Matthew Melton is in the business of precision cutting and, it seems, precision enterprise.
The Oamaru man has built his company AcuCut from the ground up. He has gone from a sole operator with one very expensive water-jet cutting machine in a shed on his parents’ property to a staff of four and a pool of state-of-the-art machinery at his disposal.
Mr Melton has always had a passion for engineering, and began his career in the navy as a marine engineer.
Following that, he worked as chief engineer on private super yachts for five years. He was based in the Mediterranean and China, and eventually travelled the world.
Between jobs, a dream started to formulate for his own business, and he completed an online course while working on the yachts.
“I’ve always liked the precision side of engineering. When I worked on the luxury yachts, everything is just super-precise, and a lot of the parts are cut with CNC [computer numerical control] machines and abrasive water-jet cutting machines,” he said.
“What appealed to me about that is the operator controls the machine, and the machine can produce thousands of parts, or even hundreds of thousands of parts all identical, which takes out the human error really.”
And while he was learning to run a business, Mr Melton was also saving to get that business started. He bought his first water-jet cutting machine, at a cost of close to half a million dollars, almost five years ago.
The purchase of the machine left no money for a premises, so AcuCut started trading from the Melton family farm workshop at Pukeuri, on June 1, 2016.
When his parents put their property on the market, Mr Melton made the decision to build his own workshop at the Oamaru North Business Park – and he has not looked back.
“Once I moved into here, it was just me. And I quickly got overwhelmed by the amount of customers coming in to see me … so I had to hire someone pretty much straight away.”
Darrien Goodall was the second person to join AcuCut.
“For me, as a business owner, learning about business, it was really hard initially to see how staff could help me grow my business. Then as soon as I got Darrien, I thought, awesome’. It’s just been a massive help really.”
The company now has two water-jet machines, a CNC machine, and has recently acquired new laser machines to help kickstart wife Abby’s lasercut acrylic jewellery business Lover Lover.
AcuCut offers accurate cutting for virtually any material, except toughened glass. A water-jet machine can cut through 200mm-thick steel.
“We can service just about any industry in some way.”
Most of his business is generated through word of mouth.
“The business comes from the customers … As customers have contacted us about certain things, that’s the services we’ve started to provide, rather than just making up an idea and seeing if customers like it.”
AcuCut was not immune to the impact of Covid-19 and, after closing for the month of Level 4 lockdown, the company was very quiet and Mr Melton looked at branching out. This is when AcuCut creative was born.
“That’s doing all these niche-y things that we make, like the laser tags, these MDF things, all the Christmas decorations, trees … that will all go on that side of the business.
“So it keeps the core, industrial sort of precision cutting side separate from . . . the niche-y design side.”
It did not take long for business to boom again after lockdown.
“We’ve been slammed. The last three months we’ve had our best sales ever. We’ve doubled our highest months before that.
“We actually lost a couple of contracts, and that was a pretty big hit for us. But we’ve gained a couple of good ones. So a lot of positives have come out of it.”
As for future plans, Mr Melton definitely wants to grow the business, and has recently built a second workshop on-site. But he wants to keep it to fewer than 10 staff.
“My whole focus, most of this year and into next year, is stepping back from the business and giving roles to people that can make the business run more efficiently, without me having to be directly involved all the time. Because I actually want to get on the road and do more selling. I really, really enjoyed that.”
The Meltons also have a son, Marlo, who is 15-months-old, and Mr Melton is keen to be more involved in his life.