managing very large or very short runs. With a continuous supply of chocolate, production lines won’t have to stop while another tank melts. The V20 keeps up and running through a full shift or all month. As long as your line is running, the chocolate will be melted, ready and available. 

Conversely, short runs won’t leave you with half a tank of chocolate that costs money to keep warm until you’re ready to use it – it delivers what you need and nothing more. 

Remove the melting bottle neck 

If you can eliminate the chocolate-melting bottleneck, your overall production capacity is suddenly unleashed. With faster processing improving downstream production rates, you can produce more bars or chocolate in a shorter time, maximising the potential of your facilities and staff. 

Keep up with demand for SKU proliferation  

According to McKinsey, new products appearing on shelves have almost doubled in twenty years, from 20,000 in 1996 to 39,000. In 2019, snacks, bakery foods and beverages were the top three food categories for new products, accounting for 42.7% of all new products on the shelves. The capacity to deliver more with less makes the V20 a powerful enabler of SKU proliferation, something discovered by Fred Grep, Director of Engineering at Hearthside Food Solutions 

“It worked out well because our modifications were changes our customers wanted to see. By getting them first, it meant Hearthside was ahead of the game,” he says.   

Boost production rates  

The result of V20’s incredibly powerful melt system can increase products while lowering costs. 

That was the experience of TruFood Mfg after installing the V20 melter. Mike Berko, Project Engineer, says they saw a marked increase in production efficiency.  

“That came down to the unique, innovative approach they’ve taken towards melting and delivering coatings. No other options I investigated could meet all the design criteria for the project’s needs,” says Mike.  

Better profits  

The revolutionary melt system shaves costs at multiple levels of production. You’re not paying staff to wait while the chocolate melts, ramping up the power bill to keep it warm or missing out on growth opportunities because of production bottlenecks. Those multi-layer cost savers make a real impact on your profitability.   

 

A new way to melt  

For bar and chocolate manufacturers, tackling the ongoing challenges of the industry takes a multi-pronged approach – staff and culture, processes, business strategy and supply chain. But when it comes to making the best use of your factory floor, looking at the technology itself can create a huge impact. While most modern machinery offers incremental improvements on predecessors, it’s rare to find technology that entirely changes the way functions are delivered. That’s what PTL sets out to do – improve on existing designs, of course, but continue asking, “How could we help clients achieve better outcomes, faster and more efficiently?” The V20 melter is the perfect example of the value of that thinking. By challenging the need for melt tanks altogether, it delivers an unmatched performance that puts our clients far ahead of the game.  

 

To see the V20 in action and learn how it can fit into your production line, book a demo.