Great idea leads to world first
It was 2007 and Josh Janmaat, a young Morrinsville boat builder and son of a dairy farmer was walking through a number of milking systems sites at the National Fieldays with his father, Peter. Deck sizes were “getting up there” and he recalls talking to his dad about the wear and tear these multi-tonne decks must be placing on the platforms’ support structures.
Josh remembers musing “imagine if they could be manufactured out of fibreglass which includes Kevlar, like aircraft and racing yachts. The result would be a deck which is significantly lighter and stronger than concrete. They’d be cheaper to run and would avoid a lot of damage to the ‘I’ beam.”
It was a prospect which – to his mind - had so much potential and so he approached a number of manufacturers of milking systems in New Zealand to gauge their interest.
“Only one replied. Waikato Milking Systems,” Josh says.
And the rest is history.
Josh joined the company and now leads a “small but extremely talented team” producing what Waikato Milking Systems’ CEO, Dean Bell, describes as the most technologically advanced dairy platform in the world.
The first Centrus composite platforms contained 54 bails, this size recently discontinued in favour of the 60 bail. In the last 12 months the company launched the Centrus 84.
Dean Bell has just returned from the World Dairy Expo in Wisconsin, USA where the 84 bail Centrus was showcased.
“There was tremendous interest in a huge 84 bail platform which is five times stronger than concrete but can be turned, unloaded, by three people,” Bell says.
“The construction of the platform is so novel and compelling that it attracts a lot of interest and this only magnifies when they learn about some of its other unique features.”
Josh Janmaat says every aspect of each Centrus 84 platform is produced to exacting standards in-house - each aspect involves innovation, ingenuity and superb engineering which is unique to Waikato Milking Systems.
“The first stage of the platform is a wooden plug which becomes the template for the mould.
“More than 400 hours of hand sanding and buffing is involved before it’s reached our standards of precision and perfection.
“The fibreglass (which contains Kevlar) sections of the platform are formed in closed moulds – a system perfected by Waikato Milking Systems - which enables a better fibre to resin ratio. It’s a process which enables us to deliver absolute consistent quality (ie every section is identical – something which simply isn’t possible from concrete or steel).
“The decks are bonded together by a unique high-strength adhesive which is also used in the manufacture of aircraft and by NASA in the construction of its space ships.
“One example of our attention to detail is in the manufacture and rolling of the beam which has an accuracy of plus or minus 1.5 millimetres! No other deck can match that level of precision.”
It’s where the beam meets the platform that another world first comes into play.
The Pivot Roller, another world first exclusive for Waikato Milking Systems, maintains perfect alignment with the rotary platform’s support structure, the ‘I’ beam, even under 24 hour milking conditions. The resulting 100% contact enhances the performance and decreases wear and tear of the platform.
Dean Bell says the self-lubricating cast pivot rollers are positioned between two bearings and are the only components which wear.
“They are long-life but when replacement is necessary they are easily swapped out without significant downtime.
“Micro adjustment within the roller assembly provides precise height settings and allows a degree of fine tuning and precision never before achieved. This is especially important because cow loadings constantly change, especially at the beginning and end of milking.
“That uneven weight puts a point loading on rollers and beans and can result in uneven wear which ultimately affects a platform’s operation. The Pivot Roller overcomes that problem, making it relatively simple to maintain the platform’s perfect alignment.”
Weight – or lack of it – is a drawcard for farmers wherever the Centrus 84 is promoted, Dean Bell says.
“The weight logic speaks for itself. The weight of the Centrus 84 platform, with bail work, from the track up is around 12.6 tonne. Fully loaded with 84 x 1000kg cows (which is the design maximum weight), that’s a total of 92.6 tonnes. A concrete equivalent weighs around 46.2 tonne and, with 84 x 1000kg cows, equates to a total weight of 130.2 tonnes – a difference of 37.6 tonnes.”
Fourteen sections (parts) are required for each Centrus 84 platform, the size determined so they fit into a shipping container.
“These decks are in demand around the world with farmers operating intensive farming operations milking 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“The Centrus 84 arrives on site – anywhere in the world – accompanied by a specialist team from Waikato Milking Systems who oversee the unloading, set-up and commissioning of every Centrus 84 dairy platform. Lasers are used to ensure the foundations and structure are perfectly true and precise.”
Josh Janmaat says the decision to join Waikato Milking Systems was a great one. He’s enjoying leading a small but highly skilled team and having oversight of every aspect of every platform – from the plug to the first milking.
“Managing every aspect of design, manufacture and construction equates to a consistency of product and quality which few, if any, companies can match. Farmers ‘get’ the whole value proposition behind these decks – there’s nothing else like them in the world and there is a huge sense of pride in being part of something which is delivering so much satisfaction to a growing number of farmers around the world.”